Supplier sourcing – a step-by-step guide to getting the best deal for your business
Photo by Juliette Leufke on Unsplash
Choosing the right suppliers for your business can be daunting; have you got the best deal? Can you rely on the supplier? Is it the best match for your business? But, taking the time to source the best deals can make a world of difference, saving you time and money, as well as helping to take your business to the next level.
Supplier sourcing is much more than just asking a friend for a recommendation, performing a quick google search, or spending half a day on a comparison site. Each supplier needs to be expertly matched to your business needs and objectives and your final choice will depend on factors unique to your business and you.
At MoGio’VA, I have been asked by many of my clients to source new suppliers for their business, and in our recent small business survey 30% of respondents said that they would outsource this task to a virtual assistant, so with this in mind, I wanted to share my top tips for sourcing suppliers for your business.
1 Define your criteria
Before you start your research it is essential that you define, in detail, your exact requirements from each supplier. When sourcing for clients, the first thing I do is work closely with them to understand their specific needs; these are always unique to each client and range from the type of service they need, any unique or non-negotiable features of service/products they require, and preference on local, national or worldwide suppliers. This is all then documented and used as a reference throughout each step of the process.
It is also important to understand and define the values of your business. Selecting a supplier who shares your business values will make the working relationship much easier in the long-term.
I use this stage to set up a record system where I can keep a note of phone calls, emails, or other communications that take place with both the client and all suppliers with the aid of a variety of software systems and online portals. This serves as a summary for my client and is also a record if there is any confusion or dispute as to what was asked, or agreed by either party.
Defining your criteria and recording all communications might seem like extra work at the outset, but I promise you it will really help later on in the process when you are comparing suppliers with similar offerings.
2 Research potential suppliers
This is the step that takes the most time. I have worked on projects where this part of the process has taken months of research due to the exact detail of the criteria. Where you look for potential suppliers depends on your business needs or industry, but researching using a wide variety of methods is always advisable to gain a broad overview of the options available.
Make sure you make a note of all the suppliers you have researched and how they match up with your criteria, even ones that are not suitable so that you can eliminate them from future searches.
Search the internet
An internet search engine is a good place to start, as it will give you an overview of the types of offerings available. This article has some good advice on how to get the most out of your search
Using relevant hashtags on social media could also bring up potential suppliers and quickly viewing their newsfeeds will give you an idea of service level and customer satisfaction.
Use your contacts
Do you already know someone that might be able to help? Do any of your contacts have a supplier they could recommend? As a business support professional, I have built up a large network of contacts I can call on when I need a credible recommendation for a client. Be sure to use your own network as best as you can, for honest reviews from actual customers.
Local and trade directories are a great place to find suppliers and service providers, particularly if your needs are specific to a certain industry or area.
As a business support professional, I am a member of some great organisations, such as the local Chamber of Commerce, who I can call on for advice regarding potential suppliers. They also hold regular networking meetings and events where you could find suppliers and contacts. If you are not a member it is worth joining your local Chamber, as the support they offer is invaluable.
3 Create a shortlist
After completing the initial research in step 2, you will find that several potential suppliers already do not meet your starting criteria. Narrow your list to those that best meet your needs and research some more. Use their website, social channels, and client testimonials, ask lots of questions about pricing, service level, payment terms etc. You should aim to have a shortlist of around 3-4 suppliers at this point.
When I get to this stage with a client, I will personally contact the shortlisted suppliers to gather some in-depth research on each of them. A lot of the decisions at this stage will be based on the credibility and reviews of the supplier and often requires a lot of perseverance, patience, and the ability to make an informed decision. Depending on the industry, this step can require an incredible amount of work and communication with the supplier to ensure the service being provided exactly meets the criteria of the client.
4 Create a side-by-side comparison
By now, the potential suppliers will all be looking very similar. The differences in their offerings may be small and could be missed. The best thing to do here is to create a side-by-side summary of the shortlisted companies so that the differences can be highlighted and cross-checked for a final decision to be made.
It is at this point I would send my report off to the client to allow them to make their final selection. For most clients this will result in a supplier being chosen, however, in some cases, we can get to this stage and the initial criteria may have changed. This would then trigger the process to start again.
5 Choose the supplier and sign off
Now it is time to make a decision and sign off the deal. How you make the decision is up to you and hopefully using the selection process above, there will be a clear ‘winner’.
You may also need to use this stage to negotiate terms, and possibly a final price.
Decide which factors are non-negotiable for you and what you are prepared to compromise on, e.g. are there certain features of the service you don’t need? Can the price be lowered for this? Make sure you clarify the final terms and get an agreement in writing.
When working with clients to source their suppliers, at this stage I either hand back over to the client to negotiate and sign off, or I continue to work with them to achieve the final deal. Negotiating with suppliers can often be tricky and I find that working as a third party allows me to be more assertive to ensure I get the best deal for my clients.
If you would like to use the services of MoGio VA to source a supplier for your business, get in touch. You can contact me on 01273 931 555, using the contact form on the website, or email firstname.lastname@example.org