How Telling Stories Can Significantly Boost Supplier Performance

In last week’s blog, I introduced two core intrinsic motivators that are immediately actionable in any Retail Business and which I think are important to understand if you are to master Supplier motivation and drive Supplier performance. They are:

  • Purpose
  • Progression

The Purpose of Purpose

Purpose, the first of our intrinsic motivators, can be more easily summed up as ‘the why’. Why is ’something’ important?

Compare the following examples:

  • You’ve been asked to paint a wall because ‘it needs doing’
  • You’ve been asked to paint a wall as part of a ‘local social club renovation for disadvantaged inner city children’

Looking at Suppliers as simply an organisation, they would be inclined to do both as it forms part of the interactions required for the delivery of the contract in place.

But, which would you be more inclined to do?

I know it’s a crude example, but hopefully it demonstrates my point. Purpose is a powerful motivator of people. And it’s the people within Supplier organisations that we most need to motivate; the people that are actually going to complete your  request: respond to that survey, complete their specification…

If we believe that there is true benefit in a task, initiative or project we will be much more inclined to do it and do it more quickly. The stronger the purpose, the stronger motivation - the better your Suppliers will perform.

And best  of all, it’s free…

Driving Performance with Storytelling

I know, it sounds a bit fluffy. But please bear with me. It really works.

Whenever two people speak, we are telling stories. The simple act of communication is the art of storytelling. And remember, stories don’t have to be fiction.

Thinking about communicating purpose in the guise of storytelling is because it helps our brains change modes. Suddenly we look to share more than just the facts. We look to entertain and inspire. We actively seek to hold our audience’s attention. We want to pull together what may seem like unrelated events into a single, coherent narrative to bring clarity.  This is one reason why video is such a powerful tool when communication with Suppliers to bring these stories to life (as I covered in Four Reasons Your Business Should Use Video to Increase Supplier Engagement).

And these are all things that we should aim for when we want to motivate the people who work for our Suppliers.

Here’s what I mean…

You’re the Head of Quality at General Retailer (GR) and you have been tasked by the Board to reduce quality-related customer complaints by maximising product quality so that General Retailer can establish itself as the low cost, high quality Retailer of choice.

You manage to secure the keynote spot at this year’s Supplier Conference and you take the stage. After years of strong growth, GR is under pressure from new, budget Retailers who are snatching market share like nobody’s business. GR are struggling to differentiate themselves in a market which is at risk of becoming a price limbo competition – how low can you go?

You recognise that lower prices aren’t simply about dropping prices – they are about improving Supply Chain efficiency too. Likewise high quality products aren’t just about stringent audits and corrective actions – they are about working with Suppliers who are passionate experts in what they produce.

You take the stage, shuffle your notes and look up to see an auditorium full of the people who work for your Suppliers.

You begin: General Retailer is not just about low cost, no. General Retailer = High Quality. Why? Because General Retailer is an extended community of talented and passionate people who are driven to produce the best range of quality products in the most efficient way.

You share a story about how you visited Pam at Fura Foods Inc. a few weeks ago. You talk about the people you met, how their passion for the products they produce inspired you. You continue to say how the following week, during you grocery shopping you came across her product on the shelves. You could see the care that had gone into the product. And better yet, it was competitively priced. It was a no-brainer when it came to choosing what went in your basket.

The people in the auditorium receive your message well and understand that by ensuring GR’s products are priced well and of a high quality; more customers will come to General Retailer. More customers mean larger orders. Larger orders means their jobs will be secure because the Supplier businesses they work for will succeed. It’s win-win. By the end of the session you have the auditorium full of Suppliers chanting GRHQ! GRHQ! GRHQ! They are bought into the vision – they have purpose.

Purpose put into practise

Next week, you have to send out a Supplier Communication about a policy update. You know the drill – Yawn. Delete! But purpose can change that.

This is not just a policy update – this is an integral part of GRHQ. By weaving the policy update into the strong sense of purpose you instilled at the Supplier Conference, you will maximise the number of Suppliers who read it, understand it and act upon it. This helps you take another step forwards in ensuring product quality is high.

And Policy Updates only scratch the surface on the power of purpose.

We’ve seen clear communication about Purpose increase the speed of data collection seven-fold, double Supplier training performance in a few weeks and drive Supplier self-assessment participation up from 20% to 80%.  All the success that we’ve helped our clients achieve came by motivation through instilling a sense of Purpose in the people who work for the Suppliers. And it was this sense of Purpose that engaged the wider Supplier organisation with what the Retailers and Brand Owners were trying to achieve. The common result of this Supplier engagement: a greater number of faster and more efficient interactions between the Suppliers and Retailers.

Next week we progress in our blog series to progression – Goal, Growth and Gratification: How to Guide Suppliers to Performance Excellence

Tags: Supplier development, Supplier engagement

David Taylor

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