January 17, 2023

The Importance of Knowing Your Customers

By Paul Daniels

I was part of a zoom call this week with a customer and their staff. It was nice to get the whole group together to review where our business is with this customer and get their feedback on how we can work together in the new year.

Holding a business meeting with your customers and listening to what is important to them will reinforce old relationships and strengthen new ones. We spend a lot of time marketing our businesses and products to the trade, and it is important to let your customers know what you do best. Taking the time to listen to what your customers’ goals and directions are for the new year will help you to be on the same page.

If they are moving into new markets, adding products, or opening new locations, you can plan better to keep up with their growth or reinforce that you are investing in keeping your service level where they need it to be. It’s always a surprise that some of the simplest things to you can be the most important to them. Sometimes it’s lead times over costs, better transportation plans, or just a request for a single contact to handle their account. It pays to know what is most important to them instead of taking for granted that all is well.

I always recommend my sales staff take the time to do this on a more personal level at the start of every year. This communicates to their customers what their plans are for that account and gives customers a chance to express what their expectations are for them as well. The word “expectations” is my favorite in any transaction.

If you don’t know what is really important to your customers, you may often be short on the expectations side. It is also important to make sure that you follow up on these conversations and make sure that you perform to the levels you are committing to. Over-promising and under-delivering will not get you off to a good start for the year.

Be open with your customer and let them know your issues. We cannot be all things to all of our customers, so it is important to perform in the areas where we can. It is always good to listen to your customers and not just sell them.