Once more, a story from my Stainless Steel trading job. We got a call from an old customer. The quantity was huge, but the diameter was non-standard. If I remember correctly, he asked for a 67mm Stainless steel pipe.
To put it all in context, the order was about a quarter of our total monthly sales. And we knew that he sent the same inquiry to our competitor. So without time to waste I sent out the RFQ to our vendors.
All of them regretted to quote.
I went online and searched through the US, European, Chinese and Japanese markets. Contacted at least 10 new vendors.
The response was:
“If you want this specific size, you have to place an order approximately ten times bigger. And pay all in advance.”
Which was not a feasible option.
So, after 10 days of trying all I could, I had to go to my boss with the bad news.
“Sorry, I was not able to find the product.
I tried everything I could.”
Naturally, he was disappointed. It was time to talk it through with the customer and see if there is a way to save the deal.
He makes the call, while I am sitting in his office, completely demotivated. After the initial courtesy sentences and a short discussion, he starts laughing like crazy…
What in the world happened now?
Here is in short the discussion they had over the phone:
B (Boss): ”Sorry, but the size you have requested is not available”
C (Client): “Got the same feedback from all traders”
B: “What is the actual use for this pipe? Perhaps we could offer some alternative or some workaround”
C: “They are building an office building, I got the material list from the Construction company. Let me quickly check”
C:” You are not going to believe this… It is a stairs railing pipe. The architect has no clue about the standard pipe sizes. He just made up a size he found would be good for the railing”
B: “OK, you will have the standard size delivered tomorrow. I have sufficient stock available with me.
C: “Fast as always. Done”
Moral of the story: Whenever possible, ask the end user what he needs the product or service for. Every now and then you can offer a more suitable solution. Or avoid doing a lot of work for nothing.