Sourcing reliable, well-priced suppliers who offer excellent service is something that Assistants are frequently tasked with. It is a vital service we can provide our organisation. Finding the right supplier for your business can be tricky; you have to look at costs, what they offer and that they meet your specific needs. It is worth spending the time securing the right partner for every level of your business, from your stationery supplier, through to your catering providers and the venues you hire for events. Finding the right partner saves you time, money and hassle! Once we have secured a fantastic supplier, you will work with them regularly, and you must know how to build a productive relationship which benefits your organisation. Here is everything you need to know about sourcing the right suppliers for your business.

Understand your buying power

You must understand your buying power. It could be something simple like you work for a large global organisation and you spend a lot of money with suppliers. 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 lengthy contract. Whatever it happens to be, understanding your buying power 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 excellent 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 worthwhile asking your networking if they have any recommendations.  You should be coordinating your procurement activities with other assistants in your organisation for several 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. 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.

If they are a great supplier, remember to pass their details onto your network so that they can start to get additional customers from their hard work. This is an excellent example of how networking works! Pass their details on, let the supplier know you are doing that and they should be more willing to pass discounts on to you.

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!

Always try to meet the person who will be looking after your account so that you can start to build that relationship. They will treat you much better if they can put a face to a name.

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 lookout 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.