21st August, 2018

6 ways to maintain a great supplier relationship

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.

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 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.

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.

Some tips:

1. Understand the needs of your supplier

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, for example insurance certificates, business information or purchase order numbers.

2. 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 supplier’s time by getting them to re-send things.

I’m sure you bend over backwards 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.

3. Communication

Keep in touch with your supplier and try and schedule a time to get together over a coffee or a beer to reflect on what’s working well and what’s not.

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.

4. Timely feedback

Don’t ring up and yell at your supplier if stuff isn’t going right, but at the same time it’s important to be 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.

5. Choose suppliers that align to your values

This one’s pretty important.

If excellent customer service is important to you then choose suppliers where this is also paramount to them.  It is 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 choosing suppliers consider their ethics, values, positioning and reputation.

6. Loyalty

Many businesses complain that customers aren’t very loyal these days and 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’d like to be rewarded.

Business relationships like life relationships are a two way street.  One party doesn’t hold more power over the other it’s equal.  It requires commitment and maturity from both sides.

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

It requires open, honest communication and the ability to have difficult conversations if required.  It is worth it though, as a great supplier relationship is a beautiful thing in business.