Most companies have suppliers. Yes, you’re their customer. And they should go out of their way to treat you well.
However, they’re more like partners because they’re part of your company’s process. Their efforts can make or break your business.
For one thing, they can affect your cash flow. If you’re ever low on cash, you may need more time to pay the supplier’s invoice. A good relationship makes that possible.
Or perhaps, you need to change the billing date because you have too many invoices due at the same time. A good relationship makes that possible.
While working for a client, I found about a company that offered the same service cheaper and faster than my supplier did. Because I liked the supplier, I asked her if she could meet the competitor’s price and speed my service. She did. A good relationship made that possible.
Before that happened, I had referred businesses to her. I also worked as a volunteer with a nonprofit organization and chose her business to be the organization’s supplier. I’ve helped her. She’s helped me. That’s a partnership.
You expect your employees to do their jobs and monitor their progress, right? Considering the effect suppliers have on your business, the same applies to them. They must meet your expectations when delivering their product or service. If they’re late, it could cause you to be late with your own clients. This affects your reliability.
If something is broken or sub-par, it affects the quality of your product or service. It may even prevent you from serving your client.
Yes, you’re their customer. A good relationship also allows you to negotiate the best deals for your business.
A good relationship ensures suppliers deliver. And when they don’t, they’ll work harder to make it right. I’ve had suppliers make mistakes. Because of how they responded to those mistakes, I’ve kept them on.
Here are six ways to ensure you have a great relationship with your suppliers.
1. Pay on time.
Just this one thing can make all the difference in the world. You appreciate clients who pay on time and consistently. Suppliers do, too. If there comes a time when you need to delay payment, they’ll more likely allow it because of your record of paying on time.
When invoices aren’t paid on time, it stresses them and adds more to their plate. They’ll have to chase down late payments. If you’re late for whatever reason, let them know ASAP before payment is due. And give them a date of when to expect payment. That way, they won’t waste time following up before that date.
2. Respond as soon as you can.
While their job is to serve you, it doesn’t mean responding to them whenever you get around to it. Treat them like a client and follow up as soon as you can. You never know when you may need a favor. Knowing you’re responsive to their requests, they might refer business your way.
3. Be flexible.
Sometimes suppliers run into problems that lead to late delivery. It happens. Be flexible when a supplier requests something.
A supplier that delivers late on a regular basis is a different story. Talk to the supplier about the problem. It’s easier and cheaper to resolve the problem than to find another supplier. A new supplier won’t necessarily be better. And it takes time to get set up.
4. Thank them.
A sincere thank you for great service goes a long way. This motivates them to keep up the good work. “A person who feels appreciated will always do more than what is expected.” Extra points if you write a thank you note and mail it.
5. Refer them.
When a client or colleague needs their services, refer them to your supplier. They might return the favor and send referrals your way. Or they’ll thank you in another way. A good relationship helps your supplier think of you when someone needs your business.
6. Be friendly.
No one wants to go the extra mile or make referrals to rude or disrespectful people. Problems happen. They can be resolved calmly. Make an effort to know the suppliers’ names. Get to know them, their families, and their interests. Invite them for coffee or lunch.
I read a story about a supplier who provided his rate sheet to the client. He said rates were negotiable. The customer didn’t take him up on his offer to ask for lower rates. Instead, she told him that she expected the company to be on site within two hours when called. Not only did the supplier make good on his promise, but he also stopped by occasionally and made a few tweaks for no charge.
When you treat a supplier well, it pays off in different ways.
Have you ever had an interaction with a supplier that paid off? What other ways can companies show suppliers that they value the relationship?
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