6 Ways to Build Strong Supplier Relationships


Thad King

Apr 10, 2023


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If you work in manufacturing, processing, or a similar industry, you likely already know the importance of building strong relationships with clients, but have you thought about the importance of your supplier relationships? Your suppliers are the business partners that provide access to the things your company needs to get work done. The strength of your supplier relationships can make a big difference in supporting your bottom line. If you’re wondering how to build strong supplier relationships, below are six tips to consider:

1. Communicate Clearly and Often

Woman contacting her suppliers

Like any relationship, clear and frequent communication brings about the best outcomes, making it one of the best ways to build strong supplier relationships. It can be easy to let supplier communication fall by the wayside, especially in today’s fast-paced global economy. However, doing so can lead to lost productivity, and delays can begin piling up when productivity is affected in a supplier relationship.

Instead, make it a point to talk with your supplier often. Consider setting aside time weekly to meet with your supplier, during which you can discuss challenges and opportunities. By prioritizing regular communication with your supplier, you can avoid productivity breakdowns and catch problems before they become supply chain disasters. As an added bonus, regular communication with your supplier builds trust, which can help secure the lowest price and best payment terms in the long term.

2. Align Your Technology

There’s no escaping technology in supplier relationships. In order for suppliers to efficiently get supplies to and from customers, they rely on logistics technology for routing, ordering, reporting, and more. This can be challenging if your company isn’t aligned with its supplier regarding the technology in place and any implementation of new technology in the future.

Again, this goes back to communication, but you can build better supplier relationships by ensuring you are both on the same page regarding the technology tools in place. Ask your supplier and IT team if an Application Programming Interface (API) can incorporate parts of your supplier’s technology stack into your systems. In some cases, you may need to create supplier accounts within your company’s own systems so that your supplier can share information and data to provide updates and see inventory levels.

3. Remain Loyal, But Maintain a Backup Plan

Loyalty is important if you want to build relationships with great suppliers but don’t let this loyalty keep your company from ensuring continuity of service. You have deadlines to meet and orders to fulfill. If a supplier has a problem, do you have a backup plan to keep your business running? If not, you risk placing all your eggs in one basket, which can be dangerous.

It’s challenging to find the right balance in this kind of situation, but you’re encouraged to build relationships with various suppliers while remaining loyal to your key supplier. This is vital to your bottom line, but so is maintaining a strong relationship with a supplier that has provided quality service for a long time. To find additional suppliers and get more leads from your website, a marketing partner can be helpful in your search. The bottom line? Demonstrate loyalty to your supplier, but have additional resources available if something unforeseen occurs.

4. Understand Cultural Differences With Global Suppliers

Group with different cultural background

Because the global economy involves so many different people worldwide, it’s more important than ever to understand cultural differences when building strong supplier relationships. Thankfully, the Internet offers many resources for learning about different cultures to help business owners in the United States avoid missteps.

You can also observe how a supplier or potential supply partner conducts business. Does the supplier approach situations from a stoic perspective or one that feels more open and engaging? Are there certain days or times when the supplier is more comfortable discussing business? Does the supplier request specific people or positions in your organization to speak with when conducting certain transactions? Understanding the “why” behind these actions can help you build strong supplier relationships.

5. Define Your Relationship

You’re also encouraged to take some time to think about how you define your company’s supplier relationships. Some business owners consider suppliers as vendors, but others consider suppliers as business partners. In a sense, suppliers become part of your business.

How you define your relationship with suppliers can go a long way in determining the strength of the relationship. Keep in mind that this approach goes both ways. Your supplier also needs to define how it views itself and its role in your business relationship in order for the relationship to remain strong and successful.

6. Work With Suppliers to Forecast Your Company’s Needs


Quality suppliers and other logistics and supply chain management professionals often work very tight schedules. They tend to thrive off of data and planning to provide timely delivery, so help your supplier by providing forecasting. Another effective way to build strong supplier relationships is to help them prepare for an influx of orders, so they won’t have to scramble at the last minute. Your company will become known as a trusted business partner that makes life easier for them.

Start Building Stronger Supplier Relationships Today!

Building strong supplier relationships is essential for any business, especially during global uncertainty. Communication, transparency, and reliability are critical to developing and maintaining healthy supplier relationships. By incorporating the steps outlined above into your partnership plan, you can ensure that your suppliers are contributing positively to the growth of your organization.

Now that you better understand how to build strong supplier relationships, you can focus on getting new customers and increasing sales. Before spending much time and effort on marketing, you need to understand how your business performs online. To find out, get a free report that will evaluate your website, reviews, social media, SEO, and how your business is listed across the web, and give your business a letter grade. The report will identify strengths and areas where improvements are needed. Schedule a 15-minute discovery call with a business growth advisor today for more ways to grow your business!

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