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Why Networks Are a Great Place to Source Your Suppliers
How Do You Choose Your Suppliers?
What do you look for when choosing your suppliers? Do you have principles and filters written down to help you refine your decision making process?
Do you write out a brief for the procurement department or put together a tender document when you need to solicit new services or products?
Do you weigh up all the factors and allot a percentage against them to score the response to proposals or response to tenders?
Or maybe you post something in Facebook groups or on Twitter asking for recommendations?
Or maybe you just leave it to chance, Google, a neighbour’s recommendation…?
So my question is, have you ever thought about this in much detail?
There’s no doubt about it, there are lots of ways of sourcing suppliers, but one which isn’t often talked about is using your networks to source your suppliers.
With that in mind, I thought I’d delve into this topic and break it down as I see it about why networks are a great place to source your suppliers.
Is There Alignment?
For me, part of this process of understanding who I want to work with tracks back to me understanding my own values and beliefs, i.e. what I stand for. Why this is important is that I want to choose to work with people and organisations who are aligned to my value system.
For example, these are some of the traits that matter to me:
- Customer service
- Responsiveness to phone calls or emails
- Follow up
- Speed and ease of doing business
- Quality or work, product or service delivered
- Recognition and understanding that I’m the one liberating the cash from my pocket to pay for the service/product
- Listening to my requests and not telling me what I want
- Writing things down (hint for tradespeople!)
- Attentive follow up
- How employees and staff are treated – respect, diversity, inclusivity, integrity
- CSR policies, i.e. Corporate Social Responsibility, sustainabiility, ethics etc
And here’s why I believe that choosing suppliers from your networks is a great idea.
Which Supplier Would You Choose?
Let’s compare two arbitrary suppliers from the same sector or industry: they could be accountants, solicitors, website designers, HR consultants, plumbers, electricians, painters…anyone – you get my point I think! Who would you choose? Supplier A or Supplier B?
|Turns up consistently to the networking meetings||Turns up sporadically
|Actively listens to all his/her fellow networks and makes meaningful contributions||Is on his/her phone and only perks up for his/her 60 seconds|
|Arrives early to the networking meetings, whether they are online or in person||Arrives late or bang on time|
|Stays on after the meeting for some coffee chats||Is gone at the end of the meeting|
|Supports fellow networkers with introductions||Never makes introductions|
|Supports fellow networkers with social media activity, likes, comments||Isn’t on social media or doesn’t make any effort to support fellow networkers|
|Consistent in doing 1-2-1s||Always has an excuse for why 1-2-1s aren’t done|
Suppliers Unwittingly Tell Their Own Story
You can learn so much from how a person shows up and engages – or doesn’t – as the case often is.
Watching and becoming aware of what people are doing in your networks, tells its own story.
It’s Your Reputation
Remember, when you refer someone into one of your clients, it’s YOUR reputation that’s at stake, so who would you prefer to put forward? Someone who has shown themselves to be proactive, reliable, conscientious, trustworthy…or someone who…well isn’t?
Getting Business is Not An Entitlement
Let me take this a step further.
Many networks and people within networking groups, i.e. the networkers themselves, believe that getting business referrals and leads is an entitlement. Well, let me say this.
- Business is not an entitlement.
- Getting business and leads is earned.
I absolutely do not subscribe to two things:
- You must give the business you have to someone in your group.
- You must give your referrals to someone in your group.
Ideally this will be the case. However if I’m looking to have a website designed and I watch 10 different website company representations in action at networking groups, I can tell an awful lot by how they show up and engage. If I felt that the supplier fell into the Supplier B category, I wouldn’t be entrusting my business to them, nor would I feel comfortable in referring them in to my clients. Their engagement, their consistency and value system, as I mentioned earlier, does not align with mine.
Amongst the list above, I look at:
- Social proofing
- Showing up
- Communication skills
- Eye contact
- Active listening
- Follow up
Learn to Listen With Your Eyes
Time and time again, throughout training courses and mentoring that I carry out with clients, I encourage people to understand the concept of listening with your eyes. We are always told, as children, to listen more than we speak.
We have two ears, one month and we should use them in proportion.
This is true, but what I’ve learned with networking is that my eyes hear so much more than my ears ever could.
I see so many people who do their 60 second elevator pitch at networking meetings and then mentally switch off when they are finished. They have no interest in listening to anyone else or being engaged.
Would you want to work with someone like that?
Would you recommend someone like that?
I see so many people who only come at the start of the formal meeting and go as soon as it’s over. They don’t value the social aspect of networking…and yet, this is where the magic happens. This is where the relationship, that all important know, like and trust factor, as coined by Bob Burg, is built up.
I hope that I’ve been able to open up your mind about why networking is super important when choosing your suppliers. Ideally, you want to have suppliers who know how to become your business partners and allies. You want to change them as little as possible and set off on the right course together from the very start.
So the next time you are networking, be it online or in person, listen with your eyes.
People tell you everything about how they will treat your customers.
And if you’re anything like me, reputation matters. I don’t have time to waste on people who don’t want to partner with me and be outstanding suppliers.
This is why networks are a great place to source your suppliers.
Connecting With NetworkingJean
You can reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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