There’s no worse feeling: You find out that an opportunity you were working on with a manufacturer was just taken direct. You found the opportunity and yet somehow control was lost and the customer placed the order directly with your supplier. How did this happen — and maybe more importantly — how can you prevent it in the first place?
It’s ironic that in this day of ubiquitous email, IM and cell phones that we have communication breakdowns, but clearly it’s happening more than ever. To avoid this, you should overcommunicate to your supplier what you are doing in the account. Make sure that they know you’re actively engaged.
One way to get this message across is by asking for help. Have you ever had a situation where you just didn’t have a clue what to do next with an account? Call you supplier sales or engineering guy and ask him to brainstorm with you. It keeps him aware of your presence, and you might just get a good idea out of it.
The second cause of deals going direct is lack of appreciation of what you are doing to assist the supplier in the account. First, I’m going to assume you want to and that you already are doing so. If you aren’t, find a way. Even if you don’t have a technical resource to meet with the guy, get one on the phone, do a WebEx conference, supply competitive information. There are tons of things you can do.
It’s also important, when you’re meeting with the customer and your supplier, to own the meeting. Don’t sit there quietly and let the vendor do all the work. Even if you don’t have the technical answers, you can be the guy who clarifies, captures and reviews action items and marshals the resources to get responses. By the same token, don’t dominate the conversation either; interject as appropriate.
Before you embark on this tactic, make sure your supplier knows how you want to run the call. Don’t just take over without discussing it, especially if this is a change for you. If you do, the supplier won’t know what hit him.
Lastly, where possible, be the communication funnel. Make sure all interaction comes and goes through you. This will again add value not only in your supplier’s mind but also in your customer’s mind.
In the next entry, I’ll discuss what to do if the supplier does take the deal direct.
George Crump is president and founder of Storage Switzerland, an IT analyst firm focused on the storage and virtualization segments. Prior to founding Storage Switzerland, he was CTO at one of the nation’s largest storage integrators.