Years ago when I was growing my small distributorship, I secured an initial sales appointment with the operations manager of a jewelry retailer with about 100 stores. I have little recollection of what we discussed back then during that first sales call. All I remember was that, after a seemingly good conversation, he asked me if we sold spiral rings. It turned out that he needed 12 spiral rings for a project. 12 stupid, stock, 1″ spiral rings. I wasn’t sure how to respond. At no point in our conversation did I say we sold office supplies or anything of the sort, but I decided to bite and told him we could do that. I asked when he needed them by and he said tomorrow. So I went to the office supply store, bought the spiral rings and personally delivered them the next day.
That day was the beginning of an amazing, profitable relationship that lasted about 20 years until the jewelry chain was bought out. He ended up buying about $1 million per year from me at 50 percent average gross profit.
We never discussed that spiral ring order. He never ordered any more. Best I can tell, that request was a test. I think he wanted to know if I would be of service no matter how small the order.
Let me ask you: Would you have passed the test? Or would you have told him you didn’t sell spiral rings? Or that you had a minimum order size?
The key is that when end-users are considering a new supplier, they rarely start with a big order. Typically they start with smaller, pain in the neck type orders. What I learned through this experience was that it’s not the size of the first order that counts, it’s the size of the opportunity.