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5 Ways to Start Business with Commercial Customers

If you’re looking for the next big business opportunity for 2019, the answer could be in commercial and industrial sales. Commercial customers may have specific needs that are a bit different from your regular customer base, but they can provide steady sales to help you offset the slower times of the year. They also often buy in bulk, resulting in some large sales. When considering selling to this customer base, here are tips for starting out.

Potential Customers Are Everywhere

Every small business, nonprofit organization, church, factory and school in your town is a possible customer. Each of those businesses or organizations has maintenance and operations needs. As the local hardware store, you are uniquely qualified to find them what they need. More than likely, customers already coming into your store buying something for their homes may be connected to a local business. Ask them where their business is getting their maintenance or janitorial supplies, and then ask if there’s a way you can do business with them.

Get to Know Everyone at the Company

In a large organization, such as a school, there may be several people involved in purchasing. Some departments may operate off of a regular contract, while others have their choice of where to buy. Get to know everyone in the company who is authorized to purchase and you might start to get some of that walk-in business, especially when there’s an emergency and need something right away. Those incremental sales may eventually lead to a larger relationship with that customer.

Emphasize Your Customer Service

You likely won’t be the only place businesses in town can get maintenance and repair products, but you might have the best customer service. For some businesses looking for a supplier, the lowest price may always win. Others may consider the other benefits you can provide. Be willing to go out of your way to source that hard-to-find item, even if it’s completely unrelated to your typical product mix. Offer delivery and convenience. As a local retailer, you should be able to better provide for the needs of a commercial customer than a big-box commercial distributor.

Get an Outside Sales Rep

One of the best ways to get the business of commercial customers is to have a sales representative dedicated to finding new customers and helping current ones. An outside sales rep can cold call potential customers. Having a rep also lets commercial customers know that there is someone dedicated to helping them and gives them a point person to ask questions. A sales rep may spend a lot of time sourcing products and putting together bids to win a contract with a larger organization.

Show Your Diversity

Businesses and institutions may purchase from specialty stores and industrial distributors. As a home improvement retailer, you have the advantage in that you have a diverse array of categories. Instead of going to multiple suppliers to fill all their needs, commercial customers only need to make one stop when they buy from you. Make that diversity part of your sales pitch when you try to get their business.

About Jesse Carleton

Jesse Carleton has visited independent hardware retailers, conducted original research on the industry and written extensively about the business of hardware retailing. Jesse has written for more than a dozen of NHPA’s contract publishing titles, all related to the hardware retailing industry. He also was instrumental in developing the Basic Training in Hardware Retailing courses now used by thousands of retailers across the country.

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