When I started my distributor business and realized how many suppliers there were I decided to narrow down my supplier list from the start. Not knowing who was who, I evaluated their production times, ease of doing business, and location for shorter shipping times. But I relied heavily on their ratings within ESP to make decisions on who to try, to play it safe.
Just like not every client is a good one, not all suppliers are a good fit. The wrong supplier can cost you a client. But sometimes your lack of knowledge of how the supplier works can also cost you a client. If you make promises you can’t keep because you didn’t know the supplier couldn’t do something, you can’t blame the supplier for your client being mad at you.
Our Business Depends On Our Suppliers
Very much in the same way that you build relationships with your clients, it is in your best interest to develop good, strong relationships with your suppliers. Especially those who are better aligned with our values as a business.
My thought process is if I love receiving expressions of appreciation from my clients (for just doing my job the way I’m supposed to), so will my suppliers. Why not do it?
A few years ago, in looking for improvements in our business efficiencies, I implemented a formal Supplier Appreciation policy. Nothing too fancy. Being friendly and “saying please and thank you”, but most importantly, learning their processes.
Once we started to understand their processes, it was easier to make things go faster. We knew what to expect, what their pre-production timelines are, and the information they need from us. Our communications were greatly simplified, with far fewer surprises.
Our Suppliers Are Our Partners.
I’ve read many complains about suppliers not doing things that distributor thinks they should. While some of those are valid complains – taking too long to send proofs, missed ship dates, not following special instructions on POs – there are way too many unreasonable complains that show a lack of understanding of the processes the suppliers have in place.
Not all suppliers work in the same way.
Take an interest in learning their internal processes and timelines, and also, what you can do, on your end, to speed up the process on their end.
Some suppliers will acknowledge receipt of your PO within minutes, while others take hours. And some take a day but send you an order acknowledgment after the order enters their system. No sense in calling 5 minutes after you sent the order in, because you don’t understand how they work.
Things like including your account number in your correspondence, their sales order number for repeat orders, and emailing instead of calling, can save heaps of time and make things a lot more accurate.
Make sure you allow time for their process when you calculate your turnaround times.
Don’t Be a Client From Hell.
We’ve all had clients that make us feel annoyed just by seeing their email in our inbox. They seem to have the power to ruin our mood. In fact, the topic of unreasonable, annoying, and disrespectful clients comes up frequently in various forums. Everyone is quick to advise to stay away from clients who don’t appreciate the value you bring to the table.
What would suppliers say about you?
Take an honest look at your interactions with suppliers. Are you the demanding, “I’m the one paying you here!” type, or do you treat them the way you want to be treated?
The Supplier Appreciation Policy
I’m a big believer in practicing gratitude. When thinking about the good things in my life, my preferred suppliers are on the list. My business would not exist without them. It only makes sense to let them know how grateful I am to have them in my business life.
Our supplier appreciation policy is pretty simple: Get to know your rep. Be aware of events that might affect their operations. Be respectful. Ask politely. Always be on the lookout for opportunities to say please and thank you. It all sounds very basic good manners type of stuff and maybe it is. But you’ll be amazed to know how many distributors act in an unreasonable, demanding way, according to what we hear from our favorite suppliers.
Saying please and thank you in a sincere way will build a bond with your rep. Your supplier will be more eager to help you out when you are in a jam if they like doing business with you. When you think about it, it’s human nature. When you know a client appreciates you and values your partnership, you are willing to jump through hoops when necessary, with a smile on your face, and a great sense of satisfaction when the job is successfully delivered.
The same thing happens with your supplier. This is something we at our business have confirmed time and again.
It not only is polite and considerate to treat your suppliers with respect and appreciation, but it is also a good business practice.