SI Review: April 2013


Power Seller

Show, Don’t Tell

Following basic values can help you become a preferred supplier

By Dawn McCartney

Suppliers love to ask this question: How can I get on your preferred list? When I worked for a staffing company I was guilty of it, and when I was a buyer of staffing services, I heard it countless times. Has it become more difficult to become a supplier on a preferred list with the introduction of MSPs and no-contact policies or are you going about it the wrong way?

Over the last year I’ve worked very closely with buyers representing impressive brands with some of the largest spend on contingent labor. When I shared with them the frustration that many suppliers have expressed to me, they shared their issues as well. I was surprised to find that most of their concerns could be alleviated by following the values that our parents instilled in us and that we try to instill in our children.

It’s good to remember that you cannot talk — read sell — your way on to that suppliers’ list. Follow the rules, display your strengths and wait for the process to play out.

Display patience. Please realize that there is a process in place that either allows a supplier to be added to their list or for a supplier to be removed from their list. Have the patience for that process to play out. And be mindful of their time. Keep in mind that you are not the only supplier requesting the chance to participate in their program. Schedule your follow-up call and ask them when you can check in again.

Respect others. Be respectful of their time and their process. Be respectful of the other suppliers on their preferred list, as well. The last thing they want is to hear a competitor bad mouth one of their current partners. Keep the overviews of your company and your services to one page; if you cannot tell them your story on one page then you are not going to help them or their program become more efficient. Respect social media outlets, too. Do not try to connect, especially if there has been no prior communication.

Be courteous. Along with respect, be courteous. Showing up without an appointment and hoping for a chance meeting is not the way to go. Limit the amount of emails and phone calls you send, manage the interruptions. Calling or emailing several times does not make the buyers notice you; it instead makes them ignore you. Be courteous to others within the organization also; if you are not making progress with the program manager, do not try to get a hold of someone else in the organization who might have something to do with contingent labor.

Give generously. Share your insight and information that the buyer may not know. If there is something happening either in the marketplace or with a particular skill set, tell them. If you come across an article or have an idea that you think will benefit their program or their company, send it over. With so many other suppliers competing for a spot on the list, show them why you deserve that slot and not your competitor. If you service other companies in the same industry, share your contacts as a reference. If your company is diver sity certified, share this — but not as your only selling point.

Save the gifts. For the most part, the days of giving junkets, taking hiring managers golfing or to nice dinners are long gone. Many organizations’ corporate compliance departments have put strict rules in place regarding the accepting of gifts. So it’s easier not to put the offer out there, rather than force the buyer to go through the chain of command to seek approval. Even small gifts, such as dropping off donuts or company paraphernalia, are increasingly frowned upon. Suppliers do not get added to a preferred list because they dropped off the best donuts in town.

Consider these suggestions a buyer’s creed to suppliers. Please do not oversell your strengths. Program managers know that in order for their program to be successful, which in turn makes them successful, they need to have good suppliers supporting them. They will consider your company when the time is right or a need arises and your company provides the right services. Patience is a virtue — and good things come to those who wait their turn.

Dawn McCartney is director of contingent workforce strategies and research for Staffing Industry Analysts. She can be reached at


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