Like business owner, you are aware that you are not living or selling in a bubble.
You are interconnected (or should be) with an entire ecosystem, of which different players are part: customers, team, competitors, product suppliers, service providers, etc.
I’d like to focus a bit on suppliers.
You will collaborate with both product suppliers – if you don’t produce the goods yourself, and service providers, such as carriers, payment processors, billing applications, efulfillment, integrators with various platforms, agents or marketing collaborators, etc.
The list is long and depends on your type of business and the needs you have.
If you’re just starting out and don’t know what steps to take to collaborate with the suppliers you want, our article will give you an idea. Find out how to generate a good collaborative relationship with different suppliers and how to maintain it.
Contents How to collaborate with suppliers in eCommerce
- Make sure you understand your business, first and foremost
- Research your potential suppliers
- Ask clear questions and pay attention to details
- Don’t focus on price, focus on benefits
- Negotiate with multiple suppliers
- Think like a supplier
- Build a relationship based on trust
- Strategies to have a good relationship with your suppliers
1. Make sure you understand your business first and foremost
Contrary to expectations, the first step when you want to work effectively with your suppliers is to take a good look in your own backyard and understand your business as fully as possible.
Because you need to know what you need, so you can explain it to your partners, and they can provide the right solutions for you.
You should know the specifications of the products you want to sell, both when you talk to a potential product supplier and when you explain them to a service provider, such as a carrier – so that they know what conditions they have to offer you for the delivery of your goods.
It works the other way around too.
Maybe a supplier wants to give you something you don’t need or it doesn’t fit. But if you know what your expectations are and what your needs are, you’ll be able to say no without hassle or delay and steer the discussion in the right direction.
Also, suppliers of products or services will be able to give you fair and conclusive quotes when you know precisely what features to ask for.
2. Research your potential suppliers
The next step in this process is to search for suppliers for the services or products you are interested in.
Where? Everywhere you can. Don’t be afraid to try – at worst you don’t get a reply or you get a no. And then you can ask somewhere else.
Search the net, ask questions through your friends group or profile communities (Facebook groups, forums, etc.), look for en-gross or stock market offers.
Once you have made a list of potential suppliers, depending on the products or services you want, start researching them.
Look for their websites, social media pages, mentions on the internet or in the press. Even talk to other business owners who work with these suppliers and find out what they like AND don’t like.
Compile a summary next to each name in the list.
The more prepared you are and the better you know what each supplier can offer you, the more direct and productive your discussion will be.
Read also: How do I find target products that I can be successful with from the start
3. Ask clear questions and pay attention to details
Try to talk personally with representatives of the suppliers you want to work with. On the phone or even face to face, if necessary.
Be prepared with your list of details about the suppliers, and a list of questions or requirements that you would like answered personally.
Most likely, following this discussion, the person with whom you have interacted will invite you to send your questions/requests in writing as well, so that they can provide you with further details or full answers, following analysis or calculations.
This will save you time and will help you take the first right step in the relationship. Use email to ask for exactly the details you are interested in, but also to have written proof of what you have learned.
Rarely can you remember exactly what you discussed on the phone or face-to-face. Details are easily lost. But in writing, you can review them whenever you need to.
4. Don’t focus on price, focus on benefits
I’ve come to the point where I want to remind you that in a long-term business relationship, especially when you want to make business and profit, you don’t have to get hung up on price first.
Pay attention rather to the benefits you stand to gain. Maybe one offer is slightly more expensive than another, but includes faster delivery time, extra service or guarantees.
Or you can work with a team that you feel personally close to, because they offer extra support and back-up, even without specifically asking for it.
Or maybe a particular offer includes potential expansion to a larger market in the future, even if it seems expensive at the moment.
Target vendors who can allow you to grow and who will support you with the extra services they offer (not to mention the accuracy with which the services you negotiate deliver on the initial promises).
5. Negotiate with multiple suppliers
After all, the price and benefits received may be subject to negotiation. An offer will always depend on a multitude of factors – no supplier is too inflexible, because after all, they want to sell and make a profit.
My advice is to contact several suppliers on your list. Don’t accept the first offer and go back and forth with it, especially if you don’t feel 100% sure you’ve made the best decision for you and the future of your business.
Negotiate with multiple suppliers. And don’t forget to leave an open channel of communication, because you never know what tomorrow will bring.
You may be growing at a breakneck pace, or you may want to change something, so an initial contact can help you quickly close a new contract when you need to.
Also read: What not to forget before opening an online store
6. Think like a supplier
Don’t treat negotiations with suppliers as a battle of wills. Or as a scheme where the other person wants to manipulate you into paying too much or giving too much.
Your suppliers have a business, just like you do. So it’s only natural that they want to make a profit and be paid fairly for the services or products they provide, so they can continue to do so.
And they have to pay salaries and taxes and whatnot, so that they can continue to operate, to keep their promises to their customers. Just like you do.
Try to understand their business model, the needs they have as a business and the responsibilities you have in your part of the relationship.
When you are a model customer, well trained, and empathetic to their business model, you will collaborate effectively, and your suppliers will take extra steps to ensure that the relationship with you continues.
7. Build a relationship based on trust
Once you find suppliers you’re happy with, the key is to keep them. How do you do that? You treat them as your business partners – which they are.
When they are happy or even proud to work with you, you get extra benefits or even priority when you have a question or a certain request.
More tips on how to keep a fruitful collaboration with your suppliers, see below:
8. Strategies to have a good relationship with your suppliers
#1. Try to understand them
Every company means more than the products or services it sells. So, when you want to improve your relationship with your suppliers, consider the whole suite of elements that represent them.
Here you include the mission and values they live by, the type of marketing they do, social responsibility efforts, track record, future plans, unique value proposition.
Also look at the level of credibility they have in the marketplace, testimonials and reviews from their customers, press articles mentioning them, and other statements from third parties.
You will find it easier to work with a supplier when you understand them and their way of doing business. You will be able to foresee the challenges they face, support them if necessary, and build a stronger business relationship.
Read also: +105 business ideas you can try this year
#2. Sign and respect a collaboration contract
When you want to be professional and build a relationship for the future, it’s vital that each party thoroughly understands their benefits and responsibilities. So work with your suppliers to build solid contracts that cover everything you need to know about your relationship.
When you have such an anchor, you avoid potential frustrations, misunderstandings or conflicts in the future. Both parties should be aware of and assume the commitments they have made based on the contracts they have signed.
#3. Identify potential risks within your company and address them
Successful collaboration with your suppliers starts with an analysis of internal factors that could disrupt the pace of your work and your relationship.
Therefore, discuss with your suppliers and try to identify potential risks upfront, but also the most appropriate solutions so that your collaboration is not affected.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- Do you have a robust and advanced technology so that the integration between you is continuous and up-to-date?
- Do you have the ability to designate or hire a specific person (or team, if applicable) to maintain the relationship with your suppliers?
- Do you have a standard workflow for working with suppliers, so that each employee knows at all times what to do?
Include here the fact that you need to have concrete discussions with suppliers to ensure that they will immediately communicate changes they make that might affect you.
For example, one problem I have frequently noticed is that suppliers make changes to import files (or changes to the way the information is sent), and the technology that retrieves the data from these files starts to give errors in the online stores’ website.
When vendors fail to communicate that they have made these changes, problems or even misunderstandings arise, because you, as an entrepreneur, don’t know why your site is no longer working, and frustrations spill over to your developer or eCommerce solution provider.
#4. Use technology and automation for information retrieval
As I said before, integrating your website with suppliers simplifies the way you display products or services on your website. You no longer have to manually upload data to the platform or change it when the numbers change.
If you have a lot of products, maybe even from different suppliers, it’s even more advisable to integrate your shop with them.
And when you collaborate, for example, with a supplier who also sells on unosoft, we offer you a special, fast way of integration via unosoft Link (details on support).
In the same way, there are programs to manage your supplier relationship, including operational actions, communication with suppliers, but also understanding their workflow to minimise risks or misunderstandings.
#5. Make sure you have clear communication
You don’t have time to spend all day talking to suppliers. That’s for sure.
But it’s important to maintain your relationship through constant communication. At least monthly or at some other set interval you can send or ask for a report, including changes made recently, goals and plans, observations on your business relationship, etc.
The moment suppliers see that you make an effort to communicate empathetically and make their work easier, they begin to see you as a partner, not just another customer.
Also, if you can, meet regularly with your suppliers. Pay them a visit, invite them to your office, or hold a Zoom meeting if you can’t meet in person.
Also read: How to do B2B eCommerce: sell online to other businesses
Whether you’re just starting out now, or already have experience in the business, dealing with suppliers is a major challenge for you.
But you can be persuasive and have a good relationship with them if you apply the advice I’ve given you above. They are inspired by what we do, but also what we have observed our customers doing. So they are proven to work 🙂
If you’re looking for an effective platform to help you with your suppliers, but also to give you the tools you need to sell, I invite you to try unosoft.
You have 15 days to test the platform free. Then choose the subscription that’s right for you and propel your business to where you dream of going!