Building Supplier Relationships
Relationships are key to any successful partnership. The strength of your relationships with suppliers can impact your business’ ability to grow, adapt, and pivot. Here’s how to build and maintain strong supplier relationships to ensure success.
1. Foster relationships at every level. Rather than relying on a few senior executives, relationship-building should occur at every level of the team—from junior support to C-suite partners. By fostering relationships across the entire workstream, teams can future-proof the partnership and allow for better cross-team collaboration.
2. Build and maintain trust. Trust is the foundation of any healthy relationship. With supplier relationships, both parties should be open with each other and focus on solving problems together. This provides a foundation for seamless collaboration and efficiency where both partners are trusted to uphold commitments and bring unique value to the table.
3. Commit to transparency. Supplier teams should be open about what they observe in the market, the potential impacts, and the actions they are taking to offset negative implications. Being proactive and honest enables teams to resolve a potential problem and preserve trust.
4. Communicate…then overcommunicate. By overcommunicating with suppliers, you can ensure everyone is clear on responsibilities and aware of potential setbacks. You also can align work processes. Start by establishing a regular cadence of communication between partners. To maximize the value of those discussions, make sure the content of those meetings is relevant to both parties, rooted in data, and centered on end-customer needs.
5. Turn communication into collaboration. The best partnerships rely on collaborative problem solving. Partners and suppliers may have extensive communication channels, but they need to listen to each other to productively collaborate on solutions with flexibility and compromise.
6. Think like your customers. When you think like your customers, you are better able to serve their needs and grow your business. Understanding your customers’ perspective makes you a better partner to your suppliers, demonstrates your unique value, and enables you to effectively make decisions with the end customers’ benefit in mind.
7. Align with suppliers on customer needs. Satisfying both suppliers and customers requires a constant feedback loop. There should always be a free flow of information and alignment on initiatives to ensure everyone agrees on how to best fulfill end customer needs while also achieving supplier goals.
8. Maintain accurate and reliable data. Without accurate data, decisions often are made either incorrectly or in silos. Regularly sharing precise and insightful data fosters transparency. Providing reliable, real-time data that brings tangible value to your suppliers can make you an indispensable partner.
9. Leverage automation. Although many companies utilize automation in other areas of their business, investing in automation can help improve supplier relationships. Your company’s IT investments can help lower operating costs while increasing touchpoints with greater consistency. Implementing automation can enable you to do more with your time, money, and labor so you can focus on strategic initiatives.
10. Look to the future. The best partners propel each other to build and scale for the future. When you are up to date on new products and evolving market trends, you are better able to anticipate and address current and future needs. Setting up your collective teams for long-term success is the best way to ensure the longevity of the relationship.
SOURCE: Stephanie Mays, Vice President, Supplier Services, ScanSource