Monthly Archives: February 2014

Shared Wisdom about Client & Supplier Relationships

Picture the scene ….. It is Friday morning at 10.00am and the phone rings. It’s one of your existing clients or maybe a prospect you have been talking to and they tell you that they would like a proposal for a decent project.

They give you a ‘thud’ documents worth of background information, objectives, requirements, preferences – they spend a long time talking about it and then they drop the bomb shell – they would like to get back to their internal client later that day – preferably before 3pm as a quick decision is required.

Now business is business and we all know that sometimes you have to move heaven and earth to get things done – so you do. You cancel lunch, you sideline the other urgent projects you were already working on (thinking that if worst comes to worst you can always stay a little later (even though it is Friday!), you put your gym kit back in its bag and you crack on.

To try and ensure that they are not members of the “champagne tastes – lemonade Money club’ you have asked what their budget is to which they have given you that golden response – “I’d rather not say or I’d rather you tell me what you think it should cost”….hmmmm

So you get it done – you get it over at exactly 2.50pm. It looks good and you feel you have achieved something and you have worked very hard to make it happen!

Several weeks and many emails later – you finally get the person who’s world was going to stop unless they had your proposal that day by 3.00pm and you ask them  “so – is there any feedback or development on this and can we move this forward?” To which the reply may vary between “oh we decided not to do it or we appointed someone else that day actually or you were way out of the ball park so we went with someone else”.

So why is it that companies – the world over – seem to forget that when asking suppliers to devote time and energy and many cases money to prepare quotations or tenders – that the least courtesy the supplier should be able to expect is thanks, feedback and where relevant – the opportunity to negotiate.

The old adage of  ‘Treat suppliers like you would want to be treated yourself ” is fundamental to successful and profitable business. Suppliers who are onside will help you solve your problems – suppliers who are treated badly will become brand terrorists for your company or products.

Here are 10 golden rules that will ensure you and your suppliers get mutual benefit.

1. Be fully Open, Honest and Transparent   – (In a tender situation – tell them your budget parameters – tell them if there are other people in a tender process and tell them what will make the difference for you.)

2. Take Time To Get To Know a Supplier – Understanding a supplier’s business and how they work will de-risk the relationship and help you to get the best from them

3. Use their Knowledge and Creativity – Suppliers will often come up with creative and innovative ways to do things differently and better – especially when tendering for new projects.

4. Give Your Supplier Regular Feedback – Let them know how they are doing – what you would like to see going forward and what makes the difference for you between OK service and exceptional service.

5. Encourage Suppliers To Give You Feedback – make sure they tell what it’s like working with you and what you could do better

6. Meet With Your Suppliers – many companies have worked with suppliers – in some cases for years – without actually meeting them. Telephone and internet supply is common place and useful but at some point it makes a huge difference if you can put a face to a voice or name. Clearly where you buy online this is not always possible.

7. Don’t Make Your Problems – Their Problems – don’t become too reliant on any one supplier. Make sure that in the unlikely event of service failure you have other options.

8. Agree Relevant KPI’s – be clear about what you want from your suppliers and let them know regularly how they are doing against those KPI’s. This includes what you expect or need from them in new business situations

9. Ask Them How They Manage Their Suppliers – Find out what they do  and what they want from their suppliers and see if you can borrow or share best practice with methods, systems and ideas they are already using.

10. Change Perception of the Supplier Relationship within Your own Business – Make sure that within your own company – suppliers are treated with respect, talked about as an integral part of the business process and accorded the same time, energy and thought as everyone else. In every business it is the management that set the culture – so make sure your culture embraces the ‘supplier partnership’ and not the ‘supplier servant’ philosophy. /