A hot tip is better than a cold call, and your suppliers can be excellent sources of warm--or even hot--sales leads. Often they hear about new products and services coming onto the market, someone who's been promoted, or a key contact moving to another company, which signals that the time is ripe for calling on a sought-after account.
Shawn Prior, import manager for Compass Forwarding, a growing international transportation-logistics company based in Jamaica, N.Y., with branch offices in Boston, Atlanta, and Los Angeles, reports that 40% of the new business he generates is the result of chatting up his suppliers. "To get referrals from suppliers you have to be an easy customer to do business with," notes Prior. "That means paying your bills on time and not making too many outrageous demands on them. Otherwise, next time they hear about a nice opportunity, they'll tell one of your competitors."