The following articles focus on different aspects of the most important link in the supply chain for electrical distributors — that sometimes tenuous relationship with customers. Customers are key in any market, but in a business like the electrical wholesaling business where so much business is local, solid day-to-day relationships with customers are absolutely essential. This isn't an industry where the only contact your customers have with you is through the orders they place via computer, or the boxes that get delivered to their offices by the U.S. Postal Service or various overnight delivery services.

Distributors tend to see customers all the time, all over town. The guys who come tromping into the counter area with material lists scribbled on scraps of paper may live down the block from some of the workers in the counter area. They may shop at the same supermarket, bowl at the same bowling alley and have kids on the same baseball or soccer teams. The distributorship's owner and the owner of that electrical contracting firm may play golf at the same country club.

Because business is so local in this industry, you may think you already know all there is to know about a certain customer or about all the possible customers for electrical supplies in your market area. Electrical Wholesaling's editors think you can always learn more about your customers and your market, and have put together the following articles to help you do that. First up is Electrical Wholesaling's Customer Pyramid, which will help you analyze all of the different types of customers in your market. The next article, Electrical Construction & Maintenance magazine's Top 50 Electrical Contractors, offers a ranking of the largest electrical contracting firms in the United States and some intriguing insight into what makes them tick and what they see down the road for the electrical construction industry. Completing this month's Customer Connection is a great feature article on that all-important first sales call by Terry Sater, an electrical industry sales and purchasing veteran in the St. Louis market.