Take my money Ė pleeease!

   Hereís the scenario: You own a company that manufactures and sells widgets for $9.99 each. A customer calls who wants to buy widgets for $9.99 each. What do you do?
   Option A: Sell the customer the widgets for $9.99 each and thank them for keeping you in business.
   Option B: Tell the customer you donít sell your widgets to just anybody. Demand they submit photos and a marketing plan as to exactly what they plan to do with the precious widgets and then tell them youíll give them an answer in six months or so.
   Did you choose Option "A" That only goes to show how small-minded you are. If you really want to swim with the big fish, you have to go with Option "B".
   I found this out the hard way. A couple of years ago we decided to sell Leviís jeans in one of our retail stores. So we called the local Leviís sales representative and told him the good news.
    His reaction was not what I had in mind. Levi Strauss is a multibillion dollar outfit. The news that I was ready to plow another few thousand dollars into their coffers not only drew a collective yawn, but also seemed to arouse suspicion.
   All businesses should be wary of how their merchandise or services is being presented after it leaves their domain. The difference between small businesses and huge businesses such as Levi Strauss is that only the latter can afford to take the time and effort (and potential lost sales) to find out.
   It took us six months to open an account with Levi Strauss. They wanted to see every aspect of our business, from our books to our merchandising techniques. We filled out forms, took photos, and had on-site inspections by the regional sales manager and credit manager, among others.
   Then, just as I was waiting for an invitation from the Haas family for Sunday dinner (I figured theyíd want to check on my table manners) we got the approval to give them some money.
    Thank you, thank you, thank, thank you, thank you.
   Now weíre one of their largest independent accounts in the area. They love us, we love them and weíre delighted the guy across the street wonít be able to sell Leviís without going through the same scrutiny.
   By the way, should he try to open an account, the Leviís people should know that I was just kidding when I hinted he also owns a chain of porno shops and would only want to carry Leviís so he could launder money from his gun running and drug smuggling operations.
   None of it is true, as far as I know. But I lack the resources to find out for certain. Thank goodness for companies like Leviís.
   Anyway, the reason I was thinking about all this is Iím going through it again. We decided to get into the athletic footwear business, which requires opening accounts with companies like Nike, Reebok and Adidas.
   Now that we were a major account with Leviís, meaning we were perhaps a visible speck on the wall, I thought it might be easier.
  So when I called the sales reps for the show companies to give them the good news about our wanting to give them money, I suppose I expected, well, at least a return phone call.
   Wishful thinking. Based on my first two weeks of efforts, it has been made abundantly clear once again that we are not in demand. My goal at this point is to get a sales rep to call me back.
   And what again strikes me as so strange is that Iím not selling. Iím buying. Yet these companies are so big and so popular that they have no time to deal with anything or anyone that might waste their time.
   I mentioned this to someone I initially spoke with at Reebok. He said he understood my frustrations, but I should know that Reebok gets thousands of requests to open new accounts every week. To give me an example, he said, a short while ago he had a call from an animal feed store looking to open an account.
   We talked a while longer and then he said heíd take some information and pass it along to a sales rep for review. I gave him my best sales pitch, emphasizing the Leviís success, and even threw in a few tidbits about how I plan to devote the rest of my life to selling Reeboks. (Theyíre into "commitment.")
   That was two weeks ago and Iíve yet to speak to a sales rep. But I know the routine, so Iím not worried. My only concern would be if I walk into my neighborhood animal feed store and see a Reebok section.


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