Three reasons why print buyers should challenge supplier choice

My daughter was about to burst into tears

I had asked her what flavor of ice cream she would like. She gave me the same answer that she always did. “I want chocolate please, Daddy” she had said. But the shop had sold out of chocolate. In her eyes this was a major crisis.

Using my best powers of persuasion, I managed to get her to accept a strawberry ice cream instead.

The response was amazing!  The tears vanished.  A massive smile crossed her face.  She was in love with strawberry ice cream. Now chocolate is forgotten, and she always chooses strawberry instead.

My daughter’s reluctance to try new flavours before this meant that she had missed many opportunities to enjoy strawberry ice cream. It can be the same with print buyers.  Sometimes we stay in our comfort zones.  That means we miss out on the opportunity to try new and better solutions.

That’s why print buyers should always challenge their supplier base

Sometime print buyers act just like my daughter when she chooses ice cream

Sometime print buyers act just like my daughter when she chooses ice cream

Print buyers who challenge their suppliers often achieve more with their budgets.  They often come up with new solutions for their clients.  They are more likely to be regarded as an important part of the project planning team.  They will have good relationships with their clients.

Print buyers who do not challenge their supplier base are less likely to have these good relationships.  They are more likely to be regarded as order placers.  They are likely to achieve less with their budgets.

Here are three reasons to challenge your supplier base.

New suppliers bring new ideas

Printing companies are always keen to become one of your suppliers.  That means will often try hard to come up with new solutions.

They may be able to challenge a specification in any of the previous ways that I have written about.  They may be able to lower your costs, improve ROI or rework fulfillment.

But it’s not just their ideas that can help you.

Existing supplier relationships can become too comfortable

Sometimes relationships just tread water.  They don’t go anywhere.  It can be very tempting for both parties to put the minimum of effort into the relationship.

This situation changes if existing suppliers know that a buyer is regularly looking at new printing companies.  They know that they have to keep working hard to stay on your preferred supplier base.  They will be keen to put more into the relationship.  They will be working hard to win every job that they can.

Naturally, it would be wrong for them to win every job.

Printing companies can win the wrong jobs

Not all projects are suited to the same vendor.  However, sometimes this only becomes apparent if a new supplier comes to the table.  In my early days of print buying I needed to meet a lot of suppliers to understand how different jobs related to press sizes.

If you are not familiar with all types of printing equipment it is always worth discussing a job with a new company.

However, some buyers strongly object to the idea of challenging their supplier base.

Shouldn’t a buyer be loyal to their suppliers?

I am certainly not suggesting that someone should change printing vendors at the drop of a hat.  Existing suppliers should always be given every chance to retain their work.

However, a regular challenge sometimes reveals that some suppliers are just not right for your requirements.  You may also find the need for a new type of supplier.

Loyalty is a good characteristic for a buyer to have.  Blind loyalty is not. Let’s see an example of this.

Here’s how challenging the supplier base made a big difference to one company

I was asked to review the vendor base at a print management company.  Naturally the buying team did not believe that I would be able to make a difference.

It turned out that they buying team were a bit too relaxed.  Many of the team had favourite suppliers that they used as often as possible.  Those suppliers knew they were likely to win the work without having to put much effort in.  Often they were being sent jobs that were completely unsuitable for their presses.

After the review, we highlighted a number of vendors that were pricing far above the average market price.  We also identified jobs that were being sent to the wrong vendors.

I constructed a set of matrices that automatically chose the right vendor for a job.  It also created price standardisation. On some jobs we created savings of over 25%.

Here are three ways to get you started on challenging your suppliers

  1. Create a list of potential new suppliers
  2. Make a date to see a new supplier once a month
  3. Let your existing suppliers know that you are challenging them

Trying out new solutions can be very positive

Who knows, my daughter may even find a flavor of ice cream that she likes even better than strawberry!
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