Customer collaboration is always a good idea; however, leveraging customer collaboration during challenging economic times can be one of the keys to success.

1. Pick up the phone – some of the largest successes I’ve seen result from simple yet critical conversations. It can be as simple as calling a customer to discuss current business and to stay in touch.

2. Win-win – remember to look for win-win opportunities in your conversations / meetings with your customers. Two heads are typically better than one – take advantage of already existing relationships to find win-win opportunities to increase business/ profitability.

3. Watch trends – although elaborate forecasting programs can result in increased business and/or improved efficiencies throughout the supply chain, watching and proactively managing to a simple trend line can many times be just as effective.

4. Joint programs – there are many opportunities to develop programs with your customers to share freight/ transportation costs, improve service to your joint end customers (if applicable), collaborate on packaging opportunities, improve efficiencies, tightly manage inventory, etc.

5. Think about value – instead of focusing on selling, think about how to provide value to your customers. How can you add value to your customer’s business? Focus on providing value and you’ll likely end up with win-win results.

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