Suppliers are valuable business partners and can have a substantial impact on your business. There is more to a supplier relationship than just finding a company that does good work at a reasonable price. Building a strong relationship can lead to advantages such as good payment terms, reliable work, and minimal errors and corrections.
The relationship begins before any contract has been signed. Basics such as price are important, but they aren’t the only priority. What do you need most from this particular supplier? Speed? Quality? Innovation? If you focus on price, you miss out on advantages and savings that other companies could provide.
It is also valuable to look at less concrete factors. What is the supplier’s corporate culture like, and how well does it align with yours? Does the company share your values and priorities? How easy are they to talk to and understand? Spend some time getting to know your potential suppliers before choosing one, both by talking to them and by looking at their websites and social media.
Once you have selected a supplier, it can be tempting to think that most of the work is done. They can do the work you need and you get along well, so you’re in the clear, right? Unfortunately, no. Like personal relationships, supplier relationships require continual work. One essential element of that is communication. The better you communicate, the better your results are likely to be.
A good way to communicate clearly is in person — even if “in person” ends up meaning over the phone or internet. Having a real-time conversation makes it easier to understand each other and clarify requirements and constraints. The more your supplier knows about your needs, the better they will be able to fulfill them. Additionally, do not let the discussion dry up after this initial exchange. By checking in occasionally, you can detect problems or communicate additional needs early in the process, while changes are easier to make.
Another important way to maintain a good relationship is to pay your supplier, on time and according to the terms agreed upon. This may seem very basic, but it has a considerable impact on how the two companies will get along and what your supplier will be willing to do for you. If your supplier cannot trust you to pay on time, they will not be inclined to give you favorable payment terms. The quality of their work may fall, or they may refuse to work with you altogether.
If you are having trouble paying them on time, tell them so. Explain the problem and let them know when they can expect the payment. Companies will be more forgiving of late payments if you are up front about them (and if it doesn’t happen too often).
Keeping to the theme of communication: share information with your supplier. Not just about a late payment or a change of plans, although those are important too. But there are many other things that both companies will benefit from sharing. Tell them about policies and goals, changes in strategy and direction, new ventures. Tell them when you’re developing a new product, or planning a big promotion. This will give them greater insight into your current and future needs, and can help them provide results that are fine-tuned to your organization. They may also have knowledge to share that can help in the development of your products and strategies.
Maintaining a strong relationship with all of your suppliers takes effort, but it can pay off in many ways. A supplier that likes and trusts you is a valuable asset in terms of quality of products provided, favorable terms, and useful advice. Looking for a place to start? BizVibe provides you with an avenue to discover and contact suppliers across industries and around the world, giving you a head start on finding the perfect match for your business.