Sunday, January 9, 2011

Bridge Building: Establishing Long-term Relationships with your Supplier

(This was a very popular post this month - do me a favor and visit at the new house: - hope to see you there!)
There's Folks Working Hard on Your Behalf:
Allow Them to Become a Valuable Partner to your Business

Everybody is a supplier to somebody and everybody is a buyer to another.  Seldom does a supplier never purchase something (whether components, machinery, material) and most buyers buy because they then resell. 

Use your communication with your supplier to establish strong bonds. 

 Did you send your supplier an inquiry and was the supplier helpful with a timely response, price quotes and product detail?

Extend the professionalism and keep your supplier posted on how the project is  going, how it’s proceeding. 

Is it still open? 

Did it get canceled? 

Did we lose on the bid? 

Bring the supplier in on the happenings of the process. 

Why didn’t we nail this one?

Was it price, was it delivery, what happened?  Educate your supplier… 

They’re humans with families just like you.  And just like you, they’re hoping for more than one-off, quickie business but hoping to establish long-term relationships. 

Many overseas buyers treat the offshore suppliers as if they’re a “dime-a-dozen”, expendable and the buyer can function however they wish, “because, regardless we can always change suppliers.”  Perhaps this thought pattern wasn’t in mind but the quickie email blast inquiries, lack of follow-up and lack of transparency from buyers’ side shows this.     

Communicating to your supplier in the manner you wish your buyers would communicate with you will motivate them to further team-up with you in the future and continue to try for business.   The supplier knows that Rome wasn’t built in a day (in this case Beijing or Shanghai), so they don’t mind to continue to offer price and quote support.

A little bit of feedback goes a long way

Quoting from production side, so close to the source of all things (China!) is different than quoting overseas.  Especially in the promo and gift business; overseas the distributers and suppliers have everything catalogued, the prices are set, the differences are reflected in quantity and branding, not actual material, labor, etc…  It’s a set system. 

It’s not like that in China; with each quote, the sales person you’re contacting has to check costs of materials, has to check with production, has to check labor, there are 3rd party vendors (material, print, components) that have to be confirmed…. many more variables than have to be checked locally. 

A lot more investment of time and energy are put into a quote on this side than they are locally. 

Anyone has experience in dealing with China knows what I’m talking about.  But many folks, obviously from the way they email China have no idea what I’m talking about. 

We're All Buyers & Suppliers
(custom sherpa hats manufactured by JLmade)
Let’s do a “for instance”:

You’re a distributer and you’re going to pitch 10 products to your brand;  when you send all 10 inquiries to to China-side, let the supplier know these are not concrete.  Tell them to quote loosely.  Let them know you are only on pitching stages, not possible ordering yet. 

But most buyers don’t know to have to courtesy to do that.  They send the products for pitching (ie initial stages, no close to ordering than the man-in-the-moon to use a colloquialism)

If you’re only “testing waters” and want some referral info;  tell your supplier.  Tell them not to put too much time in your project.  Out of the 10 products you send to pitch; are some more likely to be ordered than others?  Are there select pieces your buyer has a special eye on?  You know your buyer, the factory/trade company your dealing with doesn’t.    

Be upfront;  let them know the probability on the order, how much competition they’re against, etc… Wouldn’t you like to know this from your buyer? 

Think about how many emails the suppliers receive, they quote on and then never get followed up.  How important can a job be if the buyer is only willing to float one email out in cyberspace and never follow up with a phone call or at least a second email? 

Understand, the Chinese supplier is more hesitant to phone you because of the language barrier amongst other things; so do your best to be proactive on email. 

Show professionalism, treat your supplier like a valuable partner instead of “one amongst many”.  They payoff?  A long-term partner relationship that translates into efficiency, genuine concern with your business and this all seeps into better and consistent quality. 

Be the kind of client to your supplier that you hope your clients are to you!  

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