The three questions all print customers should ask at a supplier review meeting

Do you ever play charades?

In case any of you do not know the game, one person has to act out a book or a film or a character. Everyone else has to guess who they are. The actor can only signal yes or no.

If you want to win this game, you need to choose your questions carefully. The right questions can get you swift results. The wrong questions can leave you wondering was on earth was being acted.

Questioning is a vital skill for print buyers too.

The right questions get you the best results from supplier review meetings

What are the most useful questions to ask at a supplier review meeting?

What are the most useful questions to ask at a supplier review meeting?

Print buyers who ask the right questions at review meetings can create powerful partnerships with their suppliers. They also ensure that they have good control over their supply chain. When they have a complicated print project, they are likely to achieve what they need to.

Print buyers who fail to ask the right questions at review meetings find it more difficult to achieve what they need with their suppliers. They don’t have the same level of control over their supply chain. Their suppliers may not see the necessity of creating a good client relationship.

This is why it is vital to prepare correctly for a review meeting. It is vital to think about the right questions. Here are three questions that you will find useful as a supply review meeting. Some buyers may think that the first question should be asked by the supplier, not the client.

What can we do to help you?

Yes, this is a question that should be asked by the buyer. It is a great way to discover any inefficiencies in your organisation. Knowing about these and being able to correct them may have greater business gains than just helping your printer.

In addition, this brings your print supplier on side. They will understand that the supplier review is a genuine two-way process. They put the effort in to make it work. They will like the next question as well.

Tell me about your recent successes

This may seem a question that invites a supplier to boast. It may not seem to be terribly useful to the buyer. However, there are two important reasons for asking this question.

Firstly, you have a sense of how the company is performing. Has it had some good print projects recently? Is it busy? Does the company still have a culture of working with and helping its clients?

You will also get a sense of the most important things to the company in a print project. Are they focusing on the client’s business goals? Or are they simply interested inputting ink on paper.

Secondly, you may get some good ideas from other projects as to how you could do things better. You may be able to identify some efficiency savings. All you may be able to identify how to get a better return on the print you are using. That’s a great lead into the third question.

How can you help me save costs?

This one question can make a supplier review meeting pay for itself many times over. It is important to understand that this is not asking the supplier to cut its prices. Rather, you are looking at ways in which you can work more efficiently together.

This may not be directly related to printed items. It could be that there are better ways to distribute into your supply chain. Or it may be that the printer has invested in new technology which allows you to spend less time in managing jobs.

Once a print company understands that you are not just looking at beating them down on price, they can enjoy this process. I have frequently been very impressed at the great ideas that have been brought to the table.

Here’s how these questions helped me save money

Do you remember the magazine printer in my last article?  At the first review we resolved account handling issues. By the time of the second review we were able to start looking at how we could work better together.

When I asked how we could help them, the printer started talking about changing the schedules of certain jobs. At this point I listened, but I did not commit to anything.

Next, I asked the printer to talk about the recent successes. They talked about how they had worked with another publisher to reduce their costs. They had looked at scheduling magazines with the same specification at the same time. This allowed cheaper follow-on make ready costs.

I didn’t even have to ask the third question. I already had the answer. After the review meeting the printer and my team works together to review schedules. At the end of this project we were able to make substantial savings.

Despite successes such as this, some buyers may feel that I have missed an important part of the process.

Why aren’t you focusing more on supplier performance?

Supplier performance is very important. It should be a part of every supply review meeting. However, it is also important to regard a supply review as a two way process. It is important to look at how to use these meetings as a way to improve processes and reduce costs. That is why I have focused on these three questions.

Here are three action points to help you get the most out of these questions

  1. Take some time to work out the exact questions you want to use. Make sure you phrase them in a way that you are happy with.
  2. Put these questions in the agenda. You will have a more productive discussion if the supplier knows what you are going to ask. They will be prepared with the information you need.
  3. Review the answers after the review meeting with colleagues. Sometimes, my colleagues see opportunities that I may have missed.

A supply review can be a bit like a game of charades

If you ask the right questions, the printer may reveal something that you would have never guessed.
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