Distributors And Suppliers Bring It Together At Convention Roundtables

Technology, new trends in e-commerce, technical support

While the hot topics at the Supplier/Distributor Roundtable session at GAWDA’s Annual Convention last September were many and varied, communication was at the center of each group’s lively discussion. Divided into eight discussion groups consisting of supplier and distributor members, participants explored four issues:

  • Distributor and supplier partnering
  • Electronic communication and commerce
  • Pricing and inventories
  • Consolidation.

Though some questions were answered, some new, increasingly imperative questions emerged.


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Communication
New developments in electronic communication prompted a dialogue between the two groups. Does new technology help or hinder communication between distributors and their suppliers? One group observed the increased difficulty of maintaining personal relationships with customers when e-mails, phone calls and faxes replace face to face interaction. Another group echoed these concerns, noting the importance of in-person sales calls in addition to e-mails for sustaining solid partnerships.

Communication with the end-user was a topic of equal importance. Participants examined the advantages of accepting online orders from specialty gas and industrial customers. Noted one group, “Specialty gas customers tend to use e-commerce technology much more.” Another group discussed customer communication regarding price changes, posing the question, “What is the best way to justify and notify customers of significant increases in price?”

Spiffs for Larger Companies
Distributor companies of different sizes present a multitude of issues for suppliers, especially those who do business with companies considered to be very large. “Preferential treatment of large distributors by suppliers is especially irksome,” concluded one group. Another group suggested that suppliers should consider regular, personal visits to distributors’ branch locations, regardless of size and number, a priority. Pricing differences given to larger distributors but not to smaller independents were also a cause for concern.

Read More Online

Read each group’s Top Three Concerns in Welding & Gases Today Online.

Technical Support
Technical support was cited by several groups as a significant challenge for distributors who need “stronger technical support from suppliers.” The problem, however, may not be one-sided, as one group concluded that “the level of technical support quality is decreasing on both sides.”

Direct Sales
Participants discussed the issues created by suppliers that sell direct. In fact, this issue was the most-often mentioned concern. “Direct to end-user sales strain the relationship,” noted one group.

At the core of each roundtable discussion was relationships, one topic on which the consensus was unanimous: When supplier/distributor relationships thrive, business thrives as well.

Gases and Welding Distributors Association