If you have been a buyer for even a short amount of time, you have probably already become aware of your dependency upon the integrity of everyone you deal with in the supply chain. You are in a pivotal position in both the supply and demand links because what you buy, (demand) is filling someone else’s need for product, (supply).
This dual role gives purchasing a lot of authority, consequential ability and opportunity to add real and perceived value to the individuals you purchase from. I call this article, “Purchasing with Finesse” because of the positive impact you can have on so many lives and businesses. When you say “No”, your seller prospect has to deal with the shortfall of his or her expectations. This is not necessarily a bad response, but if you have to say no, try to insert a word of encouragement into the conversation about something that you liked about the presentation, product, or individual. They may be used to hearing “No” but you can help change their fortunes by using the opportunity to correct a misstep or suggest an alternative approach that might help them.
When you say “Yes”, your vendor contact will enjoy a victory glow that extends to your seller’s and employer’s perception of both your company and his or her self-worth. I use the term “self-worth” to emphasize the humanitarian aspect of the gain or loss potential. Aside from just saying “yes” to a seller, here are a couple of other actions that you can integrate into your day-to-day that will make you a seller’s favorite buyer.
Here is one that I learned early on. If a vendor is meeting with you in your office, remove your hands from the keyboard, swivel your chair around, and talk face-to-face with him or her. It’s not because you are rude that you keep typing while someone is talking to you. It is because you are trying to multitask to save time or hit a deadline. I had to discipline myself to stop, turn, and insert this perceived added value into the visit. Try this not just for vendors, but anyone that comes into your office, work or home. You will find that it really changes the tone of the visit as the visitor becomes instantly aware that you esteem what they are about to say to you as being more important than what you are doing…even if it isn’t. You have just gained professional and personal respect in their eyes as you deferred to them. This is particularly true of a spouse or child if you have a home office.
When a supplier’s contact has jumped through a number of irregularly shaped, and increasingly smaller hoops to get your product to you, then it is time to show your gratitude by saying more than “Thank you.” If your company has sufficient resources to buy flowers or some other “thank you” gift, then by all means, send it as soon as possible with a note acknowledging the over-and-above effort.
Even guys like flowers because when a fellow employee or boss wanders by the flower laden cubicle, there is always the question: “Who sent you the flowers?” This is followed by the happy response, “One of my customers.” Now the boss or fellow employees want to know the details and it is a wonderful opportunity for your supplier contact to shine. Believe me. This is both an inner and outer glow that makes a seller’s day. You can make this happen with very little effort and cost.
Third thing, and by no means the last, when you compliment a supplier’s representative, be sure to copy someone above him or her in their company. It might be the Sales Manager or even the CEO. How long does that take? It doesn’t have to be a lavish letter, but even a quick note recognizing their superior performance for your company. However long the email, the effects can last weeks, months and even years as you have just cultivated a relationship of mutual respect and admiration. Say yes to finesse.
Douglas Alexander has been working in the electronics R&D and manufacturing sectors for over 30 years. He developed and managed several departments at Digital Microwave Corp. (DMC), including Purchasing, Contract Management, Component Engineering, Documentation Control, Contract Manufacturing, and Prototype Assembly Operations. He also worked at Microsoft Corp.’s WebTV division as the founding manager of its Component Engineering department. He recently served at Transparent Video Systems as the Director of Engineering Operations and Logistics.