The most successful sellers know that winning bids starts long before the sourcing event begins. Sure, it’s important to manage the actual event well, too (go to “How to Come Out on Top in E-Sourcing Events” for helpful best practices). But capturing the hearts and minds of sourcing and vendor managers should carry equal weight in your sourcing strategy. By paying careful attention to their needs and preferences both ahead of and after the event, you can tip the scales in your favor and maximize your chance to get and keep the business.
So what do sourcing managers look for when vetting sellers? What do they love—and just as important, what do they hate? To find out, we talked to buyers with years of sourcing experience. In this article, part 1 of a two-part series on strengthening sourcing relationships, we include tips from Karen Sherrill, Senior Commodity Manager at Ohio State University Medical Center.
Eight Dos and Don’ts in Working with Sourcing Managers
Tip #1: Do learn the customer’s needs before trying to promote your product or service. Nothing frustrates sourcing managers more than being “sold” on something they don’t really require. “They need to become aware of what we need as well as when we need it,” Sherrill says. “One way to do that is to ask if the product or service is under contract, and if so, when it’s expected to come up for bid.” This tells you how and when to make contact again. “Another good question for them to ask is, ‘Okay, the initial term for your existing contract is three years; do you have any renewals on it?’ Because if things aren’t working out with the current supplier, I could decide to bid, but market conditions or resource constraints might make me decide to renew. So the supplier can check in with me six months before the scheduled conclusion of the term to see if I’m going to renew or bid.” Understand the supply management process for each potential customer—for example, some may bid new business annually, while others follow a specific calendar—and plan your approach accordingly.
Tip #2: Do find out the sourcing manager’s pain points and offer ways to resolve them. Every sourcing manager wants to know about value, savings, or quality you can deliver that they’re not receiving—and may not even be aware of. “For example, a supplier might tell me about accepted industry practices that aren’t in the buyer’s best interest, like adding hidden costs such as freight or ancillary charges on the invoice, that they don’t do,” Sherrill says. “Or maybe the standard markup for a product is 20 percent, but they tell me their standard is 10 percent, and if they contract with us it’s only 5 percent.” Another approach is to provide solutions to problems the customer is having with their current vendor. “For example, one company was familiar with my current supplier’s practices because one of their employees used to work for the competitor. So they knew what my pain points would be and how they could bring value to me by fixing them. Other suppliers have done that too to make it more attractive for me to listen.”
In the Next Blog We'll Cover Tips #3 and #4
This post is part of the current issue of Ariba Supply Lines. Ariba Supply Lines is a quarterly newsletter that provides valuable tips, best practices, and the latest thinking to take your online business relationships with your buying customers to the next level.
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