You might not think so but assistants deal with suppliers on a a regular basis. From hotels to stationery manufacturers, car hire companies and venues for events we are constantly procuring suppliers. It is essential that we know how to procure great suppliers and build effective relationship which benefit our organisation. Here are my top 5 tips:

Understand your buying power

It is firstly really important that you understand your buying power. It could be something simple like you work for a large global organisation and you spend a lot of money, it could be that your organisation is up and coming and being associated with you will benefit the supplier. Alternatively you could be looking for a partnership that will last for a significant amount of time and will give the supplier a substantial amount of money over a long contract. Whatever it happens to be if you understand your buying power it will enable you to negotiate and it will help you attract high quality suppliers.

Price isn’t everything

We’ve all made that mistake of buying something because of the price only to find it falls apart within a few days. There are plenty of deals out there to be made but you shouldn’t select suppliers on their price alone. Alternatively, select suppliers that have great reputations, have been in the business for a while and understand your requirements.

Try the manufacturer for better discounts

In certain circumstances it is well worth contacting the manufacturer of a product directly to ask for discounts, particularly if you are buying in bulk. Recently I went straight to the manufacturer to buy over 100 notebooks for an event and they gave me a great price. Going directly to the supplier rather than a third party can also work for hotels, airlines and venues.

Ask your network

If you are in the market for a new supplier it is really worthwhile asking your networking if they have any recommendations.  You should be co-ordindinating your procurement activities with other assistants in your organisation for a number of reasons. Firstly you don’t want to be using the same supplier but have different rates, it is much easier to negotiate discounts across a large organisation than it is just your department and lastly they might have a great supplier while you are using a mediocre one. Social media is also a great way to get recommendations, particularly Twitter and LinkedIn.

Meet in person

If your supplier is local to you it is well worth meeting in person so that you can discuss and negotiate face to face as well as building rapport with them. If you have a great relationship with your supplier it is easier to ask favours, negotiate contracts and get them to work quickly in an emergency. If they ever invite you to client party or want to take you out for dinner do go along – how often do assistants get wined and dined!

Attend trade shows

 Trade shows are a fantastic way to meet potential suppliers. Make it worth your while by taking business cards and visiting as many stands as possible. You may not need that supplier straight away but you might need their services in the future. If you have a specific product in mind, make sure you let all of the exhibitors in that industry know you are on the look out for a new supplier. They are often in a position to make deals at trade shows that they may not make back in the office.