[JACK KEOUGH] A Closer Look with
There is a restaurant in my hometown that I often go to for breakfast. When I walk into the restaurant, I’m always greeted with
a warm good morning, my coffee is poured, and my order quickly
entered. The food is good, the service is excellent, but its price is
higher than the “new” diner located only a few streets away. Yet I
choose to go to “my” restaurant, primarily because of the relationships I have developed.
Relationships are, in many cases, the key reason that people
choose restaurants, cars, or even industrial products.
When I first entered this business many years ago, I was told
that relationships differentiate companies from one another.
Distributors and other employers often used non-compete clauses
to protect their “investment” in sales personnel because they understood that valuable relationship that exists between customers
and salespeople. There was also the argument as to who “owned”
the customer: the company or the salesperson. That argument still
goes on today.
But in an era of instant communications, the Internet, and
electronic gadgetry, just how important are relationships in selling
industrial and construction products?
That was the question I posed to a distribution executive a few
weeks ago. He insists relationships are still important but not as
critical as they were years ago. He says it’s because of the new
environment in which technology dominates the decision-making
There’s no doubt that we live in a wired world. We’re constantly on our smart phones, using it for Internet and other services.
We text and Tweet, but we really don’t communicate. One recent
example: a survey showed that half of the couples in the U.S. had
texted one another while they were in the same house and under
the same roof.
Relationships Are Still
Important in Distribution
High Value Relationships
In a recent survey by IMPO (Industrial Maintenance & Plant
Operation) magazine, plant operations and maintenance
managers provided some insight into what drives their purchasing decisions. For many, relationships still carry significant
weight. In fact, 23 percent said the relationship with their
supplier was the most critical element behind their purchasing decisions.
Data contained in Industrial Distribution’s 2013 Survey of
Distributor Operations supports the idea that this is a two-way street: When asked to cite which primary reasons their
customers do business with them, an overwhelming majority
of distributor survey respondents selected “Relationships.”
Runners up included Product Availability, Technical Support,
and Delivery Time.