Good supplier relationships contribute to between 30% and 70% of a company’s gross profit. That eye-opening statistic comes from research carried out by State of Flux, a global procurement and supply chain consultancy.
The company’s research of 360 organisations shows that this contribution to profit comes in two ways. Firstly, a strong relationship between you and your supplier gives them the confidence that the relationship will continue; this is likely to lead to greater investment in the relationship on their part. Secondly, a good working relationship yields stronger collaborative working, which again yields all sorts of benefits.
Asked which benefits their organisation has derived from suppliers through their supplier relationship management, respondents said:
- Increased commitment and support from suppliers’ senior management (51%)
- Improved account management (51%)
- Proactive ideas for continuous improvement (46%)
- Collaborative problem-solving (45%)
- General increased commitment (‘going the extra mile’) (38%)
Clearly there are huge benefits to developing a great relationship with your suppliers.
Now, more than ever, the pressure is on to deliver innovative learning solutions that provide demonstrable business impact. You need to find a supplier that can do that. But finding great suppliers is not easy, partly because there is so much choice in the market. You need to put the time and effort in to find a supplier that will deliver what you need, one that believes in the importance of an effective working relationship. So how can L&D leaders develop relationships that deliver these kinds of benefits?
The State of Flux research provides some clues. It says the following skills are key to developing great supplier relationships:
- Strategic thinking
- Trust building
- Cross-functional working.
Here, at Bray Leino Learning, we distil these four skills into two ingredients that make a successful supplier relationship. They are: trust and working in partnership.
For blended solutions to work, you need to work hard at identifying the real business challenges you are trying to overcome. Your supplier can help you with this but it can only work if you trust each other. In a trusting relationship, your supplier will have the confidence to ask searching questions and bring challenge to the discussions.
Remember, your supplier will have cross-industry and cross-project experience which means they are in a good position to inject innovative thinking from other successful projects. A relationship built on mutual trust will enable innovation and collaborative problem-solving, which are key to solving your potentially complex performance problems.
Working in partnership
Every blended learning solution should be unique because every organisation is unique. No one performance challenge is the same because the organisational context is always different. That’s why sheep dip approaches to learning fail.
In order to shape the solutions that fit your organisational context you need to be able to work in partnership with your supplier. Partnership working is built on trust. It also requires great communication and transparency and collaborative working. Putting these elements in place will deliver solutions that are focused on the performance needs of the organisation rather than solutions that a supplier thought would work best.
The collaborative nature of partnership working means that you and your supplier can respond quickly to change. This is critically important if you want to be highly responsive to business need.
So, ask potential suppliers about how they build trust with their customers and how they work in partnership to shape the right blended solutions. You need to see evidence that they can do both.
When searching for potential suppliers, take note of how they describe their approach to working with their clients. Do they talk about working together in collaboration, for example?
What to look for
You will have a procurement process that involves due diligence, but way before you get to that stage you can identify whether or not a supplier has the knowledge and expertise you are looking for. By doing this you will save yourself some time later in the process. Don’t wait until a meeting with a potential supplier to find that they can’t do what you need them to do. Here’s what to look for:
Look at their website and social media profiles. What are they talking about? How are they talking about blended learning? Search the company on Google News to see if they have been in the news recently and why.
Thought leadership and expertise
Blended learning means very different things to different people, so find out how your potential blended learning supplier defines it. Hopefully, they will share their thinking, as blended experts, on their site or LinkedIn or at events. And find out if they are affiliated with any research organisations - the Towards Maturity Ambassador programme, for example.
Examples of the work
Any potential supplier should be able to provide you with relevant case studies and a list of the types of clients they work with. Again, all this information should be available on their website.
When it comes to blended learning, there is a lot of choice of suppliers. By focusing in on the elements that make supplier relationships successful - trust and working in partnership - you can identify the solutions that will work in your organisational context.
We'd love to show you some of our examples and chat to you about how Bray Leino Learning work and why we should be on your list of potential suppliers. Why not book a consultation with us to find out more?
Stephanie Morgan FLPI, Director of Learning Solutions, Bray Leino Learning
Sharing ideas and observations to help improve performance.
Copyright © 2017 Bray Leino Learning