It’s my least favorite part of my daily routine: the dreaded cold calls and emails from names and domains I don’t recognize. They come in throughout the day — increasing my inbox’s unread email count from five to 73 to 198. More often than I’d care to admit, I barely read more than the first sentence before it’s clear that it’s a salesy email from a staffing firm.
Standard protocol. My only option to be fair and efficient is to forward them to my MSP’s supplier management team, which keeps track of interested partners. They craft an email back to the supplier that says, “Thank you, our client isn’t adding new vendors right now — sorry.”
Predictably, the supplier then creates bots to send follow-ups. Then we get irritated because we referred the initial email to our MSP supplier management team — why are they reaching out again? The supplier then gets annoyed because it seems we aren’t even paying attention — “Hello! My firm can do so many things!”
But the messaging on our end is fairly consistent: We are not adding vendors to the program right now unless/until we identify a gap in our abilities. This means it becomes critical to right-size the supplier pool so that we have high-performing partners who are well-positioned to enjoy an environment with fewer suppliers. We want a small enough supplier pool to yield higher volume and profitability per supplier, but large enough to ensure there is enough competition to keep candidate quality high and pricing low.
Of course, supplier management methodologies vary periodically based on the industry and the market. Some programs might manage by category, geography or business entity.
There is no standard formula for supplier success when it comes to contingent workforce management and program participation. Unfortunately, that means a lot of rejection for the 28,000 staffing providers in the US who want a foot in our door.
But that doesn’t mean suppliers’ hands are tied.
Taking action. Over the years, I’ve been privileged to work for over a half dozen managers and leaders who have taught me a variety of invaluable lessons. My favorite nugget came early in my career: “Relationship” is at the core of everything.
Relationship is an association between people, a long-term investment of time and energy into fostering a connection that can be mutually beneficial.
Unsurprisingly, the best, longest and most beneficial supplier connections I’ve enjoyed have been rooted in such relationships, many of which have been mutually maintained over a span of five, 10 and even 20 years — sometimes without an active business partnership (or even the immediate possibility of one) in place.
My tips for success (or less buyer irritation):
Self-evaluation. First, evaluate your business development techniques for ROI. How much time and money are you spending? How much business are these activities really yielding?
Due diligence. Next, make sure you know the business you’re selling to. Be sure to send proper and appropriate communications. Don’t send emails beginning with “Dear Sir” or the incorrect company name. Those are sure ways to be ignored. Also, do not use bots to generate emails. Your prospective client won’t appreciate getting the same email three times in a row or every day that month. Also, if you don’t know the company’s mission or how to pronounce your buyer’s last name — don’t fake it. Do your research, be relevant and accurate.
Be you. Be your authentic self. Don’t be salesy or showy.
Skip the gifts. Gifts make most buyers feel awkward — even small ones.
Nurture the relationships. Tend to your business relationships, even dusty ones. And make sure your check-ins are friendly and familiar – not “what can you do for me?”
Provide value. If you’re looking to initiate a relationship, share something of value and be willing to do it as a good faith effort without asking for money up front. Knowledge, for example. If your organization has white papers or reports that could be useful, share them.
In the end, I recommend being real and being patient. You may get more than just a new client for your efforts.