Supplier Was Racing to the Bottom on Pricing, Switched to Challenging the Industry Leader

A company in commodity sales is often blind to its differentiators. Firms that offer anything more than warehouse fulfillment and a convenient Web site may overlook the competitive advantage of value-added services. In this case study a supplier learned they were measuring themselves against the “also rans” in their category rather than against the industry leader, who turned out to be their only relevant competitor.

This is one in a series of case studies highlighting “Key Questions and Course-correcting Quotes” taken from 20 years of B2B customer insight projects. All names are fictitious, but the situations are real. Case studies paint a picture of how important it is to learn what your B2B customers think–but aren’t saying. These are real-world examples of how soliciting and acting on customer feedback has helped companies hold onto customers longer, grow relationships bigger and pick up new business faster.

Case study: Switched to Value-Added Pricing

Key Question (asked of a 5-figure account): “Do you have sole-source relationships, or do you solicit competitive quotes for each purchase?”

Course-correcting Quote:

Technical buyer: “Before I started working with ReFurbished, I always bought new from the OEM. To get internal approval, I have to get quotes from other suppliers, but ReFurbished and the OEM are the only two I’ve bought from. My ReFurbished account manager is helpful, responsive and professional. We’re a small fish to the OEM. Our contact person there changes constantly. ReFurbished gives us more personal treatment and better service. Once I was satisfied that their products were solid, I started giving them our business. I’m saving money buying remanufactured parts, and I’d rather do business with a company that knows my account.”

The Client’s Quandary:

“ReFurbished” sells remanufactured OEM products to big and small companies across the country. They have two dozen competitors who refurbish and sell the exact same products. ReFurbished assumed every vendor-selection decision was based on price. Instead, most customers interviewed said they only checked with one other supplier prior to purchase (usually the OEM). ReFurbished’s high quality and superior account management staff won customers’ loyalty.


ReFurbished found out they were being measured against the OEM, not other remanufacturers. They could raise their prices and still win sales to repeat customers. They could also position themselves more effectively with prospects who value reliable account management.

Many companies rely on vendors to preserve institutional knowledge when they lay off their own experienced (and expensive) team members. Vendors can parlay the asset of account knowledge into “partner” status through peer-to-peer relationships with senior managers or executives. A rich and relevant account history coupled with excellent account servicing can be differentiators that justify premium pricing when a vendor saves its customers time.

I categorize projects as assessments, investigations, treasure hunts or rescue missions. This case study was from an “assessment” that revealed the vendor wasn’t charging as much as their market would bear. The message is this: companies gain surprising and valuable guidance from customers, even in a simple assessment.

Ann Amati, Principal, Deliberate Strategies Consulting, helps companies use guidance from their current and past customers to grow future sales. She has a 20-year track record of using deep-dive interviews to create positive turning points in her clients’ relationships with their customers.

In her national practice, Ann has clients who sell millions to companies that make billions and sole practitioners/LLCs with more modest practices. She is the author of, “What Your Customers Aren’t Telling You That You Need to Know,” a collection of case studies, tips and tools for companies in commercial and industrial sales.

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