As a consultant, especially as an independent looking to build a new business, one must be prepared for anything! Meetings… proposals… client reviews… you never know what might happen.
It has been some years, but I remember going with a group to visit a long-term client. We had a good portion of the client’s business, but we really wanted to be their first vendor of choice. We had worked extremely hard in all facets of our relationship to build quality and trust.
When working with a partner on fulfillment, not only do you need to be good in your relationship, but also you must ensure your warehouse is performing well. Standard stuff of “right order in the right box” and “being on time” are the keys. You also must make sure you are priced right and that your client can profit, too. On time, great quality and fair pricing… certainly a high standard to reach, but we felt we were there!
We prepared for the meeting by creating a great PowerPoint presentation. We documented the growth in sales, our fulfillment statistics and how we had saved the client money on operations and shipping. We were all quite proud of what we had accomplished and were set for the presentation. The meeting with the client went really well. We were in front of their sales team, operations and financial folks. Lots of questions, great leadership and answers from our team and we looked in great shape to close the deal to move up in their vendor cascade.
Everyone was doing great and then… and then… a key Director stormed into the meeting with a stack of disheveled papers, an attitude of fire and brimstone and grabbed the attention of all.
“You guys stole my money!”
What the heck was he talking about? We all looked around at each other, confused and a bit dazed. Stole his money? His money? It sounded like we cheated his kids out of the college education and their life fortune.
“Your supplier gives you money for our sales and you are supposed to give it to me. You’re keeping it and it’s mine”.
Um, not his? Well, we did have programs with suppliers and clients like this, but there was no agreement in place and these only existed when we were the primary fulfillment partner for a client. We looked at each other, quickly explained the scenario and said we would check it.
At that point, he insisted there was an agreement and we were not doing our part. When would we be writing the check or credit? Wow.
Well, at that point the head of the meeting said we could not move forward until we knew what was going on. We could set up a follow up meeting by phone “in a few weeks”.
Long story short, there was an agreement with the client and the supplier… just neither party had bothered to tell us, and we were supposed to manage the proof of sales and pass through of the marketing funds. Wonderful.
It took almost three months to get everyone to agree on what happened and that we had not cheated anyone. Three months. By this time, the contract for the year had evaporated and we had to wait for the next annual cycle to get back in for a renewed pitch.
Preparation… sometimes you really can’t be prepared. Never hang your head, and never give up. Good things come out in the end.