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It’s never great to compete solely on price. Sooner or later someone else will discount, or be prepared to cut their margin. Competing on price alone isn’t great long-term strategy for most businesses. In this series, we explore other things businesses can do to reduce their need to compete solely on price.

It’s easy to forget that you and your team are a great asset. It’s not just your ability to produce products and services, it’s also the value you bring personally to your customer. Great suppliers become a key part of a customer’s extended team. They can bring expertise, industry knowledge, and can also be a great sounding board. And customers should value this. I’d choose a valuable relationship with a trusted supplier over ‘the cheapest show in town’ any day.

But how do you get to this position with your customer? Clearly, the better you know your customer, the more you’ll understand their business and therefore the more chance you’ll have to bring your experience to their wider business situation. If you’re supplying nuts and bolts and never ask what the nuts and bolts are used for, you won’t have much of a chance of making an impression, or becoming a strategic partner. So take the time to get to really know their business. And maybe find out about their business sector, and their competitors as well.

Once you know what your customer is really interested in, or where they have problems, you can become much more useful to them than simply being a supplier. This can take several forms:

  • Watch out for articles that you think may be of interest to them. Sending a senior manger within your customer an article you think they’ll be interested in is a great way to add some value, and show them you are thinking about them. A short note summarising what the articles about, or why you think they may want to read it makes it all the more personal.
  • You could do the same with links to websites, but make sure you keep it personal and avoid sending to blanket emails which will annoy more people than they will delight.
  • Become an expert in your field (not just in your products) and offer up your advice and expertise. If you’re supplying technology, offer to come and talk to your customer or their board about what’s happening in the IT industry or about what most Managing Directors are thinking about.
  • Be a connector. I always admire people who are generous with their contacts. If you know two people who you think should meet, bring them together, especially if you think they can both help each other. This could include potential employees for your customer.
  • Keep your eyes out for potential customers for your customer. Introduce your customer to a new prospect and they’ll be eternally grateful.

Take action: Take the time to really get to know your customer, and think hard about all the things you could do to help them. As a friend of mine said recently, if you’re talking to your customer, it means your competitor isn’t!

If you’d like to contribute your thoughts on this topic, then we’d love to hear from you. Please post a comment below.

Next time we look at who the customer would rather deal with when things go wrong.