3 Ways to Improve Communications with Suppliers

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Developing and maintaining strong supplier partnerships depends on a solid foundation of successful communication.

In our thirty years of experience at the table with clients and suppliers around the world, we’ve seen a range of outcomes where communications are concerned.  The impact is quite often more substantial than you may think, with some arguing that communications are the primary reason for a partnership’s success or failure.

Certainly, there is no shortage of recommendations out there for improving communications.  However, our three recommendations focus on suppliers and our observations over the years.

1. Recognize that communication is about understanding. 

In order for us to understand a perspective outside of our own, we need to actively listen.  We are all guilty of wanting to believe we’re right, but the mindful moment is when we realize that others think they are right as well.

Recognizing that communication is about understanding means that we allow all parties to express their position without judgement, interruption or disrespect.  Communication ceases to exist without this.

Ask yourself, what is their purpose as compared to yours at this particular moment?  Our clients and their suppliers often find their objectives are more similar than they thought.  With common ground, understanding is less stressful and more focused on problem solving.

Bonus: Taking time to listen and evaluate in any given situation actually saves time because it’s likely to avoid conflicts, miscommunication, etc.

2. Nonverbal communication counts.

In addition to managing our own nonverbal communications, it is helpful to assess the other party’s as well.

The tone of someone’s voice is considered nonverbal communication.  Be mindful of the tone in any communications, from email to face-to-face. Clarify before assuming. 

With operations in over thirty countries, we recognize there’s a heavy reliance on email.  But, when emails and regular phone calls fail to get the desired results, try Skype (or whatever similar) or an actual face-to-face before giving up.  The best communicators know exactly when to make that call.

3. Stay positive.  Seriously, stay positive.

Staying positive definitely sounds easier than it may be at times, especially when you’re facing production issues, shipment deadlines, etc.  Higher stress situations often send all of the regular rules of communications packing. You want your purchase order and you want it to match the specifications.  The supplier wants their payment and says you weren’t specific enough.  What’s there to smile about in this situation?

Well, take a moment and consider the effect of not smiling in this situation.  Not staying positive has a much higher incidence of the situation not getting resolved in an ideal manner.  Even if you feel like you’ve gotten what you wanted in any given situation, the future of the relationship  may have suffered because you didn’t think about the long-term investment.  There’s often significant value there.   And, consider that even if you don’t value this particular relationship, it is entirely possible to believe that your negative reaction will result in a poor perception of your organization to your stakeholders.  That’s not good.

So, be positive… Take that extra moment to process the effect that being negative will have on the situation and rest assured you do catch more flies with honey.

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