No matter what industry you get involved in, be it digital marketing, construction, retail or hospitality, you’ll eventually come to rely on suppliers.
On paper, suppliers are separate businesses. But when you’re in the midst of running a company, it doesn’t feel that way. You need them to provide you with the goods and services you require on time to serve your customers. If they don’t, the whole thing falls apart quickly.
Supplier relationships are interesting. In most instances, it’s not a matter of just finding the company that provides the best service. Often, the quality you get depends heavily on your relationship with them. It’s a mutual thing.
For that reason, it’s worth thinking about how you can improve your relationships with them. Here are some simple steps you can take.
When it comes to supplier relationships, communication should be right at the top of your agenda. When both sides know what’s going on, it reduces confusion and opportunities for conflict.
Developing communication requires keeping the right channels open. Conversations should be even-sided, where both the purchaser and supplier have the opportunity to talk about their needs.
Many companies create a “supplier communication network.” The idea here is to create a community that allows everyone to continually improve their products, service and relationship with everyone else in the supply chain.
How suppliers approach their work varies very much, depending on their expectations. For instance, the way that Fosroc – a supplier in the construction industry – deals with its customers could be very different from companies in, say, the digital marketing industry.
Where possible, try to understand your suppliers’ business position. Get an accurate picture of the incentives that they face and how they operate. Then use this to gain leverage in negotiations, allowing you to find win-win solutions that fit both you and them.
When it comes to dealing with suppliers, it is essential to get everyone on the same page. You might be aware of the nature of your relationship with them. But the people you work with may have a completely different understanding.
Getting everyone on the same page requires visibility. Roll out training and state the principles that you would like people to follow. Be clear and concise.
A supplier shouldn’t just be somebody at the end of the telephone: it should be somebody you’ve met. Getting to know a supplier in person helps to make your interaction with them more memorable. It also puts you at the forefront of their minds when they think about their customers. You don’t have to wine and dine them, but simple gestures, like sending holiday cards, can work well.
Nobody likes to work with dishonest people. That’s why you should always state your needs and requirements upfront. Suppliers will sense and trust this, making them more willing to work with you.