It could be considered the fundamental question here at S4RB... What is Supplier Engagement?
Is it an action or a destination? Is it the means, or the end? Do you engage with your Suppliers, or are your suppliers themselves engaged?
As so often happens in life, the answer is “both”. But one definition is far more helpful than the other.
All retailers engage with their suppliers at some level. That, with the use of any Thesaurus, cannot be disputed. But simply engaging – or communicating – with Suppliers when you need them to do something is nothing special.
The Definition that Creates Value
The ‘Supplier Engagement’ that will really help retailers increase efficiency and generate added-value is a destination, rather than an activity - where suppliers reach a state of engagement, where they come to care about the same things you care about.
This kind of Supplier Engagement sets all of your Supplier activities up for success.
The Assault Course
If Supplier Engagement is a destination, you have to ask yourself the killer question:
How do we get our Suppliers there? Or, as I like to put it: What journey do we need to take them on?
At S4RB, we often draw the analogy between this journey and tackling a series of mountain climbs or “assault courses”.
You can think of every task, project or initiative which involves a Supplier as an assault course on this journey towards increasing Supplier Engagement – everything from asking them to respond to a simple a survey, through to implementing new and complicated legislation.
Every ‘assault course’ has certain stages, and certain challenges or obstacles along the way. What do you need your suppliers to achieve? What obstacles might stop them? What tools and knowledge will they need? Heck, what’s the point of completing each assault course anyway? After all, even helpful Hobbits like Frodo need the allure of a purposeful quest to shift them from the shire.
If you equip them with the motivation and understanding to successfully negotiate this metaphorical assault course, they’ll come out the other end more engaged, and ready to go again…
Over the next few weeks, we're going to look at a real-life example here on the S4RB blog; walking through the steps you might take to apply this Assault Course thinking and turn a typical supplier activity into an opportunity to improve Supplier Engagement.