Sometimes the Cantankerous Supplier is Right!

Even if they are too late with respect to demonstrating their correctness.

But let’s back up. Recently, on the Purchasing Certification Blog, Charles penned a great post on the real reason buyers don’t want to give suppliers feedback, which, in his words, were


where the crap in question was the salesperson effectively saying, with their incessant badgering that no other company can produce the same product of the same quality at the same price with the same service, that you are stupid. You don’t know how to make a good decision and you don’t know how to evaluate prospective suppliers.

As Charles’ points out, it happens all too often, and most of the time, the supplier is full of crap. But sometimes the supplier isn’t — and this is often true in custom manufacturing and services. I see it in IT all the time. The buyer doesn’t really understand what’s involved in building or customizing a piece of enterprise software or system and goes with one of the low bids and ends up getting a stinking pile of crap that not only costs 50% more due to project and budget overruns, but is delivered full of bugs, doesn’t include 20% of the originally specified functionality, and takes three times as much manpower to support as it should. In the end, by the time all of the extra service and support costs are factored in, it costs three times as much as the high bid from the one firm that really understood what it was doing. The same is true in custom manufacturing. There are some corners that can’t be cut, and accepting a bid that does so leads to long term cost ramifications.

However, the supplier should still back off once the buyer has made an award decision, even if it is the wrong one. Because it is not the buyer who made the stupid decision, but the supplier. If the supplier truly had a better product of a better quality at a better price and service level, then the supplier should have taken the time to provide the buyer with the education she needed to understand that when the supplier had the opportunity. Instead of chest thumping about how great they are and how they are so much better than the competition, the supplier shouldn’t have even tried to sell at all. They should have said “we know we can meet your needs better than any of our competitors, but that’s not important. What’s important is that you understand why we can do that. For you to truly understand how we are better, you need to understand what the major drivers of cost, quality, and service are around this product. So we’re going to help you with that.” And if they truly were the best solution, then the buyer should be able to see that and choose them. (And if they truly were the best solution and the buyer didn’t see it, is that a buyer the supplier really wants to be working with?)

And regardless of whether or not the supplier has the best solution or not, once the buyer makes her decision, the supplier has to back off, and this is the only appropriate response from the supplier.

“We’re very sorry to hear that you chose someone else. We still believe we could provide you the best overall value with respect to your needs and would appreciate the opportunity to try again at the appropriate time. Could you let us know when you expect to be going out to market again for this product so we can contact you again at the appropriate time to request the RFP? Also, if your chosen supplier proves unable to meet all of your needs, please feel free to reach out to us at any time. Thank you again for the opportunity and we hope to have another opportunity to compete for your business again in the future.”

Anything more and the buyer has every right to blacklist the supplier.

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