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Need advice about sales issue

    • 5 posts
    April 19, 2008 5:50 PM EDT
    I own a small publishing company. Last year I signed up with a distributor (I posted about this distributor) who failed to pay on time, made promises to customers I didn`t agree to, then when I pulled the agreement, she went and badmouthed me to the people involved in the books, some of whom dropped out of the various book projects. From there she and her sales rep also contacted wholesale customers and badmouthed me to many of them causing lost sales. 
     
    I tried to just stay above it all and ignore her and go about business.
     
    Yet each quarter she invoices me for sales that she failed to collect on, requested I cancel, and that she caused to be lost. I`ve ignored those too, until I emailed her telling she wasn`t owed a thing because she failed to perform her part of the contract, and because her actions cost me lost business (about $30,000 worth).
     
    This year I`m approaching the same customers for this tourist season and have gotten maybe four or five out of about 60 customers request reorders. I know many of the businesses have sold out of these books and have a feeling she`s done her best to continue to ruin business.
     
    My question is two-fold - a) what would you do about the slow sales - it`s not dependent upon the economy as this is a tourist business that is projected to be up this year. also there is a finite number of stores in the state, so although I haven`t sold to all of them, the customers I did sell to last year were a large portion of the stores in the state. and b) would you investigate a lawsuit for libel/slander against this distributor. I can clearly show she set out to negatively effect business as a retalitory method. (her husband did the same thing in his job and actually was convicted for stealing funds and trying to pin it on someone else, so the apple doesn`t fall far from the tree.)
     
    I do sell to other wholesalers, but that amount of business is about 10% of total revenue of last year.
     
    I`m somewhat perplexed as to what to do and why last year`s customers aren`t reordering. any help would be appreciated.
       
    • 5 posts
    April 21, 2008 7:04 AM EDT
    Thanks for the suggestions.
     
    This is an industry were the customers are not influenced or even view blogs. Most orders are still done the old fashion way - via fax. And it`s a very tight-knit community of people in a very small, but lucrative market.
     
    I might try finding someone who could stand by me. PR doesn`t really work on the customers. The ones who have ordered are larger corporations that are not influenced by the `cliche-ishness` that this distributor has cultivated over the years.
     
    I agree - revenge does not pay. For this distributor it appears to have, but I don`t want to go that route.
     
    I`ll keep plugging away. Any other suggestions are greatly appreciated.
     
    • 2 posts
    April 20, 2008 9:37 PM EDT
    27 years of experience has tought me that  playing  " Revenge "  does  not  pay  in  biz . 
     
    If  your  sales  are  only  10% of  previous  year  , then this Distributor`s  bad  mouthing  has been  ` believed ` by  lot  of  your  customers .  You  would  do  well  to  " clean up "  your  image  with  the  customers  rather  than  waste  time  on  ` fixing`  the distributor  .  Try  getting  someone  in  your  industry  with  impeccable  repute  to  standby  you  and  speak  out  .  Try  using  PR  . If  the  promises  this  distributor  made  are  in  line  with  industry  practice  and  do not cost  heavily  on  your  bottom line  ,  you  can  consider  a  ` one-time `  settlement  directly  with  the  customers ,  provided  they  start  buying  from  you  again .   Invest  on  creating  and  effectively  managing  a  Blog  for  this  purpose   . 
     
    Wish  you  speedy  success