SI Review: June 2013


Straight Talk From the Customer

Suppliers Are From Venus, Buyers From Mars

But there is a point where they can meet and establish an alliance

By Dinah Hayse

Buyers and suppliers alike often feel they are on completely different planets, with signals getting crossed as they communicate across what feels like vast distances. We buyers often hear that our suppliers are frustrated in their efforts to get more from us. That you are always giving while receiving little in return.

Of course, you have to follow the rules but there is room for creativity within those parameters. There are things you as the supplier can do to change this and help the relationship strengthen and grow. Here are some suggestions from my experience as a contingent workforce buyer.

Mind the contract. Not only are the rules there for a reason and part of the negotiated contract terms or program policies, they are there for your benefit as well. They are the framework that defines the relationship and interactions between the supplier and the buyer. When an issue arises, the contract and policies will often determine the outcome. Everyone on the supplier’s team who supports the account should be familiar with the terms and program policies, as well as being educated on any issues or concerns that have occurred in the past.

Working outside of the terms or policies, or failure to adhere to them, can cost a supplier in revenue as well as goodwill, so make sure that your team fully understands the buyer’s requirements and policies regarding everything from the submission process for candidates, reimbursements, invoicing and any other potential areas of confusion, and what factors are considered during resolution.

Don’t be afraid to ask. Buyers need feedback too. Not only are you more likely to get an answer if you ask, you can also further the relationship by becoming a partner, rather than a recipient. Hearing that some part of the program is unclear, unwieldy or simply not working is information that the buyer needs in order to improve. Please don’t hesitate to offer constructive criticism as long you outline a solution.

During a supplier feedback session I was recently involved in, suppliers expressed concerns regarding the timeframe to submit résumés before they were reviewed and sent to managers. It was agreed as beneficial to all sides to implement a waiting period before résumés were released to a manager, allowing the suppliers to identify their best candidates for the role, rather than the first candidate qualified. The concerns were resolved. It was simple, mutually beneficial, easy to change, but the problem was more apparent from the supplier side. So if the supplier had not spoken out, the problem would remain unresolved.

Become the go-to supplier. One of the questions we hear frequently from suppliers is how they can move up on our vendor/tier list to receive more orders, more often. A primary quality that sets a supplier apart is the dedication to our account, when they are willing and able to work on the majority of the openings sent to them, rather than cherry-picking. There is give and take, as all of the positions may not be easy to sell or have high return, but they are still positions we need filled. The best way for a supplier to get more orders is by making the most of the orders they receive.

Act on feedback. We recently had two suppliers with declining placements and performance. Based on our feedback, they responded in very different ways. One expressed disappointment and mentioned making a few changes as to how our account was being handled, but we saw no change or improvement.

The other supplier took immediate action by hiring a resource dedicated to our openings. The submissions soon grew in number and quality and began to pay off with increased placements. So don’t just pay lip service. Act on our feedback.

Take advantage of opportunity. We’ve all encountered positions that no one wants to work on. Instead of looking at it as too challenging for an easy win, look at it as an opportunity to stand out and show your value as a supplier. We actually have a “Purple Squirrel” award for being a supplier that we could rely on to find the one unique person to fill that impossible position. Aim for the Purple Squirrel.

The supplier/buyer relationship is exactly that, a relationship. It exists for mutual benefit and each side gains when either side succeeds. So let’s try to inhabit the same planet.

Dinah Hayse is a contingent workforce manager.


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