5 Tips to Build Strong Relationships With Suppliers


If you are a promotional products distributor, odds are you have asked yourself the following question – “Where do I find raw materials to produce products that fit my client requests?” We all know that having a potentially high revenue generating idea is only a small aspect of a fully functioning venture. Without redistributing your efforts to reach greater production yields and ultimately maximize on profitability, you will have a hard time growing in the industry. This is where suppliers come into the picture. These independent merchants can provide you with the stability you need to not only manufacture your trade, but to also identify promising opportunities for your partnership. As with any relationship, professional collaborations have a direct effect on your bottom line performance, therefore it is integral to establish a lasting accord with anyone who contributes to your success.

Of course cutting corners and angling deceitful avenues can allow for fleeting gains, though it is a sure way to tarnish your reputation in the field. And the promotional products industry is known for quickly determining key players and ridding of those who don’t contribute to community expertise. In order to achieve continuous returns, you need to get into a mindset of mutual cooperation!

Here are 5 tried and true ways of achieving a strong relationship with your supplier and maintaining it for years to come:1. Learn about your supplier

Before you place an order with a likely vendor it is good practice to learn as much as you can about their line of business. There are different types of suppliers that operate on an economy of scales that makes the most sense for their return on investments. You may choose to work with a standalone crafts-man that offers unique designs, versus a franchise merchant that abides by specific trademark laws. It is no telling which path will work best, because benefits can be reaped from both approaches, only you can truly identify your best match.

Another thing to keep in mind is your manufacturer’s established relationships in the marketplace. If your future partner is an emerging shop with little commercial dominance, chances are they are expecting further growth from their connection with your company. On the other hand, a larger establishment may have already worked out the terms of alliances with several different players in the field. This may either act as a catalyst in your future endeavors or may hinder your potential due to competing ideals.2. Exchange needs

It’s not surprising we often relate career driven pursuits to our personal affairs. A strong professional bond is like a marriage that can withstand the troublesome road to good fortune. And we all know that no marriage can work without a clear and honest exchange of faith. When you meet with your supplier, make sure to clearly set out a list of expectations for your joined alliance. At the same time, be open to hearing their side of the story and what they want to gain from your involvement. This stage cuts out unrealistic demand of future operations and gives an equal air of importance to both members.3. Communicate openly

The most common pitfall many first-time distributors face is loss of connection with their suppliers. Click To Tweet

It is very easy to get lost in the swing of daily client engagements and forget to inform your supplier on the overall state of transactions. Be sure to keep them in the loop of things that go on between you and your customers.  You don’t have to send a memo each time an insignificant edit is made on an order, but giving them a general overview of the process will make them secure in their involvement.  Another important element to communication is being willing to listen and learn from your vendor. No-one can sell and position the product as best as its manufacturer. Just as you may have the inherent skill of marketing and selling goods and services, your counterpart holds all the knowledge you need to bring your venture to life. Whenever possible, face-to-face contact can facilitate a great benefit to both parties. People like working with those they like, and they can only like a person by observing them in their natural state. So, take on the pleasant task of corporate meetings and lunches with full pledged dedication!4. Be prompt

Now is time to discuss for the second most common mistake of supplier- distributor relationships – sporadic payment schedules. When we were in school we surely got the concept of punctuality, probably because the alternative of not turning a paper in on time left us with vivid repercussions. However, as we got older, we also learned the idea of limits (they don’t exist, remember?) and how easy it is to manipulate them to our advantage. Now, when we find ourselves in the midst of endless obligations, seemingly trivial details just fall off our list of commitments. In the business world, delaying payments to any of your affiliates is something that can push them into someone else’s trustworthy hands. During the initial stages of your collaboration, manage your budget accordingly, so you are able to commit to each wholesale purchase.

On that note – promptness should read into your company culture. You can set yourself apart as a leader in the industry by making quick (but also reasonable) judgements on daily activities. For instance, if you happen to receive a defective product, do your due diligence and return it as soon as you find out about it. In doing so, you set the tone for your work ethic and minimize time spent monitoring minor details.5. Evaluate the relationship

The 5th and final step to achieving great comradery with your partners is to regularly asses your current relationships. Take time to analyze your supplier’s accomplishments and downfalls from their connection with your business. Was there a direct correlation with your engagement? If so, this knowledge can help you re-align your mission and uncover new opportunities. You can also expand your outlook to see if your merchants have joined forces with any champions of the trade. Staying up to date on recent networking endeavors in the space can open an area of competition or advantageous relations for your company.


Developing favorable relationships with your suppliers is not a simple feat. As with any strong bond, you have to give just as much as you take, to reach that perfect spot of equal playing ground. When you boil it down though, the better your rapport between one another, the more profitable your business will become in the long run.  So, take note of these 5 simple steps to achieve your firm’s desires. You can also run them by your marriage partner, you never know if they prove to be successful in both ventures!

For more tips on leading a profitable business, check out our post on the Secret Tools of Successful Entrepreneurs.

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