Every year about this time, company leaders start planning for the upcoming year. They look at equipment and technology needs. They make educated guesses about sales. If they’re lucky, they have a backlog of orders to carry into the next year. They add that backlog to historical sales data to produce a revenue target.
Armed with that information and the courage to make a WAG* they develop their capacity plan. Right or wrong they bravely march into the New Year.
I always hated that kind of planning at Raven Machine & Tool; it seemed vague and unscientific, but I didn’t have a better method until one of our largest customers shared their upcoming goals. That gave me insight into how I could create better projections for my company.
Beginning in October I started interviewing customers and asking the following questions. (Click here to download the questions as a pdf.)
- Do you have a rating system for suppliers?
- What are your measurement criteria?
- How did you rate us as a supplier this year?
- Do you buy the same product from others that you purchase from us?
- If yes, what percent of your total buy do I supply?
- What is your purchasing goal this year for the product my company provides?
- What can we do to get a larger share of your buy?
- What are your corporate goals for next year?
- What are your personal goals for next year?
- How can I help you achieve them?
- What’s one piece of advice you’d give me to make me a more valued and trusted supplier?
I was amazed at how candidly and openly buyers shared corporate and individual goals with me. Over and over I heard, “No one else has ever ‘interviewed’ us before.” They appreciated having the opportunity to be heard.
Knowledge is a powerful thing and asking the right questions allows you to make positive changes to accommodate customer needs. It can also increase sales. It did mine.