A motivated supplier is a helpful supplier. A motivated supplier is a supplier from whence cometh fewer service problems and quality nightmares.
Here are 7 ways to keep your supplier motivated.
Educate / Show
The client who shares knowledge with vendors is a client who motivates vendors.
This form of education gives vendors more knowledge of the product post-factory life.
China vendors and people in general can be very content to stay in the dark, even with situations on which they are very hands-on (i.e. not much incentive to self-educate and find out what’s what).
But take note; any education and guidance you give is not in vain. The factory appreciates this, will see you as a sincere customer and this will lead to more effort from their end to help the supply chain succeed.
Not to mention as a double bonus, any education you give on the product; the target market, who uses the product, how the product is used, etc…leads to better manufacturing and fewer problems.
You see, motivated supplier equals quality product (most of the time, anyway).
Everyone likes it when information they sent keeps a fluid motion and does not hit a dead end. Even if the order does not come to fruition, the China supplier appreciates it whenever their efforts are not wasted.
It is encouraging to keep the effort alive when you know there is someone on the other end putting the quote/sample/order possibility to good usage.
Too often, buyers push and push and then go silent whenever convenient. I do not mean a response of forward movement.
A response that the project is open and under works goes a long way.
Jumble, mumbled puzzles of emails, unclear confirmations and email attachments with no context are a turnoff to your vendor. If there is a lack of clarity in your communication, this can lead to low prioritization from the vendor and even worse, they’ll still handle your cases but do so half-heartedly!
“Well shouldn’t vendors strive to understand what I’m saying?” a buyer may honestly ask.
My answer would be; it depends on if you are a buyer worth understanding. Suppliers receive many inquiries from a wide range of buyers.
A lack of clarity is frequently a sign of an inexperience low-potential buyer.
Indications that a buyer is a capable buyer with partnership potential, keeps the supplier motivated.
Also keep in mind that in China, culturally, folks do not always take the initiative in asking questions.
Many times, your vendor may incorrectly fill in the blanks and keep trucking along…down a wrong path of course.
This goes hand-in-hand with clarity. Communicate in a to-the-point, matter-of-fact way. I call this evidence-based communication. Let everything you say have proof (photos, charts, mockups).
Bullet-point your emails and take out the fluff.
Remember, you’re emailing and communicating with an offshore vendor in the People’s Republic of China. You are not writing your memoirs.
Teamwork attitude (see less “us versus them” mentality)
In some respects, the vendor sales contact you work with, holds in their hand the success of the order (and your deposit!).
That’s a lot of responsibility.
Consider this sales contact more like a needful partner and treat and guide them to be as such.
That means problem solving together, succeeding together and even taking the responsibility together in some instances. Isn’t that teamwork?
As the world shrinks, we may need to start changing mindsets from traditional buyer / supplier to more of a partnership mentality.
Did I mention that from my experience this kind of mentality leads to supplier motivation, better quality and better service? Hard to beat that.
This is the kind of feedback that does not just give 1 word caveman grunts. It is also not the kind of dead end feedback that does not advance the project (ie “fix it!” or “this is wrong!” or “we’re disappointed”).
Instruction feedback shows what was right and also what was wrong. And when showing what is wrong, you help guide on how to get the wrong to be a right!
It’s not snapping the fingers and declaring a 1 word phrase but it is patient feedback that’s instructional and not afraid to take a few steps back in order to achieve quality going forward.
Being professional can cover many shortcomings you may have with your offshore vendor. This one may be hard to define and I think we can all self reflect and see how in this super casual world we can go back to being a bit more professional.
Perhaps somewhat formal.
Even a bit more polite.
It may mean taking our emotions off of our sleeve and checking pride a bit at the door.
Remember in international manufacturing, like it or not, you, as a buyer, are an ambassador.
Either for your country, your company, your brand or your customers, you are representing something.
People find it encouraging to work with people who are professional.
A professional encourages other hungry professionals or folks who at least have the desire, to mimic the good parts.
I hope this post motivates you to be motivating.
It has me.