Size doesn't matter Featured

12:51pm EDT February 26, 2002
When's the last time you shopped around for a deal on copier paper or water cooler refill bottles? Or business banking services? Or office cleaning?

You don't, do you? You've been ordering from the same suppliers, using the same bank and having your wastebaskets emptied by the same company for years, haven't you? You haven't really thought about shopping around -- unless, of course, these companies have given you a reason to do so.

You're not alone.

Most of us get comfortable with the vendors we use. We may not even remember what prompted us to select a particular company in the first place. But unless that company starts delivering supplies late or raising its prices without fair warning or good reason, you probably look at contract renewals as a given.

The reason is simple: familiar is comfortable. Change involves hassles, however small. And most of us just can't be bothered unless a considerable sum of money is at stake.

Besides, trying to scrutinize the benefits of one service provider vs. the next can be a serious headache with all the variables. Cellular service is among the worst offenders. The plans are so different it's like comparing kiwi to grapefruit. But once you settle on a plan, you're not likely to change for fear that you'll have to wade through the mire of comparisons again.

That, my friends, is exactly why every sale your company makes -- regardless how small -- matters. Those you are selling to are likely to carefully evaluate your service or product initially, but once you're in the door and performing well, you're golden. And you have opportunities to grow.

Nationwide built its business that way. Its agents only sold auto insurance at first -- a seemingly small piece of the insurance pie. But after earning the trust of those it insured, it began offering fire and life insurance, then mutual funds. Then it branched into health and commercial insurance and annuities and pensions.

Now it's the 30th-largest insurance and financial services company in the world.

Amazing what you can do with a small contract. Sometimes you just have to give it time to grow.