When you have good relationships with your suppliers, it usually leads to beneficial things for your business, such as lower prices, better customer service, favorable terms, and one of the top spots on their priority list. And for an online business, you are highly dependent on your suppliers for your price points, product availability, and shipment dates to your customers.
That said, nurturing strong relationships with your suppliers is one of the best ways to succeed in business, whether online or not. Here are several ways you can do that:
1. Be demanding, but be fair
As a customer, you have the right to be demanding, regardless if you’re selling OTC iron or 48-inch plasma TVs. You are paying for their service. Therefore, you have the right to demand what is agreed upon, such as delivery dates and prices. However, do not overstep your boundaries and be too demanding. There is a fine line between being fair and overdoing it. For instance, if you agreed upon specific delivery dates, do not expect them to go out of their way to deliver your order earlier than that. There’s no harm in asking, but do not demand if it’s outside of your agreement.
2. Pay on time
Suppliers love customers who pay their invoices on time and thus usually prioritize them over other customers. Wholesale suppliers rely on timely payments to maintain good cash flow just like you do. Therefore, paying on time helps them keep up a good cash flow, which, in turn, makes you a valuable and reliable customer. As a result, you have better chances of negotiating better prices and terms in the future, as suppliers usually check a customer’s payment history before considering your requests.
3. Make your goals clear and realistic
It’s important to set clear and realistic goals from the get-go to keep everyone on the same page and avoid misunderstandings later on. From sales estimates to delivery dates, let your supplier know what you want to achieve and keep the conversation open for negotiations.
4. Send requirements ASAP
Suppliers require certain information from you before you can become their customer. It helps to check out the requirements on their website in advance so that you can send them as soon as possible. In this way, you can fast-track the order process and show suppliers that you are an easy customer to work with.
5. Be personal
A supplier-customer relationship doesn’t have to be a hundred percent professional. In fact, making the relationship more personal helps you build a better connection with them. Visit their office if you can to put a face behind your account number, insert friendly talk in your business calls to build rapport further, and send them a gift once in a while to show your appreciation.
Even if you don’t have anything to negotiate, take the time to make conversation. Suppliers are more open to sharing information when there are no expectations, and this information can help you gain more insight into their business and the industry as a whole.
6. Show understanding
You will encounter problems with your supplier at some point. They are not immune to mistakes and can have problems of their own that are beyond their control. Of course, their problems can affect you, too, as their customer. Hence, your first instinct might be to send a scathing email or pick a fight with their customer service representative over the phone. But will that help anyone?
Instead, be understanding and work with your supplier to resolve the problem. In the future, they will remember your kind gesture and extend the same kindness to you if you encounter a problem. Remember, being nice will benefit you more than being a mean customer. Even if you want to get mad at them, choose to do the opposite; it will gain better outcomes for both you and your supplier.
7. Keep your supplier in the loop
Sharing updates about your online business is another great way to build a closer professional relationship with your supplier. Keep them in the loop of what’s going on, perhaps about your promotions, upcoming expansion plans, and new product lines. Who knows? Maybe they can help you achieve your goals in exchange for more business for them.
Building a strong and healthy professional relationship with your supplier is not rocket science. Most times, it just takes friendly communication, mutual understanding, and fair considerations. In return, your suppliers will treat you as a trusted and valuable customer, which will ultimately help your own business grow.
What are your experiences dealing with suppliers? Share your stories in the comments below.