Ian Cowley gives some guidance on expanding your network of suppliers.
For your business to grow, you must always be looking for ways to expand your supplier database so you can source the best deals and build the most fruitful relationships. We invest a lot of time in a dedicated approach and wanted to share our five top tips.
1. Do some detective work
A good way to find new suppliers is through your competitors. This is where the need for detective work kicks in. Generally, the companies operating in your marketplace will try and keep their contacts under wraps. So dig around. Place an order through them and then inspect the packaging to work out who is the supplier they use for the service you need help with.
2. Ask – what have you got to lose?
When you’ve found a potential supplier, get in touch and ask them to outline their client database. This works as a reference, allowing you to gauge their reputation, the type of accounts they can handle and their price point. Don’t be afraid to ask. You’re in a position of power since it’s a buyers market. You could even go as far as to ask who their competitors are and immediately double your contact book!
3. Go to trade shows
Trade shows can be a rich source of suppliers. One day of your time trawling the exhibition floor can deliver a fantastic return in terms of potential suppliers. You can often find a calendar of relevant shows listed in print and online trade titles, along with a full list of exhibitors.
4. …But do your research
It’s crucial that you do your research before signing up to any shows. Are the people exhibiting the people you need at the moment? Will attending help you achieve your specific goals? Make sure you ask these questions to avoid wasting your time and money in a wasted trip.
Oh – as a little aside, do be careful who you give your business card to. I made the mistake of handing out my details to numerous Asian suppliers and spent the next two months fending off sales calls in the middle of the night!
5. Get social with LinkedIn
In our opinion, LinkedIn is currently the best social media channel for B2B business use. If you’re yet to sign up, what are you waiting for? Sign up, build an accurate profile and then ask your existing networks to provide endorsements. This will make it easier for prospective suppliers to find you.
Take advantage of LinkedIn’s advanced search tool, a ready-made platform to expand your contact book. Within minutes, it will allow you to build a comprehensive network of competitors, manufacturers and key people within your sector. What’s more, once you’re connected, you can see others’ contacts.
LinkedIn also offers you a platform to position yourself as an authority within your industry through the use of ‘groups’ – further raising your profile to potential suppliers. You are limited to joining 50 so make sure they’re all relevant and use them to start discussions that attract interaction from the right people.