As an independent I have always viewed relationships with suppliers as important. Sadly, the number that actually call into the store has diminished over the years - budget cutbacks might well be the reason.
It is generally those who make an effort to get to know you and understand your business needs that you gain the most benefit from.
Imperial Tobacco and Nestlé are the most supportive. They call regularly and the rep rarely changes, making it easier to build a working relationship. It's very two-way in that I am comfortable with them changing my displays and will generally implement any of their recommendations.
For many years Carlsberg reps called and, with their support, sales of their lines increased, but I haven't seem them for some time.
Cadbury used to be very supportive, but they offer little input these days. Mars, I haven't seen for years, and the other tobacco suppliers I see infrequently.
The most frustrating callers are the graduates straight out of the classroom. They walk in and start to preach what they have just been taught without any consideration for your own circumstances and experience.
All too often the rep is focused only on his sales target and getting home as early as possible. Recently, a rep tried to sell me the new Lucozade energy shot and was quite rude to me when I refused to take it. He seemed to think that as it was a leading brand we had to have it, and made his opinions of my decision quite clear.
What bugs me most are the reps who want to cover the shop in POS material, in particular the sticky-backed variety that invariably leaves your shelf edges gunged up. I don't allow any reps to display POS any more - I get them to leave it with us so we can decide whether to use it.