Choose a supplier the way you’re chosen
Choosing a supplier for the things you need to stay in business is an important process and one that should be approached methodically. If a supplier lets you down you may let your clients down and that can lead to really big problems.
The next time you have to find a source of goods or services for your business here are some questions you should ask about each candidate:
1. How dependable are they?
Ask for references if you’re unfamiliar with the business and see how reliable they’ve been when meeting their obligations to other customers.
This goes far beyond price because you’d expect to pay a premium price for premium service. In fact, don’t make it about price at all and go for the best package of every aspect of their offering.
3. Do they have a true service mentality?
You want to be sure their focus is on you, the customer, and not on simply doing an adequate job so they can get paid.
4. Are they good at communicating with customers?
There’s nothing worse than to be waiting for something you really need and not being able to find out where it is or when it’s arriving. Many businesses now enable customers to track shipments via the internet and this might be the best kind of supplier for you.
5. Will they be there next week, and next year?
Look at their company’s history. How good have they been at paying their bills over the past three years? What financial shape are they in? Many good offers of price are made in hope and desperation.
6. What’s their ‘fit’ with your business?
If you’re going to be just a little customer of a very big business there’s no prize for guessing that you’re not the most important person on the list if any problems occur. Sometimes dealing with the ‘big end of town’ can be a real problem for smaller enterprises.
Now that we’ve covered the questions you should ask, how do you go about drawing up a short list of candidates to ask them of?
Start by asking other businesspeople who require the same goods or service who they deal with and what they think of them. If you’re not asking about a specific supplier but instead surveying the market you’ll discover more possibilities.
It’s easy to do a quick check on the Internet to see who is active in your area, although it’s wise to investigate any claims made on a website. You might find some names to add to your list that you haven’t previously encountered.
Now prepare a written brief that states precisely what you want. The goods or services, how frequently you need them, and the volume you expect to require over the coming year. On your brief include any questions about quantity discounts or methods of delivery – everything that relates to the prospective supplier meeting your needs.
Don’t expect the whole process to be done by email or fax. Take the trouble to actually visit potential suppliers and discuss your requirements with a manager who can answer your questions. Get the ‘feel’ of the place and the people.
Assemble the responses you’ve received and make your evaluation based on everything you’ve learned – recommendations from other customers, their response to your written brief, and your own impressions of the business.
And don’t forget to personally inspect the goods or how the service is provided. Don’t just take someone’s word for it that everything’s as it’s claimed to be.
Look over this process and imagine somebody using it to check you out as a supplier to their business. It’s tough to come out on top of a results-driven selection process, but that’s just what you want of someone you’re depending on to keep you in business.
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Business Roadmap provides practical business advice for small to medium sized businesses that are trying to overcome problems, or are trying to achieve their vision and full potential. Visit the Business Roadmap website for further information.
Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to provide valuable, useful information, Blue Mountains Web Pty Ltd. (trading as Stralia Web), Business Roadmap Pty Ltd. and any related suppliers or associated companies accept no responsibility or any form of liability from reliance upon or use of its contents. Any suggestions should be considered carefully within your own particular circumstances, as they are intended as general information only.