Did you read that correctly? Surely I mean Customer Relationship Management? Nope - SUPPLIER. In a world of increasing dependence on resources outside of our own payroll, just-in-time materials or direct fulfilment it amazes me how many businesses still go out of their way to have adversarial relationships with their suppliers - like it's a sport!
Suppliers have the capacity to make running your business a joy - or absolute misery. Here are my four tips to running a happier, more enjoyable, profitable ship.
1. Recognise their efforts - like they're your staff
From time-to-time you will need a supplier to go above-and-beyond to service you, or they may do it off their own bat. When this happens - say thank you. If you get outstanding service from the outsourced IT help desk send them a thank you - it could be as simple as a bunch of your branded promo gear. If the team working on your next campaign or the Web site refresh pulls an all-nighter to get the thing delivered - send them beer and pizza. Guess what - the next time the chips are down and it's the choice of working on your project or the other guy's, guess who they'll be looking after?
2. Refer to your network
If your supplier is great at what they do and you want them to grow their business so they are more robust to service you in the future - share the love by referring them to other people in your network. Guess what? What goes-around, comes-around. If you make authentic referrals you will soon start to see the love come back.
3. Treat them like a customer
Think about all the things you do to build relationships and loyalty with your customers - and do it with your suppliers. Put them in your CRM system to properly manage and build meaningful relationships between individuals, invite them to your events, include them on client communication, send them a Christmas card, take them to lunch. Building solid genuine relationships will pay dividends when you really need your supplier to step-up on that big job or tight deadline or to help win that killer deal.
4. Pay the bills on time
Would you pay your staff late or fob them off with excuses about why you can't pay 'til next month? Agree terms with suppliers up-front and stick to them. If you have a cash flow pinch do the decent thing - pick up the phone and negotiate terms that work for both of you, and stick to the arrangements. If there is a sure-fire way to piss-off your vital partners and damage your brand reputation, it's messing them around with money. How do you feel about people that screw you on payment terms? Is that how you want people to regard you and your business - is that the message you want in the market?
It's not rocket science - treat your suppliers the way you would like to be treated as a supplier yourself. Wouldn't the world be awesome if we all followed these simple rules? Go out of your way to be your suppliers favourite client, even if you're not the biggest.