The Distributor-Supplier Relationship: One Distributor’s Perspective.

planet apesWith 20 years in the industry, I have seen a lot. I’ve been on the other end of the phone trying to get information from a supplier about a $10,000 opportunity, where the supplier said they would call me back within the hour with the basic stock and pricing information I requested – and I never received a call back. Ever.

I’ve been on the edge of losing a major account because I fat-fingered PMS 214 (yes, hot pink) instead of PMS 314 (light blue) on my P.O. Not good. When I called the supplier for help, I thought I would be groveling and offering my first born. Rather, the supplier graciously reran the order without a rush fee that very day and charged me only their cost for reprint! They did not have to do that.

We’ve all been there, in good and bad times. And as distributors, we have to remind ourselves that we can’t win all of the time.  It has to go both ways. Unless you are always right. And if you are, feel free to stop reading now.

Through the years, our team has tried to develop a culture of respect with our suppliers. We know we can’t survive without them. Saying they are “partners” is where it starts, but having an action plan and living it is where it counts.

In a recent company meeting, Brand Fuelians came up with a list that we thought might be helpful for you and your team.

Ways to engender the distributor-supplier relationship:

  1. Rate great suppliers high with ratings in Sage and ESP.
  2. Send personalized hand-written thank you cards after lunch and learns or when special favors are given.
  3. Develop rapport with principals of key suppliers in peer to peer manner.
  4. Create focus lists for each of your sales reps that include top clients. Share key client artwork files and information about the clients so that suppliers can help assist with the sale through the development of specs and ideas.
  5. Pay suppliers on time and if you can’t, reach out proactively. Ducking inquiries demanding payment is for slime-balls.
  6. If you make a mistake, own it. It's no disgrace to be wrong, but it is disgraceful to avoid responsibility for a wrong.
  7. Follow suppliers on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, etc.
  8. If a supplier offers special perks such as sneak peeks on new products, concentrate sales efforts to support them.
  9. Offer your trusted supplier partners the first shake at overseas opportunities.
  10. Take advantage of what suppliers invest in: webinars, specs, specials, overstock deals, spiffs, tradeshows, end user shows, etc.
  11. Activate supplier reps in high value end user calls.
  12. Invite suppliers to get involved in community activities with your team to get to know them better. Giving is good business. So is socializing.
  13. Feature your best suppliers and their reps through a recognition program. Celebrate the partnership through social media, press releases and branded awards. Duh.
  14. Treat suppliers the way you would like to be treated. Golden Rule. Boom.

What do you do to support suppliers? I’d love to read about how your company develops great relationships with your BFF suppliers.

By Danny Rosin, co-President Brand Fuel