6 Steps for New Distributors to Best Prepare for Supplier Interactions

As a new distributor in the promotional products industry, you’ve opened yourself up to a world of possibilities in a thriving $26.1 billion market, and one of your first steps toward success in this industry is establishing strong, mutually beneficial relationships with suppliers.

At ASI, connecting suppliers with distributors is our bread and butter, so we’ve compiled a list of 6 steps to ensure your interactions go as smoothly as possible.

    1. Understand your business needs.
      Before even considering the suppliers you want to work with, you should have a clear business plan that outlines the type of products your clients need. In addition to what products you’re looking to acquire, it’s just as important to know how many. The size of your operation and your yearly budget will determine what types of products you can afford and which suppliers you’ll be best suited to work with, considering order sizes and future scaling possibilities.

      You’ll also want to do your best to know your target markets. Once you understand who your customers are and what they value, it’ll be much easier to get the right products in their hands.

    2. Do your research.
      Now that you have a plan in place, it’s time to identify your ideal business partners. Criteria will vary from distributor to distributor, but here are a few things to consider when researching potential suppliers:
      • Look for reputable suppliers who are industry leaders in their field.
      • Evaluate product quality and take ratings and reviews of their services into account.
      • Consider logistical factors such as location, delivery times and shipping costs.

      Checking as many of these boxes as possible early in the process will make your mission clearer and communication stronger down the road.

    3. Prepare your business documents.
      Make sure you dot your i’s and cross your t’s before making initial contact. Ensure that paperwork like business registrations and licenses are in order.

      Review your business plan and sales forecast one last time and have copies of those ready to present. And prepare your financial documents so you’re prepared to discuss terms.

    4. Reach out.
      You’ve done all the prep work you can, which means it’s time to make first contact. When reaching out via email, start with a clear and compelling subject line that outlines the purpose of your message. Then, introduce yourself and mention how you discovered them (whether in person, referral or online research). Your main message should also be clear and precise. Specify which products you’re interested in, the quantities and any customization requirements. By including any follow-up questions you may have (pricing, lead times, etc.), you’ll make your interest in continuing the conversation crystal clear, especially if you end with a call-to-action and contact information to highlight your interest in working together.

      You can use these same principals with phone communication with some slight tweaks. Have your notes and follow-up questions ready before making the call and be an active listener so you have the flexibility to take the conversation wherever they want to take it.

      Once you’ve opened up a dialogue, be transparent about what your business is looking for in terms of product options, pricing, minimum order quantities, payment terms and more. Don’t forget that this is a discussion, not a presentation, so it’s just as important to listen to their needs and constraints so you know where you’ll need to meet in the middle.

      This initial communication is going to set the tone for your entire business relationship, so having all your information available up front and displaying a willingness to compromise will show the supplier that you are well prepared, organized and are bound to be a reliable partner.

    5. Negotiate terms.
      Once you and the supplier are on the same page about wanting to work together, feel free to jump into certain negotiation strategies that tend to be mutually beneficial for both parties. Volume discounts often gives distributors the best price by purchasing larger quantities, and bundling products increases your order size, thus giving you leverage to ask for discounts. If you find a lower price elsewhere, don’t be afraid to ask for your supplier to match price. Even if a price match isn’t on the table, they’ll often add on extras to compensate like faster shipping, custom designs or extended warranties.

      You can also secure favorable payment terms by offering incentives for suppliers, such as early or staggered payments. You can also negotiate to only pay for the stock as it sells, which can be particularly useful for new products where demand is uncertain.

    6. Continue building the relationship.
      Congratulations! You closed the deal, but your work has only just begun.

      It’s essential to nurture your relationships on the grounds of mutual respect and understanding that’ll lead to repeat business down the line. Keep communication open and ongoing with your supplier partners to stay top of mind and assure them that you’ll be available at the drop of a hat. Set up a system that encourages feedback from both parties to make your future transactions even smoother.

By implementing this simple plan of action, you can ensure that your supplier interactions will be seamless, stress-free and professional.

Want to learn more tips to fuel your growth? Check out our e-book, Strategies for Growing Your Promotional Products Business.