All posts by Matthew Joe Fisher

10 Ideas to Encourage Suppliers to Go the Extra Mile

Are your suppliers willing to go the extra mile for you? What can you offer them to drive the extra effort?

Extra Mile

Buyers rely on suppliers to perform numerous requests from the very beginning of their relationship.

From the first RFx, to the laundry list of requests on tight timelines, suppliers play an integral role in the sourcing process. And having them wanting to help can make a huge difference.

What can supplier enablement do to encourage suppliers to meet their deadlines, and even go the extra mile beyond the bare minimum?

Here are ten potential ‘carrots’ to offer suppliers: 

1) Invite to Assist with eProcurement Pilots

Suppliers welcome getting as much exposure as possible. Particularly if they are a new supplier, or you’re rolling out a new eProcurement system.

You can let suppliers know that if they can meet or even exceed your requirements that you’ll highlight them during testing and User Acceptance Testing (UAT). You can include them in your test scripts, and call them out during demos, amongst other things.

2) Feature on eProcurement System’s Home Page

Some modern eProcurement systems give admins the ability to display whatever you’d like on the homepage using business enabled CMS blocks.

Offering this prime real estate to highlight suppliers who have excelled (e.g. provided an awesome catalogue or offered heavy discounts) would be a huge inspiration for a supplier.

3) Float Sales Items to Top of Search Results

Modern eProcurement systems allow admins to affect search results giving specific items more weight or even float to the top of search results.

Similar to how suppliers promote sales items on their B2C sites, you can offer suppliers to boost items they agree to put on sale for at least a period of time.

4) Invite Onsite for ‘Meet and Greet’

Most suppliers will welcome the opportunity to come in and informally meet with their end customers. Maybe even allow them to setup their trade show booth or a table in the office lobby.

I’ve seen some buyers even create some co-branded marketing material, including booth signs or posters, stating that the supplier’s products were available on the eProcurement platform.

5) Visit Them Onsite

When suppliers have to come in to meet with you in your office, it’s typically a nerve-racking experience for them. They’re probably all dressed up and a little nervous as they enter your, likely relatively lavish, corporate office building.

But offering to come to their office for an informal tour/meet-n-greet would likely be an enjoyable honour for them. 

6) Promote in an Email Blast

How every supplier wishes they had the ability, and their buyer’s blessing, to send even one email to all your employees.

Offer them the chance to promote their offerings in a company-wide email blast and every supplier will jump at the opportunity. 

7) Display an Ad on your Intranet

It’s in a buyer’s best interest to entice more employees to use their eProcurement system to make purchases. The buyer’s intranet is probably a popular place where employees go daily.

You can display an ad on your intranet to let employees know they can procure that supplier’s category via the eProcurement system. For example, “The New iPhone 7 – Now on eBuy!”

8) Offer a Testimonial

Suppliers are very proud of their relationship with their customers. They’re especially proud of being selected to tightly integrate with a customer’s internal eProcurement system after all the effort both have put in. 

When a buyer gives a supplier a testimonial that they can use to grow their business. It’s often a very welcome shot in the arm for the supplier’s marketing efforts.

9) Blessing for a White Paper

A step up from a testimonial would be a buyer’s blessing to allow the supplier to create a white paper on how they’ve helped you.

For example, getting the supplier to tell the story of how they exceeded requirements for the buyers on a new project. 

10) Issue a Press Release

While I’ve never heard of it being done, there is one absolute ultimate carrot (apart from a multi-million dollar contract) which would ensure the extra mile from the supplier.

This would be to give the supplier their blessing to issue a press release to let the world know about the partnership. Ideally the release could also include a quote from the buyer.

Admittedly, this would only make sense if it was a very strategic and unique arrangement, and that a press release would make BOTH companies look good.

Some of these may be out of the question for your organisation. But hopefully they’ll at least give you a sense of what’s often valuable to suppliers, and some ideas on how you can help them to help you.

What are some other examples of ways you’ve been able to encourage suppliers to go the extra mile?

eCatalogues are Just Spreadsheets, What’s the Big Deal?!

How many times have you heard someone compare eCatalogues to spreadsheets? It’s time to clear up the differences!

eCatalogues on Tablet

This article was originally published on Suppliers Matter.

That’s what the owner of a small office supply company asked me back in 1999. I was an independent supplier enablement consultant, and it was taking me longer than he wanted to create his first electronic catalogue in Ariba for his largest customer.

Here are the ten things I wish I had said as to why electronic catalogues aren’t “just spreadsheets”. I’ve also added a handful of insights that some newer eProcurement solutions now have to offer when it comes to eCatalogues.

The end result may “simply be a spreadsheet”, but it’s ensuring what’s in this spreadsheet that requires due diligence.

1) Appropriate Selection

eCatalogues need to contain all things that the customer buys from you, and none of the things you’re not supposed to sell.

If you have the contract to sell office supplies, and you’ve been given explicit instructions to only include office supplies, then you can’t include the kitchen sink.

When it’s time to export item information from the back end system, it should be just for your customer’s desired items.

Some larger suppliers have been known to insist their eCatalogues can’t be filtered, in an effort to sell more stuff. You don’t want to play those games.

2) Accurate Pricing

Obviously the prices for these items has to be accurate. Sometimes the calculation of the sell price can get complicated. For example, if it’s X per cent off list for one type of item, but Y per cent off for another. Or if there’s a list of most commonly ordered items that are more highly discounted than the rest.

If your customer finds one item that is priced higher than it should be, they’ll lose trust and question all other item prices.

Newer eProcurement platforms now support tiered pricing, bundles, configurable/custom options, etc., which can help when if you sell more complicated products or services.

3) Consistent Names

The item names are the first thing that a customer sees in their search results, so it’s important that they are strong and also follow a consistent naming convention, for example: Widgets, Small, Pack of 20.

Looking at a long list of items that are consistently named makes it easier for the customer to select the right item.

4) Rich Descriptions

This is one area where the initial effort up front can really make a big difference, but it takes investment. If you want to have your items found in search results, and also help your customer make the right choice the first time, you need rich item descriptions that thoroughly describe your items. You should take advantage of as much space as the customer can support. If they allow 255 characters, use them!

Some suppliers simply export the bare minimum item information from their inventory, which is often hard to understand. And what’s frustrating for buyers is that the supplier’s B2C site has often got great rich content. However, suppliers frequently have two separate item databases – one for B2C/marketing and one for B2B/eProcurement.

If you happen to sell items from popular categories, there are now rich content providers that you can use to enrich your information.

5) Granular UNSPSC codes

There are so many reasons to make sure that the UNSPSC codes assigned to your items are granular and accurate.

Granular meaning that you can’t just assign the ‘Office Stationery’ code to all your items, even the office furniture and computer accessories.

And accurate, meaning that if you’re selling a standard office scissor then you need to use the correct code, and not just the first reference to scissors you see when searching the UNSPSC database.

The customer may have purchase requisition approval rules reliant on the codes to determine who should approve the request. IT may need to approve the computer accessory, and facilities may need to approve the furniture. Plus, your customer’s reports will be much more accurate in terms of spend reporting.

A new consideration is eProcurement systems now have browsable category trees that rely on the UNSPSC to assign the item to the most appropriate category. You want your items to fall under the right bucket and not all get clumped into one.

6) Images for Every Product

This is a no-brainer. You have to make sure as many of your items (if not all) have at least one, nice looking image. They should be professional looking, high resolution, hosted on a publicly available webserver, and assigned to the right item.

And if your customer’s eProcurement system supports multiple images, then give them more. Many suppliers don’t take advantage of this, however, and just do the minimum (if that). Make your items shine!

7) Valid Units of Measure

You don’t want to do all this work and have the catalogue not load because your internal unit of measure is “Each” and the customer’s system needs it to be “EA”. You need to ensure that all your items are using the UOMs that your customer supports.

8) Internal Part Numbers for Automation

If you want to automate the fulfilment of the corresponding electronic purchase order and have it flow seamlessly into your system, the part numbers have to be perfect.

You can’t manually create an item in the catalogue file called WIDGET and expect it to work. You need to export the part numbers out of your system, and only use those part numbers in the eCatalogues.

9) Properly Formatted File

All this has to be exported into a properly formatted file that matches the customer’s file format requirements.

  • XLS vs. XLSX vs. CSV vs. XML vs. CIF vs. ETC.
  • Field titles with correct names.
  • Not exceeding each field’s maximum length.
  • Ensure all their required fields are populated properly.

This is where it can get a little technical, but it’s a one time effort.

10) Automating the Update Process

Fortunately, we didn’t have to update static eCatalogues very often, so doing this once or twice a year was acceptable.

New eProcurement systems now support simple CSV files, and allow suppliers to upload securely. This means suppliers are now in a better position to automate the export, any mapping, and upload using relatively simple scripts or product information management (PIM) tools.

Suppliers, what else would you have told him? (Apart from go do it yourself!)