There is no set answer to this question; it depends on the longterm potential of the customer. If the company is small and has been the same size for many years, chances are there won’t be too much more business from them—perhaps just other small orders. As a salesperson, can you invest the time needed and still make a fair profit? Probably not, if sales calls and order maintenance are always requested. You have two choices: one, refer them to a catalog or other vendor, or two, have your customer service department handle the order over the phone.
The other type of small order is from a bigger company that allows you to get your foot in the door. This is worth the low profit because it gets you on their vendor list. When you’re an approved vendor and listed in their computer, other company buyers will find you, and anything can happen. Bigger and more profitable orders may be on the horizon.
Process and handle the small orders in the same prompt and professional manner you would if they were much larger. Buyers will remember who did a good job for them and who caused them the least problems. The company may also have a vendor rating system that they use to score your performance and service.
Here’s a case that happened in our plastic card and printing company. We’d been trying to break into the Las Vegas hotel and casino market for a couple of years, and you can’t even talk to many of the buyers for the large properties. They all have direct lines that are guarded like gold. So we just kept sending direct mail to their purchasing and marketing departments and their casino managers every two to three months, hoping for a break. One day, we got a fax from a buyer requesting a price for 2,000 labels for a large hotel/casino. Our first thought was that this hotel uses much
more, so why was the possible order so small? We just quoted a fair price, got the order, and gave them our usual good service.
About a month later, we received a repeat order for the same quantity. We processed the order quickly, and they were satisfied. We were only making $25 to $30 profit on these small orders, but they paid quickly, and we could say that the big hotel was our customer! We were also put on their approved vendor list.
Six weeks later, we received another order for 5,000 of a similar label, and the profit was about $60—nothing to rave about. As it turned out, they kept ordering these labels on and off for about a year, and then we received a price request for 15,000 Do Not Disturb door hangers. We got that order partly because of our good service on the labels, and we made a much better profit. Shortly after that order, we were the final stages of an order for 300,000 plastic door keys for a sister hotel in Las Vegas. We saw the potential of the company and treated the small orders the same as larger ones. You just never know how or when the door will open to a large customer.