The supplier’s lament  — Hey! You’re no amateur buyer, right? – part 2

We are pleased to bring you part two of Stephen Ashcroft’s  (procurement risk coach at Brian Farrington) post which shares the company’s learnings from dealing with ‘unprofessional’ buyers and offers advice on how to manage your bids more effectively.

I mentioned in part one some weak statements we have received from amateur buyers.  But let’s be positive and talk about the questions that we’ve found very useful when engaging with potential suppliers, vendors, contractors and partners (let’s call them “bidders”).

No doubt you're aspiring to work in a fast-paced, dynamic environment so you want to establish and develop trading relationships to reflect that. And your core focus is on your objectives and key results (OKRs).  Your OKRs ensure disciplined thinking (the major goals will surface), you communicate accurately (lets everyone know what is important), establishes indicators for measuring progress (shows how far along we are) and focuses effort (keeps your firm and suppliers in step with each other).

So how does this fit with engaging with bidders - and NOT being an amateur buyer?  It’s key that you gather information – fast – and you want to analyse whether to take the discussions to another level. How do you ask the right questions to filter out those bidders who really ‘get’ what you want and will be right for you and your OKRs?

Remember this isn’t the time for a PQQ type of interrogation. You want them to open up to you – let’s get the basic (and understandably necessary) information later. You want to find out what doing business with them will really be like. So leave the Quality, Finance, Sustainability, etc pop-quiz for later.

Here are three questions that get the bidders you engage and meet with talking about themselves – and give you a better chance of taking discussions to the next level.

Question 1: Why did you think I was the right kind of buyer to approach?

I’m not saying you jump right in and say this, don’t be off-putting but let’s remember there are a lot of buyers out there. You want to be approached – but not just unthinkingly sold to, surely? Apparently some (many?) bidders will approach everyone they can! But they may give little thought as to why they are doing it. Do you want to be just another standard buyer? Or just part of a random market sector that a bidder is focusing on?

Your time is valuable!  You want to be opening a dialogue with a bidder that has market knowledge of your sector or shared objectives. Or can explain why you fit a buyer profile that the bidder is actively looking for. There’s a better chance of establishing a better and more professional relationship that way; one where the bidder will want to continue to develop a partnership with you.

Question 2: What do you think makes you different as a supplier?

Please tell me, you’re going to walk away (or at least gently exit the telephone conversation) if they respond by saying “price, service and quality”?

Okay, maybe not; these facets are important, but how do you find that small percentage of bidders that have thought about the innovative, maybe unique and genuinely useful propositions for your business? Here’s their chance to tell you what is different about them that aligns with your own issues and aspirations - and OKRs.

Now, a positive answer to this question really can deliver on all that good marketing and vibe we’ve been hearing about in terms of early engagement with bidders and the market.

Last but not least, the third question. You are narrowing your eyes at this stage. You’re quietly impressed with the responses to questions 1 and 2, and here is the clincher that, fingers crossed, means you’ve found a bidder that really can materially help you and your organisation achieve your OKRs:

Question 3: What added value can you bring to my organisation?

The ideal bidder will love the opportunity to answer this question. A run-of-the mill salesman-type will no doubt focus on cheap prices. Maybe that’s what you want -- I’m just thinking there is more on offer to achieve your OKRs. Your ideal bidder’s added value emanates from the knowledge and skills in their total offering.

Their value isn’t just their track record; although a relevant case study/example would be welcome. Their added value may include the qualities of perseverance, vision, innovation, commitment and flexibility (backed up by real-life evidence). Their knowledge, skills and behaviours matched with an openness to share their expertise with you, will be a valuable asset.

Hey, you're no amateur! Right?

10 Questions You Should Ask About Purchasing and Supply Chain Risk Management” is available free to download here along with regular procurement advice delivered straight to your inbox.


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