David FullerThe relationships we have with suppliers are often critical to our success in business. But most business owners and managers don’t understand how to leverage those relationships for better results and increased profitability.

Here are five ways to get the most from your suppliers:

Invest in the relationship

Your suppliers can make or break your business if you let them. However, when we spend the time to invest in relationships with suppliers, we can create a win-win situation.

Understanding from your sales reps the goals and values of the suppliers and how they might align with yours are critical. Put aside time to meet with supplier reps, tour their factories or warehouses, understand their products and services and how they can benefit your customers.

Let them work with your teams and spend time on the relationship. They will often look out for your best interests as well as their own.

Keep them accountable

Often suppliers and their reps will say they’re going to do something for you. It’s up to you to keep them accountable.

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Ensure that the sales reps are setting up meetings, not just dropping in at inconvenient times for you and your staff. Ensure that they’re doing the job of providing value and servicing you regularly.

Communicate clearly and regularly

Good relationships are built on good communication. This means that, even when times are tough, you need to be communicating with your suppliers just as often as when you’re doing well.

Suppliers build their business by servicing you. If you’re having trouble paying your bills, communicate this with them and explain how and when you will be able to make payments.

Use your suppliers’ knowledge

Your suppliers have insights that you don’t.

Ask your suppliers about what’s selling in other regions for their other customers. Ask them for feedback on your product, service selection, and pricing. Ask your suppliers to educate your team so you can sell more.

Ask for deals and benefits

In my years of working with suppliers, I was often surprised when I asked for a deal from my supplier and was given something beyond my expectations.

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Your suppliers often have opportunities for special purchases, deals and benefits that are there for the asking. It could be co-op money for advertising, swag for your team, new jackets, shirts or even trips.

Find out what your suppliers’ benefits might be and tap into them.

Your suppliers want you to succeed and grow your business because when you buy more from them, pay your bills on time and take advantage of their offerings, they’re more likely to be successful as well.

By keeping our suppliers healthy through our support, we keep our industry healthy, and that supports increased innovation and overall growth.

Dave Fuller, MBA, is an award-winning business coach and a partner in the firm Pivotleader Inc. Stuck in your business? Email [email protected] to set up a confidential conversation. For interview requests, click here.

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