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When and How to Meet with Suppliers: A Fundamental Purchasing Skill

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It is part of a Purchasing Professionals job to know how and when to engage with Suppliers. With limited time and resources it is important to have a framework in place regarding how and when to meet with current and new suppliers. Purchasing Leaders need to train staff and make sure that people with sufficient experience are involved with supplier meetings. The suggestions are admittedly aligned with Western corporate practice at public companies however have relevance for professionals working in other areas and organizations.

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When and How to Meet with Suppliers: A Fundamental Purchasing Skill

  1. 1. WHEN AND HOW TO MEET WITH SUPPLIERS A Fundamental Purchasing Skill Bill Kohnen Purchasing Fundamental Discussion Series 2014
  2. 2. Summary • When and how to meet with new and current suppliers is a key skill for purchasing professionals. • With limited time and resources it is important to have a framework in place regarding how and when to meet with current and new suppliers. • Benefits of a good process are: lower cost, risk reduction, faster time to market, service and quality improvement, and access to new technology. Bill Kohnen Purchasing Fundamental Discussion Series 2014
  3. 3. Framework Based on Category/Item Importance Not Urgent for the Buyer • Taking time to meet with these suppliers can result in preferred pricing and service Occasional Meetings at Buyer Site Important • Contacts Cross Functional Areas and Levels • Facilitate Discussions • Manage Cadence and Levels of Meetings • Schedule may be included in specification and/or policy Alternate Buyer and Supplier Sites Lowest Priority • Automate • Eliminate Bottlenecks • Efficiency Conference Calls, WebEx, Skype Highest Priority • Must Seek Out Salespeople • Create Interest from Supplier • Find Alternate Suppliers • Find Substitute Items Go to Supplier Sites Importance to Buyer Spend, Risk, Technology, Reputation ImportancetoSupplier Spend,Risk,Technology,Reputation High High Low
  4. 4. Detailed Questions to Decide If You Should Meet With Potential New Suppliers and Goal of Meeting Question Yes No Goal of Meeting Do we have a source? √ Qualify Source Immediately Is Current Source Performing well? √ Evaluating Options Are there multiple sources used? √ Determine level of risk and evaluate options Is the product or service something we use or will use? √ Benchmarking Do we have resources to change suppliers now? √ Perhaps meeting to gather info
  5. 5. Preparation and Meeting • If you agree to meet: be prepared and professional • It is a reflection of your company • It is a reflection of your personal professionalism • For all meetings follow basic business etiquette • Start on time • Be a good host or visitor • Do not multitask during meeting • Be honest • Follow up on any actions agreed to • Adjust time and topics based on importance • Create a Standard Supplier Overview Presentation to Facilitate Discussions and make Preparation Easier
  6. 6. Discussion For most Meetings • Introductions • Overview of Buyer Company • Overview of Potential Suppliers Company • If a current Supplier: Review of Performance • Discussion of Specific Opportunities • Decide if there is a need for further discussion • Agree to action Items and Next Steps For a Non Critical Item this could be a 5 Minute Call For a Face to Face Meeting Schedule a hour For a Strategic Item it could be a Full Day Meeting
  7. 7. Specific Tips During Meeting • As a Buyer keep your overview short and get your specific requirements stated early and clearly • Give more time to Supplier to talk and focus on their discussion to learn from the direct presentation and more subtle Cues • Be honest and clear about interest • A Fast and Clear No saves everyone time if that is the case • If there is interest set action plan and stick to it • For more Strategic requirements including meals and appropriate business entertainmen tare important. Remember though even in a more casual environment it is still business.
  8. 8. Conclusion • It is part of a Purchasing Professionals job to know how and when to engage with Suppliers • Given limited resources it is important to optimize time spent with suppliers and have specific goals in mind for the meeting • Everything that happens as part of the meeting sends as message including meeting location, preparation of participants, basic business etiquette and follow up after the meeting. • Purchasing Leaders need to train staff and make sure that people with sufficient experience are involved with supplier meetings. Bill Kohnen Purchasing Fundamental Discussion Series 2014

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