Having a good relationship with suppliers should be a priority for every business. Not only will it make working together more pleasant, but it could eventually help you gain a competitive edge. When you have a positive relationship with your suppliers, they might be more open to price negotiations.
They will also be more inclined to work with you if you’re experiencing difficulties, or they may even prioritize you over other clients in certain cases. Not all businesses know how to build a good rapport with their suppliers, however, and it’s often because of a lack of experience. Let’s take a look at a few things that you can do to improve your relationship with your suppliers.
You will first need to learn the principles of sound supplier relationship management. Treat your suppliers just as you do your top clients and segment your suppliers based on how important they are to your company.
You will also need to look at how replaceable they are. Suppliers that sell products that are common and in demand will not be as important to you as someone who provides a very specific product. You also have to differentiate those with whom you have a strategic and exclusive relationship from other suppliers.
If you want to learn more about supplier relationship management, we suggest you check out Vendr’s guide. It runs down everything you should know for establishing sound supplier relationship management processes in your business. They delve more in detail into segmentation, offer some tips on how to add value to the process and provide a few tech tools that you can use to facilitate supplier management.
Business and supply chains are increasingly globalized, and owners often forget that they’re dealing with people when dealing with suppliers. If you’re going to be working with a supplier from another country, then it would be wise to learn about their culture.
Many of us work with Chinese suppliers, and the business culture is much more different there than many people think. You may assume that dealing with Chinese suppliers is all business because of the massive volumes they often have to handle, but suppliers there actually value having personal relationships with their clients. Knowing about nuances like these could help you build a better rapport with your overseas suppliers and allow you to get on their good side.
Just as in anything, first impressions are very important when you’re dealing with suppliers. Whether you first contact them in person, through phone, or by email, you have to make sure that you make it count.
This is again where learning cultural differences will help. Some suppliers will prefer very succinct and straight-to-the-point conversations, while others will appreciate someone who takes the time to explain what they do, what their objectives are, what their expectations are for the relationship, etc.
Even your tone of voice could make a difference. This is why we would suggest you learn everything there is to know about how to make a positive first impression with suppliers, including if you’re intending to meet them face to face.
Speaking of which, we would recommend that you privilege direct visits over phone calls or emails when dealing with suppliers. The world we’re living in is becoming increasingly impersonal with most of our communications being made through text or phone calls.
This makes in-person visits that much more memorable. Not only will it show that you truly care, but it will also help you get a better idea of who you’re dealing with. You might get a quick glimpse into how tightly they run their operation. This could be a great time to ask for a warehouse visit if possible.
Look at the state of the premises, and go to the loading docks. See how well or how poorly they’re organized and look at the workers’ demeanor. Try to get a look at their processes as well and see if you notice any workers seem to be wandering aimlessly. This will all give you a better idea of whether you should trust a supplier.
Good communication is vital for any business that wants to have better relationships with its suppliers. You not only have to have clear channels between you and them; you have to improve internal communication as well. The better the communication between you and your suppliers, the lesser the chance that you’ll experience hiccups.
Things like missing purchase orders or incorrect inventory counts will not be as frequent and having tools that facilitate the exchange of documents between different departments will create a more even-sided and transparent conversation. Establishing a supplier communication network where you can openly share thoughts, information, and exchange feedback could help improve your relationship and service offering as well.
It always pays to know as much as you possibly can about suppliers. This will allow you to know more about the challenges they have to face, their position in the market, and what direction they’re heading in. You should also get to know who their investors are and check if they’re a privately owned company or have public shareholders.
You will be able to get a lot from learning about your suppliers in detail. For one, it will give you a better idea of how stable you can expect them to be. You’ll also be able to understand some of their limitations and have more realistic expectations.
We also suggest that you learn about their purpose, mission, and vision. You will then be able to align your business goals with theirs and have a symbiotic relationship that could eventually turn into a strategic partnership.
These are just some of the things that you can do to improve your relationship with your suppliers. They are the lifeblood of your business and treating them properly could end up giving you an important strategic advantage.