The “fliers” in cheerleading are the girls that fly through the air, demonstrating great acrobatics and agility. They are the highlight of cheerleading-- the life of the party.
But these girls don’t fly on their own. They have four other cheerleaders on the ground, working in perfect coordination to support them and toss them in their air. These four team members are the foundation, the support system that makes everything run smoothly and the flier fly, well… higher.
Think of your business as the flier. And think of your vendors and suppliers as your foundation of four on the ground; the cheerleaders in the background who help you do what you do better. It’s true, your business relies on a variety of vendors to work smoothly, to succeed and to fly high. The better relationship and communication you have with them, the higher you can fly.
As a purchaser, you’re responsible for fostering these vendor relationships, and establishing good communication so that your business can keep growing and improving. Want to keep doing your job better?
Here’s 5 ways to keep improving your relationships with your bulk oil vendors and be even more successful in your purchasing role.
1. Talk openly and honestly. Communicate, communicate.
This is number one on the list for a reason. Having open communication with your bulk ingredient vendors is absolutely vital for your business. Buyers that respond openly and honestly (even when it means telling a supplier or potential supplier something negative) will always have more positive relationships in the long run. In fact, these open communicators will always get more of what they want.
Telling your supplier exactly what you need from them will generally get you exactly what you want. Suppliers want to do business with you, but more so, they want to support you. They want to become a vital extension of your team. You just have to tell them exactly how you want to be supported.
The most common things that a purchaser should be open about are:
Their price goals for each ingredient
What price do you actually need to make the profit margin that you require? Offering this information doesn't mean that your supplier is going to give you the highest price they possibly can. It means that they're going to understand what you needs and try their hardest to meet that.
Prices being offered by another supplier
There's nothing wrong with sharing information about what the competition is providing. At the end of the day, you still get to choose exactly who you want to work with. If you have one supplier give you low price, but you would really like to continue working with another supplier – communicate with them about exactly what's being offered to you and what they can do to match it.
If they can’t match it, sometimes that’s okay. Sharing this information at least opens the lines of communication and allows you to work better with the suppliers that you really want to work with. Often, those good suppliers may not have the lowest pricing but they’ll try to work with you to put something together that works for both parties.
Level and frequency of communication you appreciate
At the end of the day your suppliers and account managers are still people, just like you. We all have co-workers who talk too much, or not enough. Vendors are no different. They may tell you unimportant things, or they may withhold information that you would find valuable.
Be open with your supplier about how much you like to talk, what kind of communication they can provide that's helpful to you (like commodity market updates or money-saving strategies). If you want to be contacted as little as possible because you feel overwhelmed at a certain time of the year, tell them! They will try to accommodate however they can.
Talk to your bulk oil supplier about what kind of industry information you'd like to get from them. They are a great industry resource about the categories that you oversee. Tap into that living, breathing knowledge base!
2. Don't try to undercut their prices. Instead, communicate.
To make a business relationship to last, it has to benefit both parties. As a buyer, you're not in a superior position requiring that your vendors bow down to you. You are both equal partners that provide one thing for the other.
Suppliers have pricing in place because that's the level that they determined that they need to run their business. This is especially true in the bulk oil industry, which is an extremely low-margin industry. That said, they also want be priced competitively enough to earn your business and continue to grow. Making pricing work for both parties is a fine line. The best way to get to a good place is to talk openly and compromise about what each party needs.
This one all comes down to how you approach the subject. The supplier has their pricing in place for a reason, because it's what their business needs to survive. If you have been offered a lower price, you can communicate with that with your supplier and try to come to a mutually agreed-upon compromise. Don't simply demand a lower price. Since both parties are still just people, demanding is the best way to sour a business relationship.
3. Rely on them for oil commodity market information
Your current and potential suppliers live in the bulk oil industry day in and day out. Even if you only buy from one vendor, there are often many more knocking at your door. Use all of them as an asset to learn about the market and develop buying strategies. Tap into their valuable knowledge base.
You can even start now. Sign up for industry updates from the Bulk Oil Blog, to get industry information emailed to you daily or weekly.
4. Involve them in your production process
If you are a manufacturer, you are not the only one that has a manufacturing line. Your supplier is also producing products in their own facility that they’re selling to you. They know about warehouses, production lines and packaging.
They also work with many businesses just like yours (and in your industry even!), and they may have good suggestions about what other companies are doing to improve efficiency and cut costs. Use them as a resource.
The best thing to do is set up a strategy meeting with your vendors to discuss cost-cutting ideas. Give them an idea of how you’re using and storing the product (photos are helpful) and then ask them to come to the meeting with 2-3 ideas that can cut your costs. Sometimes it may be a change in how you’re buying, or sometimes in may be a shift in how you’re storing or using the product.
Want to get a preview of the kinds of things you might discuss in that meeting? Download The Manufacturer's Ultimate Guide To Bulk Oil Packaging, an eBook for manufacturer's looking to save money and increase their oil efficiency.
5. Pay on time and within credit terms-- or communicate when you can't
Once again, communication is key! The best way to make your bulk oil supplier not want to accommodate your needs is to not pay them. No business wants to work for free.
Of course, there are always extenuating circumstances, and your supplier understands that. If you can communicate with them about when you will be paying and why there is a delay, they will often cut you some slack and try to work together to find a solution.
However, if you simply shut off communication, don't pay for your orders, or remain outside of your credit terms, not only will your terms be revoked but you will often lose a lot of your buying power to be able to negotiate better deals with them. No one wants to negotiate lower prices someone who doesn't pay them.
You can always improve your vendor relationships by putting these 5 key points into action:
- Communicate with vendors (and potential vendors) openly and honestly.
- Don't try to undercut their prices. Instead, communicate about your needs.
- Rely on them for commodity market information and updates.
- Involve them in your production process to get ideas on ways to improve your efficiency.
- Pay on time and within credit terms-- or at least communicate when you can't.
Improving your vendor relationships will affect many different aspects of your business. It will help you increase your company’s efficiency and will help your company build a strong support foundation to build and grow out of.
Most importantly, improving vendor relationships will make you a more successful and valued member of your company, and will help you continue to grow your career.