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Suppliers: The action list for a successful business

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Learn the art of listening.
Effective one-on-one communication establishes strong business and personal relationships that last a lifetime. Get to know what’s unique about each client and that company’s needs. Become a consultant.

Offer no-cost, hassle-free incentives.
Provide customers with test-runs and reliable assessment reports up front. Training and upgrades should be part of the original purchase price: avoid charging for additional support along the way.

Minimize lead time.
Maintain a healthy stock of critical products and components. Avoid air freight and drop shipments as much as possible.

Ensure that staff are knowledgeable and available.
The “call center approach” used by mail order and Internet businesses alienates customers and lacks added value. Reliable support should be part of your brand.

Be responsive and honest.
Make call-backs quickly and make promises that you can keep. Know your capabilities, and refer clients elsewhere when required.

John Gehner is a freelance writer and editor based in Atlanta, Ga.

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