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21st August, 2018

Supplier relationship management: How to maintain good relationships with suppliers

No person’s an island, and that’s never as true as it is in trades. No business operates entirely on its own, and if you put a key supplier offside you’ll find yourself stranded pretty quickly.

Often, the supplier relationship is overlooked and not given the attention it deserves.


Why it’s important to have a good relationship with suppliers


Having great suppliers as part of your business improves both your service to your customers as well as your efficiency.

A good relationship with a supplier can also provide you with a much-needed business supporter who can provide a fresh perspective and encourage business to come your way.

After all, if your business is growing, so will your suppliers’ business.

To maintain a great supplier relationship, you have to approach it in the right way.


How to have good relationships with your suppliers


Just because you’re paying out money to your supplier doesn’t mean that you’re always the customer and the power is with you. It needs to be a two-way street.

You want your supplier to want you as a customer just as much as you want them as your supplier. This means being fair, reasonable and flexible as required.

1. Choose suppliers that align with your values

If excellent customer service is important to you then choose suppliers for whom this is also paramount. It’s vital for good customer relations that any products, materials or services you supply your clients have warranties or return policies that match your own.

It’s a bit like personal relationships – it’s very difficult to maintain a relationship with a person who differs in core values.

When selecting suppliers consider their ethics, values, positioning and reputation.

2. Understand your suppliers’ needs

What’s important to them? Do they need you to follow a process or complete paperwork in a certain way?

Respect their way of doing things and make it easy for them by following their processes and timelines. Give them what they need, when they need it. Stay on top of supplying things like insurance certificates, business information and purchase order numbers.

3. Be a great customer 

Think about what you love about your customers and do the same for your suppliers. Pay on time and keep your records in order so you don’t have to waste your suppliers’ time by getting them to re-send things.

In the same way that you go the extra mile to look after a great customer, so will your suppliers if you are a great customer to them. Putting some deposits in the goodwill bank can be very helpful if you need a favour from your suppliers at a later stage.

4. Maintain regular communication 

Keep in touch with your suppliers and try and schedule a time to get together over a coffee or a beer. Reflect on what’s working well and talk through areas for improvement.

Having the opportunity for both parties to provide feedback on what’s been helpful or difficult can be the spark to develop innovative ways to strengthen the relationship even further.

5. Give timely feedback

Don’t ring up and yell at your supplier if stuff isn’t going right. Instead, be calm and direct so things don’t fester and become the proverbial storm in a teacup.

Despite the very best preparation and planning, mistakes and miscommunication can happen. It’s important to tackle them with your supplier quickly and in a professional manner. Always allow your supplier the opportunity to be part of a solution.

In a good supplier relationship, it’s essential to speak up when something is wrong.

6. Reward good service with loyalty

Many businesses complain that customers aren’t very loyal these days and are always chasing the best deal. Are you doing the same thing with your suppliers?

If your supplier has done the right thing by you, reward them with your loyalty – just the way you like to be rewarded.

Business relationships are a two-way street. One party doesn’t hold more power over the other – it requires commitment and maturity from both sides.

Understanding each other’s perspectives and respecting differences is key, along with an understanding of how each party benefits themselves as well as each other.

It requires open and honest communication, and the ability to have difficult conversations if required. It’s worth it though, as a great supplier relationship can make a world of difference in serving your customers and lowering your own stress levels.