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The Supplier – Customer Relationship. Good for business?

FSB members Packaging For Retail, from North Yorkshire, share their experience of exhibiting at large trade fairs and how to manage the additional workload to create return for the time and cash investment, as well as some of the pitfalls of “too many enquiries”.

Creating standard retail and transit packaging solutions as well as bespoke packaging mainly for food and drink retailers, they are as passionate about customer service as they are about packaging.

“This year for the first time we took the major step of exhibiting at a national event at the NEC in Birmingham. 

It was an amazing and inspiring event – retailers from all over the country under one roof. It was expensive to attend however it had the right demographic for us and overall, we believe worth the investment. 

We make really good product for a specific industry and from the moment the show opened we were regularly approached by producers enquiring about solutions for their particular business challenges.

We fully understand that not every enquiry turns into a sale. Although we tried to get a feel for the degree of seriousness and urgency around each enquiry it wasn’t always possible to assess them accurately in the environment of a busy exhibition hall. 

Two months later and we have quoted successfully to several enquiries from the show. Others are on hold until a later date and there are a few with whom we are in discussions regarding their specific needs. 

In a few instances we have made several unsuccessful attempts to talk to businesses who approached us.  On more that one occasion we’ve experienced rudeness and aggression when we’ve followed up an enquiry or a quote for packaging. We know that it might be due to low levels of assertiveness – sometimes people don’t know how to say ‘No’, so it comes out wrong – BUT most of us would not treat customers this way so how/why are suppliers allowed to do so?

We don’t do ‘Cold Calling’ but if a potential customer asks us to get in touch to talk about how our product could work with theirs we will be over-joyed to do just that. We don’t ask for much in return, even if it’s just a polite ‘No thanks’.

Following up, providing quotes, checking requirements etc is a really important and necessary part of our business development. However, chasing the same folk several times without getting the courtesy of a response – to an enquiry that they have instigated – is a waste of everyone’s time. 

So, on behalf of all the small, busy suppliers out there, before you set hares running or creating rabbit holes for us to run down, please consider the following:

1. If you ask for information or a quote, please respond when you get it. You don’t have to use it - it’s ok if you say No.

2. If you don’t want to be contacted, just say so. GDPR means that we will take you off our list if that’s what you want.  

3. If you don’t want to go ahead YET but may do in the future, please say so. It’s cool!

4. If you’re too busy to talk about it when we call, say so or delegate it to someone else. 

5. If you have asked a company to engage with you – be polite when they do. It’s nice – and you’ll have a better rapport with them - that’s got to be good for everyone’s business!!”