30 Jan 2018
You’ve updated your all your product material, you’ve finalized your catalog, and you’ve made sure everything is aligned with your website and e-commerce portal.
Time to sit back, watch the sales team work their magic, and enjoy some peace and quiet for a change.
Then the phone rings, and rings, and rings, and rings.
No, it isn’t a sales rep; they just finished their quarterly training and are out with prospects.
It is your supplier.
She just noticed, that, yet again, everything has changed, and now she needs you to go over every single change, in detail.
…and that is only one of your suppliers. You have hundreds, and they aren’t just calling you, they are calling your boss, your boss’s boss, and your support line.
This is the nightmare that never ends.
Inefficient supplier onboarding leads to nightmare scenarios like these. A single supplier can represent a large sales team and a significant revenue source, so keeping them happy is not only good for you, but also is good for the bottom line.
An unhappy supplier can crush your support system.
However, a good supplier relationship starts with an efficient onboarding workflow.
Onboarding a new supplier can be distilled down into three steps:
- product onboarding,
- technology onboarding; and
- continual communication.
This is the single most important part of onboarding a new supplier.
Your supplier has partnered with you because you afford them a distinct and significant advantage over their competition.
It should never be taken for granted that each and every person on the supplier’s team knows of those specific advantages. It should be taken for granted that most of them don’t know the basics about why they are a supplier to you.
Efficient product onboarding is not about being able to quickly rhyme off the specifications and features of the products. It is more about how those products enhance what the supplier is already doing and how your products will help them do their job better.
In all likelihood your supplier is also representing some of your competition’s brands and you need them to realize your products are number one and your competitor’s products are number 10 … or worse.
If you onboard your supplier on feature parity, you may win as many deals from your supplier as your competitors do.
However, if you onboard your supplier based on how you help them look good, your supplier will always present your products in a better light.
While product onboarding is the most critical, technology onboarding of your supplier is often the most overlooked part of onboarding.
If your supplier doesn’t know how or where to find the information that will help them sell your products, they will likely sell your competitor’s products instead.
Again, never take it as an assumption that your supplier will be as efficient at using your portal, your app, or even your website as your own reps are. You need to take the time to train them on how to navigate each technology that holds the keys to unlocking their deals.
Suppliers are motivated by one thing—moving product. An app that they can hold in their hands while with their prospect will likely be the single best way to communicate with your supplier sales team.
Efficient onboarding of a supplier doesn’t end at the end of the joint meeting and sales kickoff—it continues throughout the entire relationship cycle with that supplier.
Continually communicating with your suppliers via email, virtual meetings, in-person meetings, site visits, snail mailers, and phone calls about upcoming events, changes, releases, wins, strategies, and educational material will only make your partnership stronger and your products top of mind when those suppliers meet with their prospects.
With continual communication with your supplier, your competitors won’t stand a chance.
Efficient onboarding of a supplier can both significantly remove a lot of headaches that suppliers bring while concurrently contributing to the company’s bottom line. Here we’ve outlined three broad strategies that we’ve employed to help us with our supplier partnerships. We’d love to learn how you’ve helped efficiently onboard yours.
Mark Shalinsky, Director of Inside Sales & Partner Operations, FatStax