Business information written specifically for newspaper advertising departments

Listen to the Experts

Sales advice from the people you are selling to
Your customers can tell you where you’re going wrong, what you’re doing right and how you can improve service while still maintaining both your and their bottom lines.

When selling anything, the best advice you’ll ever get is from the person you’re selling to. Your customers can tell you where you’re going wrong, what you’re doing right and how you can improve service while still maintaining both your and their bottom lines. Although we can’t talk directly to your customers to give you pointers, we have found some general advice from some big name companies about how to best market and sell to them. In “Sales Tips From The World’s Toughest Customers,” by Kasey Wehrum for Inc. Magazine, some of the world’s largest and most successful companies — like Coca-Cola, UPS, Northrop Grumman and Dell — were asked why they use the suppliers they do and what not to do when trying to sell them something.

As previously mentioned aforementioned, these companies may not be your customers, but they can help guide the way you build relationships and sell to businesses that may be. Here’s what they had to say.


Coca-Cola expressed that when looking for contractors or other vendors, they want an established relationship, but also don’t favor cronyism. Instead, they prefer hardworking business relationships that illustrate that actual benefit to the company through steadfast communication. “Some suppliers try to bypass the process a bit. They think that because they know someone here, or they have a friend of a friend, they should get special treatment. That attitude won’t get you anywhere at our company — and it’s a hot-button issue with me,” said a Coca-Cola executive.


Accuracy is a major contributing factor when signing a deal with UPS. They look for accuracy between the price of a service and the RFP. Often, vendors believe that giving UPS the best possible price will seal the deal. According to an executive, a deal that looks too good to be true, probably is, and the health of UPS’ vendors also contributes to the health of UPS, which is why “the last thing [they] want is for a company to fail because it was [UPS’] biggest supplier.”

An executive for UPS also discussed the importance of using a company’s services if you are trying to court them. “People will say, ‘I’ve got this really exciting proposal I want you to look at.’ I’ll say, ‘Go ahead; send it to me.’ Then they send it to me by FedEx.” That’s a big no-no.

Northrop Grumman

Northrop Grumman appreciates a no-nonsense business deal, and often contracts to small businesses because it allows them to speak directly with the people they are working with. They also expressed that they understand that companies have many capabilities, but prefer when contractor proposals speak directly to the service they will be providing to Northrup Grumman.

They also stress that building relationships is really important to them. Communication and reliability is a must.


Long-term awareness and global strategy is a turn-on for Dell. Because “changing vendors can be very expensive,” they want to know that their contractors are there for the long haul and can think big. They did, however, express a distaste for staunchness, “When people don’t want to change, when they want to stick to their own practices and philosophies, that’s kind of a warning sign for us.”