Overcoming the "Supplier Stall Game” When Consultants Enter the Sourcing Stage

Suppliers, for the most part, tend to hate sourcing consultants. Granted, there are exceptions. I know of one firm that provides supplier references as well as buyer references -- something all companies considering hiring consultants in the area should ask for. But in general, most suppliers, especially incumbents, would rather circumvent or stall a third-party sourcing process rather than enable it. Source One's Blog, The Strategic Sourceror, recently posted a good little number on what they term The Supplier Stall Game. In it, Joe Payne, the author, suggests two ways that suppliers take a stalling approach.

In one typical case, "When a consultant initially contacts the sales rep as an agent for a mutual customer, [the supplier] will do their best to avoid the request for meetings and information for as long as possible, sometimes up to a month. The goal here is to see if this is a serious process or a fishing expedition." Another stalling tactic, one that I've observed personally, is when the supplier "will refuse any direct contact with the consultant, and instead traffic all information through the customer."

The rest of this post suggests the similarities and differences in these stall tactics -- not to mention some thoughts and philosophies on overcoming them. In my view, any consultant that a company hires in anyway to touch suppliers should have a well-developed approach to soliciting supplier involvement. In general, the more a firm is known for resorting to a reverse auction hammer versus more creative approaches, the less likely it is to have a reputation in the market for developing and maintaining excellent relationships with a supply base. Still, there are exceptions to even this situation, which I plan to rant about on Friday in a post titled "Lessons I Learned From Dating -- Flirting With Your Suppliers". Hopefully Friday's Rant will not get me in too much trouble on the home front. But I'm prepared if it does.

Jason Busch

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