You've done all the bids and research necessary to find the supplier who's exactly right for you—from great selection to top-notch account management, they have it all. But after a few months with the dream team, you start seeing shipments showing up from other suppliers, undermining your hard work, your supplier relationship, and most of all, potentially eating away at bottom-line benefits. Ouch! So what can you do to help standardize supply relationships and get the most from your purchasing? There are a few ways.
Depend on your account manager – Your vendor's account management team should be your first resource for getting the most out of your purchasing. Talk to your account manager to see if they have communication resources and informational pieces available that can help educate your end users about their purchasing options and what the supply relationship means for your business. Odds are, they've helped other businesses just like yours tackle these challenges and have expertise, advice and best practices that can help you, as well!
Talk to your end users – If you're talking to your account manager about getting everyone on the same page when it comes to buying supplies, it's important to talk to your stakeholders and end users, as well. Do they have strong feelings about where, when and how they buy? Understanding their preferences and what's motivating them to go rogue can help identify issues and opportunities that your account manager may ultimately be able to help with—and it may also help you to identify what blind spots there are within your organization when it comes to the particulars of how your office get stocked up.
Use the tools at hand – From consumer shopping to business supplies, today's buying experience has moved well beyond catalogs and phone calls and into sophisticated ecommerce offerings that help you do everything from reorder frequently used items to researching product alternatives. It can be all too easy to utilize your ordering site only as an online catalog, but using all your web tools can streamline your organization; enhancements like online ordering with retail store pickup, mobile app ordering, digital printing, ink/toner finder, shopping lists and more are easy time-savers and great compliance tools.
Research a membership model – Finally, research the options available to you through your supplier. While paid membership models are not a good fit for every business, smaller and mid-size businesses can often benefit from the additional services, discounts and savings offered through paid membership with their supplier. As business-to-business memberships have developed over time, they have begun to be more complex than a simple discount program, often incorporating access to services and resources smaller business might not ordinarily be able to attain on their own. Ultimately these types of programs can help your end users can see compelling, immediate advantages and opportunities inherent in buying through the established program.
There are countless more ways to maximize your purchasing for more benefits, and you are likely to discover those additional ways while counting on your supplier to act as your expert advisor—but these four ways are a solid start to building a streamlined, unified supply program for your office, ensuring that you stay on time and on budget for everything you need to keep running smoothly!