Lessons From Borat — Making Yourself More Attractive to Suppliers

Last weekend, a friend decided to quote a few lines from Borat and I was rolling on the floor. I had nearly forgotten the genius of Sasha Baron Cohen. Fortunately, if you're a fan like me, you'll be able to see him soon enough in his next offensive flick sometime in 2009. If you can't wait, check out one of Bruno's escapades here. In the meantime, we can all learn a thing or two from Borat when it comes to making ourselves more attractive. In Borat's case, his efforts were obviously aimed at his courtship of Pamela Andersen types. But for the rest of us in the Spend Management world, Borat's teachings about how to make ourselves "more sexy" is also relevant when it comes to working with suppliers.

In a guest post earlier this week, Lisa Reisman suggested the importance of how "making oneself a sexy buyer" creates opportunities -- savings opportunities, to be exact. But there's no need to raise your hemline or strap on a Borat swimsuit in the pursuit of savings through winning over your suppliers. Lisa suggests a few tips for making yourself more attractive to suppliers (especially in rising price markets), such as aggregating internal and extended supply chain purchases to create leverage, supplier consolidation and flexible early payment discounting / supply chain finance. To this list, I'd also add a few other concrete suggestions, such as assigning a true supplier relationship manager to handle the supplier relationship post-negotiation (in larger relationships). And it goes without saying that lean and Six Sigma focused supplier development initiatives can also help benefit providers by helping them become more operationally efficient and taking cost out of their operations.

Taken alone, these suggestions very well might help a buying organization to stand out from a busy crowd with its supply base, leading to additional savings opportunities (not to mention better relationships that can pay off during supply shortages or when other unexpected issues arise). But building deeper relationships by making yourself more attractive to suppliers is not just a question of pursuing specific programs and initiatives. Indeed, as Borat would attest, slapping a neon green swimsuit on a lanky, muscle-less frame is not exactly a prescription for turning oneself into an Adonis. Rather, much can come simply through changing your tone and style -- provided it's backed up with orders. For example, I've seen cases where procurement organizations have done little to further supplier relationships by not returning calls or failing to explain why payments are being sent after the specified terms (as they so often are). Simple communication and showing interest in keeping the spirit of the relationship open can be just as important pushing more volume in a supplier's direction.

- Jason Busch

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