Almost all businesses know it’s important to keep their clients happy, and be the best vendors they can be. But when it comes to dealing with their own suppliers, they let all their flaws hang out. Payments are late. Demands are high. Instructions are sloppy. And constant favours are the norm.
The problem with this is that when when you need the supplier to pull hard to help you, they balk. And that could make or break your ability to deliver on your promises, and kill your competitiveness in the long run.
In dealing with hundreds of businesses over the years, I have never once seen a business that was completely dependent on one client. And, if they ever were semi-dependent, they were actively working on changing that situation. This means that when push comes to shove, you as a client do not have absolute power over the supplier. So, maybe it’s time to fine tune your “clienting” skills. Here’s what I mean:
- The “We haven’t paid because we’re not really happy” scenario. Come on! If there’s an issue with quality, get in touch with the supplier immediately and tell them what’s wrong. Letting the issue slide until the invoice is overdue only makes you as the client look unprofessional, not the supplier. If you don’t like the bill or the services, complain about it NOW, not after you sat on it for months.
- The “We can’t pay you until the client pays us” line. Well, thanks for now announcing what the real payment terms were. It’s your job as a client to have sufficient credit that you can pay your supplier no matter what. Your slow paying client is your problem, not your suppliers’.
- The “It’s always your fault” attitude. If ever a job is late, or screwed up because of poor communication, acknowledge your part in it, instead of blaming it all on the supplier. If you won’t do that, that supplier is going to question everything you order in the future, and not necessarily in the kindest manner. They may even take liberty to raise your prices.
- The “schmoozing the clients, abusing the suppliers” scenario. Why not include a thank you note with your cheques? Or if you’ve been a real pain in the butt, send over gift card, testimonial or fruit basket. The supplier will feel proud they stuck by you, instead of feeling like the doormat under your feet. It also makes it a lot easier next time you have to push them hard.
The upshot is, being the person who hands out the cheques never gives you absolute power. Be kind to your suppliers, and they’ll be kind to you.