March 2, 2020

How you treat suppliers affects something important:

Your bottom line

Editor’s note: A landscape supplier sent in this piece unsolicited, along with an anonymity request: “I have penned an article that might cause a bit of a stir, but should be put out there. As a long-time salesperson, this industry is more and more treating suppliers like cattle. It would be nice to give some pause for thought.” This person is straight-up, and totally committed to customer success. 
Everything we do at Landscape Trades is based on understanding how hard it is to run a landscape business. So, for our New Products issue, this space goes to a landscape supplier — an essential role, and it’s not easy for them, either.
We are all under pressure. No matter how successful, the stresses of cash flow, sales growth, profit, regulations, staffing (the list is almost endless), make running a company difficult. Every business relies on its suppliers — a lot. If goods and services aren’t delivered in a seamless fashion, it affects your company’s performance.
Landscape companies range from one-person operations to multi-million dollar corporations. Quite often, suppliers deal with the entire range.
But how landscape companies deal with suppliers has a bigger effect than many of us realize. How are you, as business owners, to deal with? Which profile below do you fit? Be honest!
Are you The Customer from Hell?
Not paying your bills. “I will pay so-and-so later; they can wait.” The most damaging thing a company can do, by a country mile, is not pay its bills in a timely manner. Sure, it’s common to be short of cash on occasion, but when it’s a recurring theme, it’s a real problem. Rest assured, if you make a habit of slow pay, you are going to pay more for your product. If it gets bad enough, at some point you will be cut off, and have the wrath of collection agencies after you. Should you decide to simply change suppliers, consider that a relatively small group of specific suppliers talk to each other, and you could well end up out in the cold.
Forcing suppliers to constantly chase you for money gets old … really old. And you can take this one to the bank: There will be a day when you really need a favour from a certain supplier. If you jerked him around, chances are pretty good you will be SOL.
Beating the living pulp out of your supplier on price. Sure, you don’t want to pay any more than you have to, but respecting your suppliers’ needs to make a sliver of profit will build better relationships. Be cognizant of distributors who are getting squeezed from both ends; blaming them for what you think are exorbitant prices is often misdirected. If, for a few dollars, you jump ship from your current supplier who has treated you well, don’t expect any favours should you need to come back. Good suppliers covet loyal customers and will bend over backwards when need be.
Demanding first-class service at coach prices. Keep it up. When you are really in a pinch one day, you can likely kiss that one goodbye.
Forcing your supplier to absorb freight. Ok, that can be done, but if your shipment sizes vary, it is guaranteed you will pay more than necessary for that little luxury.
Never return calls … even to your best supplier. Your better suppliers will not hound you needlessly. If you get a call, chances are pretty good there’s something in it for you, too.
A supplier’s dream customer:
  • Pays the bills on time.
  • Doesn’t constantly badger on price.
  • Is pleasant, courteous, and appreciates good products and service.
  • Is a good communicator.
Are you all of these, or even one or two?
And people: If you have a salesperson who knows his or her stuff, serves you promptly and professionally, and is respectful of your time, then you have a winner. Treat that person like one.  
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