We all know that running any distributor or supplier business is a complex issue, and akin to keeping many plates spinning at the same time!

With so much to do, it is sometimes tricky to see the wood for the trees, and it is not always easy to focus on the things that really ensure your business success.

Every business has critical areas to ensure that everything operates correctly. Financial management is critical, as without control of invoicing, cash and profit, businesses have little chance of success. Products and services also need to be relevant to and valued by the market, and your marketing needs to be effective to create growth. Then there are your people, often this is the area which creates the most issues, and also where great sales, service and production performance delivers so much.

Across all these areas efficient operational systems are essential, and the old adage ‘If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it’ is so true. It is also true that wherever the boss is looking, things improve – this happens because your team want to please, and if they see that something is important to you, it becomes important to them.

Today margins are constantly squeezed and, perhaps surprisingly, it is not just growing sales or cutting costs that can improve your bottom line – greater efficiency is the key to a better and more profitable business. Simply looking closely at everything your business does will identify efficiency improvements, and in doing so you improve your business performance and profits.

It probably goes without saying that if you have all the critical elements mentioned above working well, you are positioned well for success. However, you can still be excellent in each area above, – but without one other key element it all becomes irrelevant.

The most important activity for your business success starts in one simple, but often ignored area of your business. Often this area of a business ‘just happens’, and little time is spent evaluating it. It’s pretty obvious when revealed, but before that, consider how much you spend on creating customers, whether this be by attending exhibitions and events, visiting customers, websites, advertising, promotions and more. Whatever your budget in these areas, it will be a significant investment for your business. The sad thing is that this alone does not guarantee sales, what it does is create opportunities.

So, what is ‘The most important activity for your business success’ – the answer is: ‘Quoting’.

You spend an awful lot of money just to be in the position to provide a new, or existing, customer with a quote, but often quotes are not treated like the gold dust they are. Everyone understands that without sales you do not have a business – and every sale starts with a quotation. The critical areas of your business mentioned earlier can be as excellent as you like, but with no sales they become literally useless.

For success, ‘Quality, Efficiency & Creativity’ are key in every area of your business – and all are directly involved in the quotation process.

We live in a competitive world and there is always someone on your shoulder looking to dip into your customers and opportunities, so lending them a helping hand by not being optimal at quoting is not a great idea! Using your own experience in being a customer immediately tells you what would impress and delight your customers.

1. Quality: The quotation itself is part of the sales process, it is ‘your sales person on the customer’s desk’. So make sure it is clear, provides all the delivery, product and price information, – and that it is pretty!
2. Efficiency: If a customer wants a quote, they want it as fast possible. The first person to respond often wins the business. If you cannot quote immediately, then call the customer and explain.
3. Creativity: Customers love ideas, simply quoting what is asked for is a missed opportunity – Providing alternatives (like items in stock, similar products, other ideas that match the brief etc.) will increase your opportunity to win the order.

Making time to talk to customers who have asked for a quotation also increases your chances of winning the order. In a conversation you always learn a bit more, which enables you to tweak your quote accordingly, you are also reinforcing your relationship and showing them that you care and value their business. – All reasons to make people want to give you the order!

Knowing your ‘conversion rate’ is also important, as this analysis enables you to identify where improvements can be made to win more orders.

Loving your customers at the quote stage will win your business, and not loving them will see them drift way without you even knowing.

There are tools available in the industry to take the quality, efficiency & creativity of your quotations to another level, and of course Sourcing City provides fast and creative sourcing, and Promotional Office includes an excellent quoting system, – but whatever system you choose to use, ensuring your quotes are handled in the best way possible is the most important activity for your business to grow.

*Article written by: David Long, CEO/Chairman at Sourcing City