What should you expect from your suppliers?

I love suppliers. They come in all shapes and sizes…from one man / woman businesses crafting and creating, to a sales agent on the road representing several companies. Or they can be a suited and  booted account manager who sets and agenda and books an appointment with you, or a voice at the end of the phone or email – perhaps someone you have never met because you’re a small customer placing a low value order.


Retail suppliers can be sole traders and work from home businesses, right through to manufacturing giants with 100s of employees, or a worldwide highly recognised brand. They’re all in the same business – to create product to sell to other businesses, and eventually for their product to arrive in the customers hands – via a short or lengthy supply chain.


Establish a good working relationship

Whoever our suppliers are, we need to establish a good working relationship with them. Good communication can result in lower cost prices, free samples, speedy deliveries and a brilliant partnership between buyer and seller.

Talking to your supplier, getting to know their business is crucial for you. Finding out their full product range, who they supply to and when they have new stock arriving helps you, and could result in you buying more great product from them.

Equally, they need to take a vested interest in YOUR business. Understanding your strategy, your business goals, the products your customers like, the shape / size of your shop, or platforms you sell on. All this information helps your supplier make some valuable suggestions on products. It’s in their interest to sell you stock that will sell out, making you a happy buyer, and going back for more.

We don’t want to work with suppliers who constantly try and offload their poor lines to us just because they have sales targets to meet, and because they haven’t made the effort to understand your business or your customers. Not good business practice.

We want to have a reciprocal relationship with a supplier, an understanding that they need to make profit, but equally so do you. You both should have the shared interest and goals of selling as much of the product as possible.

I have suppliers I started working with 23 years ago, account managers who have since retired and still pop me the occasional message on linked in, I have suppliers who have moved companies several times and I can’t keep up, and sadly, I have suppliers who, once I moved on, never contacted me again as “I wasn’t of use to them”. Fickle yes? It’s just business…. But it did take me a long time to take the personal out of a situation like this.

Build Relationships and Understand Each Other 

So as a small business, let’s work on building those relationships with suppliers, be confident and always remember that they need you as much as you need them, and you do deserve to buy from them….no matter how small your business is. If the bun supplier to McDonalds had thought like that in 1955 or the bra supplier to M&S in 1884, where would be?

Review your supply base regularly, weed out any suppliers who aren’t proactive, who never deliver on time, or who give you problems. There are many many supply opportunities out there, you can find replacements, and finding a keen, enthusiastic supplier can make a massive difference to your business.   And always remember, suppliers need you as much as you need them.


For my Turbo Tuesday Masterclass watch the replay here … I talk in a little more detail about suppliers https://youtu.be/1g3vr0rbyaQ  

And over in the VIP club, I hosted an in depth masterclass last month, over 90 minutes of advice and support on how to get the best out of your suppliers. You can sign up and catch the replay on this really useful masterclass. https://www.rbqconsultancy.co.uk/the-vip-retail-biz-club/




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