Although the main activity of many businesses is to sell to consumers – known as business-to-consumer or B2C trading – all businesses will also take part in some kind of business-to-business (B2B) activity.
You’ll need to use suppliers, to provide you with raw materials for making products, services (eg accounting or market research) and/or professional advice.
Depending on your type of business, you might also act as a supplier to other businesses – eg providing web design for their corporate website, or supplying manufactured components for them to assemble.
Here are our tips on how to work with other businesses and nurture a solid working relationship.
Finding and using the right suppliers will make a big difference to the cost and quality of your products and services, as well as the overall performance of your business. For example, the quality of service you get from a professional adviser on tax could make the difference between fulfilling your legal obligations and not!
It’s important to plan ahead and spend time researching different supplier options – especially those which have the biggest impact on quality and/or running costs.
You can source suppliers through trade associations, business directories and the trade press, as well as personal recommendations.
Although pricing is important, it mustn’t be your number one priority when you choose a supplier. When making your selection, also consider:
- reliability – consider the impact of the supplier letting you down, and how badly it would affect your business operations
- flexibility – if your needs are likely to change over time, or at short notice, you need a supplier that can respond to that
- administration – a good supplier should be a good communicator and process your orders and queries efficiently
- payment terms – a supplier that offers extended credit, or a discount for quick payment, could have a big impact on your cashflow
- other factors – for example, it could be good for your business reputation to use suppliers that are environmentally friendly, or based locally if you’re hoping to build a local customer base
Wherever possible, use a supplier with the appropriate industry qualifications and a successful track record. They should be happy to let you have names and contact details of other satisfied clients – follow these up.
Finally, a good working relationship with a supplier is a valuable asset. Don’t be tempted to squeeze too hard in negotiations, or ignore your side of the bargain by not paying on time – it’s more important to be cooperative.
Being a supplier
As you can see from the above, being a good supplier is about a lot more than your prices. A client will always choose to work with a supplier who appreciates and can support their business activities.
To help win new contracts, provide clear information not just on ‘what you do and how much for’, but on your other qualities that make you a good choice – for example, your flexibility or fixed pricing structure.
Include case studies, references and any other evidence that you can be relied on.
Don’t be tempted to slash prices below a level where you can comfortably offer a reliable, high-quality service.
To build a strong ongoing relationship, be sure to communicate well, and be sensitive and responsive to the client’s needs. Ask for regular reviews so you can be sure the client is still happy with your service, and address any concerns promptly.
This article is provided only for general informational and educational purposes. It is not offered as and does not constitute legal or other professional advice on the subject matter in question. You should not act or rely on information contained in this website without first seeking professional advice on the subject matter in question.