Suppliers are, for many businesses, one of the very most important elements of all. Without a good supplier, or suppliers, the products and services that you sell may not be of high enough quality to attract customers to make sales. Not only that, but suppliers are responsible for bringing all kinds of items into your business; you might not be planning to sell them all, but without them (office supplies, electricity, even cell phones) you wouldn’t be able to operate. Therefore, any business is somewhat beholden to their suppliers, while still needing to attract customers.
Finding an excellent supplier that you can rely on for whatever it is that they can offer your business means that you will have one less thing to worry about. You can then concentrate on finding new business or selling more to existing customers without also having to deal with a supplier that hasn’t delivered.
Here are some useful tips on how to find the perfect supplier for your business so that you can grow and thrive successfully.
What Does Your Business Need?
Much like when you head to the grocery store to buy your food and other necessities, when you are looking for a supplier for your business, you will need to know what you want from them. You might even make a list, exactly as you would when shopping. Without having this information, it can be easy to get distracted and buy things that you just don’t need, and that will either go to waste or take up more of your budget than you want or expect.
Determining the needs of your business needs to be the first task you do in relation to finding the ideal supplier. Understand not just what products you need, but your business’s service requirements too. You might find a company that offers everything you need, or you might need to find more than one company to obtain everything that will mean your business can run smoothly. Don’t try to make the first supplier you find fit in with what you need just because you don’t want to search around or you think you’ve found an excellent price. If you need Teflon coatings, for example, then you should look for this service rather than something that almost fits just because it works out cheaper or is more convenient for you.
When you know what you want and need a supplier to bring to your business, you can start researching companies that offer that product. Make a shortlist of the ones that seem to have just what you want, and then start to research them. Check for reviews online that will give you a clearer and more honest idea of exactly what the company is like: do they always deliver on time? Are their prices fair? Have there been any major problems recently? To discover these answers, you can Google ‘problems with’ before the supplier name, and you’ll soon see if there are any issues.
These questions and more need to be answered to your satisfaction before you get in touch with anyone, because you only have a very limited time as a business owner, and you need to make every second count. Contacting lots of different suppliers when a quick check of their reviews would have eliminated many from your shortlist is never a good way to spend your time.
Many business-to-business suppliers won’t publish their prices on their websites. This is because they don’t necessarily want their competition to see their costings, and also because they tend to offer various discount schemes for different customers. Not only that, but they would lose business if they published their prices. End users would be able to see how much extra you were charging for the goods, and might not buy from you, meaning you wouldn’t buy from your supplier and they would lose money.
It means you will need to make an inquiry regarding their prices. Copy and paste the same email to all of your shortlisted suppliers (therefore, make it generic) as this will save you time. While emailing, you can find out about lead times, discounts, and payment terms.
Some suppliers will reply to you with all the information you wanted. Some will respond, but won’t give you all the details. Some won’t reply at all. It is those in the first category that you want to deal with, as they are clearly responsive and they have taken the time to actually read your email rather than churning out a standard response.
Being able to always rely on your suppliers is of paramount importance when you are running a business. If you can’t trust them to deliver what you need on time and to a high standard, it will be hard for you to be confident when selling to your customers, and this can lead to poor sales and low profits. It can also cause a problem when it comes to your reputation. Make a test order with the company or companies you want to use to ensure that everything arrives as it should and when it should, and this will give you a good idea of what to expect in the future.
It is certainly not a prerequisite to meet with your suppliers in person, but it can help you to make a decision about who you want to use, especially if there is a hard choice to make between two different companies. One way to do this is to attend trade shows and conventions where your potential suppliers will be. Doing so will give you the chance to talk to them in person, to discuss your requirements, and even to handle the products themselves in some cases. You’ll get a much better understanding of what you are signing up for and who you are doing business with in this way. It might be that you simply aren’t able to get on with the supplier, and this can be a problem. Although you need to remain professional, you also need to be able to negotiate with and talk to the people you are working with, and if you don’t like them this will be harder, and the outcomes won’t be so successful.
If they operate in another country, or too far away for you to visit them or them to visit you, then you should speak on the phone. Emailing is good for getting ideas down in writing and for confirmation after you have had a discussion, but talking to someone person to person, even if it can’t be face to face, is far better.