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As a business owner, it’s natural to prioritise the relationships you have with your colleagues - especially if you’re looking to curate a positive work culture. But it’s important not to overlook your buyer-supplier relationships in the process. The last thing you want is to run into any supplier problems in business, so it’s important to prepare for any obstacles that may come your way.

Your suppliers are an extension of your team, there to help you achieve business growth, so you’ll want to have a close relationship with them. Issues like delays and miscommunication can affect not just your supplier relationships, but your business’ reputation. Understanding the challenges of buyer-supplier relationships can help you prepare for potential problems. 

Below, we’ll cover the following key challenges of supplier relationship management and how you can resolve them:

  1. Communication challenges

  2. Quality control and consistency challenges

  3. Challenges with pricing

  4. Unexpected challenges and disruptions

  5. Relationship management and trust building

  6. Insufficient immersion and supplier training

  7. Conflict over contracts

With our tips, you’ll know how to rectify these common issues to ensure a smoother process and relationship between you and your suppliers.

1. Communication challenges

Strong communication between yourself and your suppliers is crucial for business success. Communicating effectively helps build a trusting, long-term relationship where you’re both working towards shared business goals. Ensuring you maintain regular, effective communication with your suppliers can encourage smooth operations, and reliable and timely delivery of goods or services. 

There are several challenges you may encounter when communicating with your suppliers. A common challenge is not being aligned when it comes to expectations. For example, you and your supplier may have misinterpreted delivery schedules or quality standards, which can leave you disappointed or frustrated when it comes to receiving the product or service. With this in mind, ensuring you clearly define your communication expectations can help you avoid misunderstandings. 

Other communication issues may be caused by language or cultural barriers, especially if your supplier is based abroad. Misinterpreting language choices or cultural norms can lead to misunderstandings and disagreements. It’s therefore important to be patient with one another, clearly explain your expectations and ensure mutual respect to overcome any communication challenges along the way.

2. Quality control and consistency challenges

Maintaining consistent quality across your products or services is vital and a key element of customer retention, as your customers will expect a certain level of quality to continue doing business with you. Ensuring your products or services consistently meet your customers’ expectations influences your brand’s reputation, so you must address any quality control or consistency challenges as soon as possible, should they arise.

An issue you may encounter is supply chain variability, whereby the quality or availability of the materials, components or services you receive from suppliers is inconsistent. Should you spot any inconsistencies in your supply chain, make sure you flag them as soon as possible so they can be rectified. 

To mitigate inconsistencies and ensure that your supply chain operates smoothly, be sure to monitor your supplier performance. You may choose to create supplier performance measures to determine whether your supplier is meeting your quality expectations.

When measuring supplier performance, make sure your measures are SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-based. An example of this would be identifying a business need, such as improved quality or consistent quality, and a SMART metric you may use for this may be a 10% reduction in product returns within 12 months. 

3. Challenges with pricing 

The cost of living crisis has naturally impacted businesses across the UK, so if you’re looking for ways to cut costs as a company you certainly aren’t alone. Nearly one in five trading businesses reported that their overall performance had decreased in February 2023 compared to the previous year, proving that economic decline has significantly impacted business growth across the UK. With this in mind, you’ll likely want to avoid any pricing issues with your suppliers as much as possible. These challenges may include cost fluctuations, whereby the price your supplier charges you for their services changes, or suppliers refusing to negotiate on pricing. 

Your procurement costs, the costs of acquiring goods and services from external suppliers, are often seen as a primary focus when it comes to cost reduction. If you’re looking to reduce your spending, make sure the processes or product quality aren’t affected. If you’re looking to reduce procurement costs and avoid any issues in the process, maintaining a strong buyer-supplier relationship is key. The better relationship you have with your suppliers, the more open they’ll be to negotiate on pricing. Communicate clearly, keep them informed of your business’ objectives and budgets and be sure to pay them on time.

4. Unexpected challenges and disruptions

Supply chain or supplier disruptions can threaten the delivery of goods and services, and ultimately impact your business’ reputation and profitability. Supply chain disruptions fall into four main categories:

  • Economic: Economic issues such as a recession, a supplier going bankrupt, or any other financial events or factors that impact the progress of the supply chain. 

  • Environmental: Natural disasters such as earthquakes, floods and hurricanes, can damage factories, disrupt transportation networks and lead to delays.

  • Political: Political risks are anything political that impacts the supply chain, such as civil unrest, conflict and terrorism or government instability. 

  • Ethical: Ethical risks or concerns may be the use of child labour or unsafe working conditions. 

Priortise relationship building - transparency and communication are key when it comes to mitigating risks within the supply chain. There are steps you can take to mitigate the above risks, for example, you may choose to find suppliers closer to home to avoid shipping delays caused by natural disasters. 

5. Relationship management and trust building

As we’ve mentioned, nurturing your supplier relationships really is the key to long-term success. But several challenges may stand in the way of maintaining the buyer-supplier relationship you desire, including:

  • Communication issues: A supplier misinterpreting what you’ve said can cause issues, especially if they perceive you as rude. The same can be said for differences in language or communication style.

  • Reliability: You’ll expect a certain level of quality when it comes to your suppliers, and the same can be said for what they expect from you as a buyer. They’ll expect you to pay them on time and provide clear expectations of what you’re looking for. Should you deviate from these expectations, you may run into some issues.

  • Transparency: For you to trust each other, you’ll need to be mutually transparent. This means being open and honest with your suppliers when it comes to your expectations, feedback and priorities. You’ll also expect the same from your suppliers when it comes to pricing, any issues and lead times. Failing to be honest with each other can cause problems long-term.

  • Conflict resolution: You may find you and your suppliers run into misunderstandings or disagreements from time to time, which is only natural. How you deal with these conflicts, however, can either strengthen or weaken your relationship. Make sure you openly communicate with each other and resolve any issues as soon as possible. 

Looking to improve your buyer-supplier relationships? BSC is the ideal platform to foster and grow your supplier relationships. Our marketplace connects you with like-minded, reliable suppliers that you can trust to deliver the best possible service. 

6. Insufficient immersion and supplier training

Suppliers and businesses can’t collaborate and work as one team without thorough immersion and supplier training. When onboarding suppliers, make sure you inform them of the ins and outs of your business, including its objectives and requirements. Offering only a brief introduction may seem like a time-saver, but could cost you long-term, especially if your supplier doesn’t understand your needs. Make sure you factor in enough time to fully introduce your supplier to your brand so they understand what you’re about and how they’ll play a part in your business’ growth and success.

7. Conflict over contracts

Both you and your supplier should feel completely happy with the agreement in place. To avoid any issues when it comes to contracts, you must read through everything (even the boring bits!) carefully before you sign. Make sure you give suppliers the time to process the contract information fully and avoid pressuring them to sign - doing so could put them off working with you altogether. The more patience you have, the stronger your relationship will be in the long run.

Let’s wrap things up

Building and maintaining supplier relationships takes consistent effort, effective communication and transparency. By fostering a culture of trust and collaboration, you can work together with your suppliers to meet your business goals. 

BSC takes the hassle out of finding the right supplier for the job. Browse our marketplace today to connect with vetted, reliable suppliers who can help your new business thrive. 

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