Tackling The Supplier Assault Course.png

Tackling the Supplier Assault Course

The Supplier Assault Course is a metaphor that I’ve found really helpful in my time working with retailers and their suppliers. In a nutshell, each task, project or initiative that involves a Supplier can be viewed like an Assault Course – with different stages to complete and assorted obstacles to overcome.

Whilst you could just leave the Supplier to struggle through the course on their own, a much better way is to guide them through, providing the tools and know-how they need to do the job.

When you invest the time and effort to help suppliers successfully negotiate each Assault Course, two important things happen. Firstly, you give your suppliers their best chance of successfully completing the tasks you set them. Secondly, and arguably more importantly, your suppliers’ level of engagement increases. Because they feel understood, valued and supported by you, the relationship you have with your suppliers is deepened. They become more committed to the things you care about, and more willing to work to your timescales and requirements in the future.

Equipping Your Suppliers

In the previous post in this series, we began to look at a real-life example of a Supplier Assault Course: asking suppliers to respond to a survey. We thought about the different stages of the task (Step 1) and what obstacles might stand in suppliers’ way (Step 2).

This week, it’s time to think about the third step in applying the Assault Course metaphor to the real world: how you could remove unnecessary obstacles and help suppliers overcome the unavoidable ones.

Step 3: Address the Obstacles

Below are the stages of this particular assault course, along with the ● obstacles that might present themselves and some suggested solutions.

Some of the obstacles identified take long-term focus and management to improve, but recognising their importance to so many of your supplier activities is still important.

Correct contact at the supplier receives the survey
● Survey sent to someone who it is not relevant to
Make sure you only send the survey to contacts who are relevant (e.g. target specific job titles – Product Developer, Sustainability etc.)
● Invalid or incorrect email address
Long term – Continually review and refine your contact lists
● The recipient’s spam filter
Long term – Ongoing management of your ‘sender reputation.'

Your Contacts open the survey in their inbox
● Not a compelling enough subject line or higher priority emails in the inbox
Write a subject line which is clear and compelling enough to motivate your Suppliers to open the survey invitation email
● Lack of trust/perceived importance of sender (You!)
Long term – Ongoing management of your ‘sender reputation.'

Your Contacts Start the Survey
● Lack of compelling email content to persuade the Supplier to click
State the opportunities of completing the survey and consequences of not clearly to increase the suppliers motivation
● Lack of clarity of what is needed
Before you send it out, run the survey by a friendly supplier or colleague who lacks any context – are they clear with what you need them to do?

Your Contacts Complete the entire survey
● Loss of interest due to the length of the survey
Review the survey and remove overlapping questions or those which add no value
● Technical issues in progressing between pages
Pick an reliable surveying platform
● Lack of knowledge to complete questions to a high quality
Go back to your friendly supplier and ask them a couple of questions – are the answers you get back giving you what you need?


Step 4: And they’re off!

We’ve identified the steps and obstacles, and the tools and knowledge that suppliers need to complete the assault course that is your survey. The only thing left to do is send, right?

Well, almost…

There is still work to do once you’ve fired the starting pistol on your Supplier Assault Course.

Next week, we’ll look at responding to unexpected obstacles, and measuring success with a view to doing an even better job with your next Assault Course.

Tags: Supplier engagement

David Taylor

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