What Suppliers Think Of Buyers

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Author: Margaret Gilbert 

When it comes to procurement buyers are inclined to think about what they need – which is natural enough – but do not spend enough time to think about suppliers. It makes you wonder whether buyers would or should be surprised as to what suppliers think about buyers. It might be a bit of a worry.

So, the following is a bit of a guide in which it would be useful for buyers to pay attention to.

We might well find that supplier perceptions of procurement practitioners could be eye opening and a bit uncomfortable. This should not stop buyers from gaining valuable feedback and ideas.

What suppliers want from buyer from the tender process?

After listening to many suppliers there are issues that suppliers require from buyers, they are:

  1. Consistency.
  2. Fairness.
  3. Plenty of time to respond.
  4. Understanding of expectations.
  5. Clear tender document and especially clearly expressed scope of work.
  6. Reasonable time for completion of contract requirements.
  7. Access and communication at the right levels – the decision makers.
  8. Abiding by schedule within tender document.
  9. Input into contract conditions.
  10. ‘Playing by the rules’.
  11. Pinching ideas – retaining intellectual property and commercial advantage.
  12. Reasonable timeframe of tender process.
  13. Appropriate feedback on tender submissions particularly if the tender was unsuccessful.

 

It is interesting to note that the above can be classified under the requirement to have a fair, equitable and transparent process.

Major issues for suppliers are:

  1. Reasonable timeframe of tender process – there is a perception from suppliers that the tender process is more time consuming than it needs to be and the schedule is often ignored.
  2. The short length of time given to respond to tenders. Suppliers are often given short time-frames which makes it difficult to comply with. Buyers need to understand the time it takes for suppliers to provide information.
  3. Lack of clarity on tender expectations – what is the buyer really asking for? Documentation to be clear and specific.  It is difficult for suppliers to produce a clear proposal response when the scope is vague.
  4. Evaluation – it can only be beneficial for buyers to explain the evaluation process. The benefit of this is that suppliers know when it is expected and how the buyer will evaluate the tender and buyers will not receive phone calls asking about the process.
  5. Ensure confidentiality during the tender period and during the contract period – suppliers consider – and sometimes rightly – that buyers can and do pinch their ideas. There is some accuracy to this claim (and case law). Buyers can aggravate the supply chain by not respecting the suppliers’ intellectual property by revealing confidential information. It is important for buyers to recognise the investment of time and money that suppliers make to put in a bid. This effort and expense should be recognised and not valued in a professional manner. Failure to do this will drive good suppliers away. Better communication to ensure better understanding of buyer and supplier requirements.
  6. Playing by the rules – suppliers feel frustrated and happy to play by the rules but often find that the rules change from the known contractual process.

Of the points raised above, it would be fair to say that what suppliers want from buyers is … consistency and fairness.

What suppliers want from the contract

It is in both sides best interest to have mutual input into the contract which will provide ‘buy in’ of both parties especially in respect to contract conditions.

Input into contract – suppliers would like some input into the contract which after all is an agreement between the two parties.  Buyers however can be arrogant and provide a contract without giving an opportunity to suppliers to discuss.

Unrealistic contract periods that requires completion with a very short time-frame.  This often occurs in the period leading up to the end of the financial year – the need for government departments – and other organisations as well – to spend money prior to provision of new budgets. Better planning would reduce this issue.

Buyers need to make sure that the contractual process is concluded within a reasonable timeframe and keep suppliers informed of any change.

Pinching ideas – suppliers consider –and sometimes rightly – that buyers can and do pinch their ideas.  There is some accuracy to this and buyers can aggravate the relationship by doing this. Buyers need to understand the time it takes for suppliers to provide information and that information is not theirs for the taking. Recognition of where the idea comes from is highly appreciated and results in a mutually respectful relationship.

The risk here for buyers is that supplies concerns are not listened to and buyers might find that suppliers do not want to participate.

Moving on… there is plenty to think about in respect to this.

We can be in danger of having suppliers that do not want to work with us – because buyers do not listen, they do not learn and suppliers will go elsewhere where the procurement process is fairer, and does not require them to jump through so many hoops.

It should be remembered that suppliers are ‘partners’ to buyers, but the actions of buyers does not correspond with that objective.

Suppliers want to work with buyers but feel frustrated that the procurement process is very one way.

What can be done?

There is room for improvement and it would not take much to make an improvement(s).

Buyers should be more inclusive and one way to do that is to make the procurement process simpler.

The question is: why does the procurement process have to be so overly complicated? Yes, because of transparency, I hear you saying, but having a transparent process can occur without the process being overly complicated.

Could it be that it is buyers who over complicate the process just because they can? Or, is it to make themselves look ‘busy’? If we spent more time rolling out a procurement strategy rather than being a ‘rock in the road’ procurement could be undertaken in a better working environment.

Suppliers on the whole have issues with how procurement is undertaken. It is important to remember that just because you might not hear the grumbles, the grumbles are there.

The question is:  what are you (or procurement) going to do about this? It should be a case of taking a hard look at buyer actions rather than being prepared to put all the blame for procurement ills at the feet of the supplier.

It is time to be honest.

Buyers have to remember that they need suppliers and it wold be useful now and then to tune into their thinking. Buyers might achieve more by being prepared to listen and learn.

 

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