How supplier evaluation forms prevent wasted meetings with print sales people

Have you ever sat in a meeting with a supplier staring at the clock?  Have you ever wished the meeting would end quickly?  And regretted ever having agreed to it in the first place?

This used to happen to me quite a few times.  A supplier would ring me up.  They would sound interesting.  So I’d invite them in for a chat.  And I would then find myself enduring a lengthy sales pitch.  Even though I had realised in the first five minutes of the meeting that the supplier was not going to be a fit for what I needed.

Now I never have pointless meetings like this.  And that’s because I find out lots about potential suppliers before I meet with them.  I make sure I already know how they work.  And exactly what they offer.

I use supplier evaluation forms

Use supplier evaluation forms to avoid feeling like this when talking to print companies

Print Buyers who use supplier evaluation forms can control the number of meetings they have more effectively.  They will have highlighted many of the suppliers who would be wasting their time.  So they won’t have to spend pointless time with them.

It also means that they will be able to focus their meeting time on the right suppliers.  Suppliers with whom they are likely to form a worthwhile relationship.  So they’ll be more likely to form good partnerships with these suppliers.  Both suppliers and printing companies will achieve more with their time.

Print buyers who don’t use supplier evaluation forms will find that they achieve less with their time.  They risk being frustrated at the number of meetings that they have.  And they’ll realise that they should have avoided many of these meetings.  They won’t have the time to focus on building good relationships with the print companies that are useful to them.

And they could have avoided this situation if they had used a supplier evaluation form.

What is a supplier evaluation form?

A supplier evaluation form is the first stage in my 1-2-3-4 system for choosing a print company.  It is simply a set of questions to which a potential print company must respond.  This allows a print buyer to understand many areas of the company including:

  • Equipment
  • Quality controls
  • Environmental policies
  • Financial stability
  • Disaster recovery

It’s a way of finding out which companies will fit with your requirements.  And which companies are unlikely to work well with you.

However, you need to know how to get the best out of a supplier evaluation form.

What is the best way to use a supplier evaluation forms?

The most effective way to use this form is to send it out whenever a printer approaches you.  This will mean that you have all the important information about a company quickly.

Once you have received the form it should be reviewed to see whether you wish to take things further with the printer.  The first method to find this out is to request “automatic fail” information.  A print company would be automatically excluded if they could not answer correctly.

If a supplier doesn’t have a particular piece of equipment it may not be able to produce your products.  So there would be no point in taking things further with them.  Equally, you may require printing companies to demonstrate minimum levels of quality control.  Or minimum levels of environmental practice.

If a print company passes all these questions, you may wish to score it.  All questions would be marked out of 10.  (Or some questions would have higher scores depending on their importance).  Print companies would need to reach a minimum score to be considered further.

You may wish to make sure that more than one person scores a form, to prevent a one-sided decision.  For high profile tenders, the scorers may not have the company names revealed to them.  This makes sure that everything is completely fair.

This may seem a little over the top!  Sometimes a quick review of a form will make it clear whether you should meet a company or not.  But your decision is dependent on the accuracy of the information.

Can suppliers give false answers?

It is possible to be misleading when filling in a form like this.  However, this form should be followed up by references, a meeting and a factory visit.  So any attempts to gloss over issues will be found out later on in the process.

However, it is important not to rely solely on a supplier evaluation form.  You need the rest of the 1-2-3-4 process as well.

But it is this stage of the process that some suppliers are suspicious of.

Isn’t this reducing supplier selection to a box-ticking exercise?

This can be a fair accusation if questions are not structured correctly.  I always prefer not to have straight yes/no questions.  I might want a supplier to demonstrate that they are environmentally friendly.  The easy way to do this would be to ask a supplier if they were ISO14001 certified.  If they weren’t then they would be excluded.

I believe that this is unfair.  A print company should be given a chance to demonstrate good environmental practice, even if they do not hold a certification.

But before you start developing questions in this way you need to start with the basics.

Here are three action points to get you going

  1. Highlight the five must have qualities of your suppliers
  2. Ask a colleague to comment on these qualities
  3. Transfer these down into questions

You’ll then have the start of your supplier evaluation form.  But you may still be wondering about one issue

What questions should you ask your suppliers?

I will cover this in my next article.

In the meantime, you can rest easy that you won’t suffer pointless supplier meetings like I used to!

If you’d like to receive more practical advice on print buying, make sure you subscribe to the Print & Procurement newsletter.  You’ll also receive our free pdf report “Ten Common Print Selling Errors and What To Do About Them”.

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