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Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Are your suppliers afraid to say no?

A comment left on yesterday's blog and subsequent tweets lead to one tweet last night that said I 'wish the 'n' word was used more' by suppliers. This morning Christine Tacon was named as supermarket ombudsman and said in an interview on the BBC today that she had been brought in to address the climate of fear where suppliers were afraid to say no. 

There's only one answer to bullies and that's to say enough and no. To hold your ground and know that they only bully because they need a fix of belittling others. To know that their self worth is lower than yours - otherwise why else would they be bullying you.

Yet it's not as simple as that is it?

The fear of the reprisal or the outcome of saying no is often a bigger motivator than the fear of yet more bullying behaviour and the impact that has on the business or individuals health and self esteem. The perceived outcome that suppliers fear can take many forms:
  • Losing turnover
  • Not being able to pay the bills
  • Losing their job or business
  • Being responsible for redundancies
  • Losing their own home and security 
Christine Tacon has only been brought in to stop the bullying (my term not hers) once a contract has been signed which for many I speak to is far too late. The bullying behaviour can start much much earlier.

Not every purchaser who asks for lower costs, however, is a bully even if the supplier says yes when they mean, and should be shouting a very loud, NO.

The solution as I see it involves:
  • Businesses need to consider the metrics they use to determine success because from where I'm sitting they currently drive some very odd and counterproductive behaviours.
  • Purchasers can't continue to use the excuse that they are only looking after themselves and therefore so should the supplier. 
  • Purchasers need to understand that power brings responsibility and that responsibility doesn't stop at the office door it also includes our suppliers.
  • Purchasers need to understand the financials of the businesses they wish to deal with and undertake cost analysis so they understand the impact of the targets they're asking for.
  • Suppliers need to understand the same and share it with their customers. 
  • Suppliers need to understand their resistance to saying no and deal with them because ultimately if the answer really is no they need to say it.
I would love to hear your examples of saying, or not saying, no to purchasers.

Alison Smith
The Purchasing Coach
Inspiring change inside and out in buyer and supplier relationships

Picture source and interesting blog on the 8 essential strategies for saying no: freelanceswitch.com via Alison on Pinterest

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