As a follow up to a recent post on supplier engagement, I wanted to share a quick story on how I recently applied some of these methods and the success achieved from doing so. Just to recap, the concepts that I discussed last time included Initiation (the right steps to set the tone with the supplier), Collaboration (playing on the supplier’s expertise in the category to produce mutual benefits), Communication (tips on how to keep the supplier engaged), and Sustentation (why maintaining a long term relationship is so important).

I just completed a project for a client who was looking to renegotiate with a facilities related supplier and in short order. They were happy with the current provider, but had not recently vetted the costs in the contract to ensure they were the most competitive. This particular category is one where we have a great deal of experience and market intelligence and could meet the client’s needs as requested. The timeline for the project from first stakeholder contact to contract draft was 30 days.

In order to meet the rigorous timeline it was important to apply supplier engagement concepts as mentioned and do so effectively. I began by interviewing the stakeholder to determine his wants and needs on the project, followed closely by a similar interview with the account representative contact I was given. It was clear right away that this representative, while effective in his role, was not the right person to speak with, in other words he was not a decision maker. This is a critical point in any negotiation, make sure you are talking to the right people on both sides, otherwise you will quickly find yourself running into roadblocks as those you work with have to constantly “go back to their manager” to get anything accomplished. Once I was able to connect with the correct individual that would drive the decision on the supplier’s side, I initiated the conversation in a manner that was reflective of the mutually satisfied relationship with the client. I was very clear about what I was trying to accomplish and the timeline associated. I requested that they present their ideas on how to improve the contract while offering my insight into this as well. The supplier communicated their appreciation for the transparency and committed to meeting the deadline I established.

Throughout the next steps of collecting some initial data, benchmarking and providing targets, I maintained a clear line of communication with the supplier and the client. In doing so I was able to complete the negotiations portion of the project within seven business days. I worked closely with the supplier to collaborate on ways to ensure that the contract was drafted right the first time with minor changes needed thereafter.

In the end I was able to reduce the billing cost to the client, improve the contract language to provide more clarity where needed, as well as adding value through incentives to the staff on the contract with wage increases. All of which met the needs of the client and the supplier, and within the 30 day timeframe. And as a side note I developed a good working relationship with the supplier, one that may benefit me in the future if I come upon this category in their region in the future. My belief is that this is very much due to my application of supplier engagement best practices. Sometimes, it is just a matter of being straight forward and working as a team to meet the set objectives.

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Jennifer Ulrich

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