10 Tips for Improving Supplier Relationships

No matter what industry you work in, if you use suppliers they are part of your business, and you need good ones. Savvy companies understand this and nurture long-term supplier relationships based on trust and respect. Unfortunately some miss this point altogether.

Here are 10 tips (from the supplier perspective) for improving your supplier relationships:

  1. Treat others as you’d like to be treated yourself. Being professional, friendly, honest and open is a good start.
  2. Consider your supplier as a partner and part of your extended team. Long-term partners will understand your business needs and help you achieve your objectives.
  3. Suppliers understand that three quotes are generally required but it is important to be transparent with your selection criteria so they can bid correctly. Shortlist suitable suppliers and reduce the number of bidders by doing some research, asking for recommendations and spending time looking through their websites. This will save you time by weeding out unsuitable suppliers. Be honest with suppliers about the number of bidders you are considering.
  4. Decide whether you want to work with a company or a freelancer. The reliability and flexibility of a team rather than an individual may be worth the extra cost.
  5. Trust is important. Company and personal reputations are easily tarnished. Do not use the bidding process to generate creative ideas as this uses talent and time without paying for it. Suppliers will not thank you for this and the word does get around.
  6. Avoid “Chinese Whispers”. It is better if the decision makers on each side talk directly so that the requirement is clearly understood quickly. Going through a secretary who cannot answer questions or share important information just wastes time.
  7. Pay on time or before the due date. Not paying on time damages the supplier’s business; paying on time cements a relationship. Never use the excuse of late payment from your client. This has nothing to do with your supplier.
  8. Give your supplier as much lead time as possible and communicate all critical information as soon as you know yourself. However, if you do have an unexpected tight deadline reliable long-term suppliers will do everything they can to help.
  9. Be transparent about your budget from the outset. There is no point in entering into detailed discussions if budget expectations don’t match.
  10. Ethical suppliers give honest estimates and ethical clients value them. It is unethical to ask for a ‘freebie’ or discount based on full paying work coming later. Every company needs to earn a fair living or they will go out of business. Being a serial discounter (using one supplier at a discounted rate with the promise of full rates later and then moving onto another supplier, then another…) damages your reputation and is bad business.

All good companies understand and follow these simple ‘rules’. “Treat em mean keep em keen” simply doesn’t work when you are dealing with suppliers. You’ll suddenly find they are “too busy” or, even worse, heading for the airport and then where will you go when you need a good supplier?