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Getting the Most Out of Your Supplier Relationships – Part 1

Monday June 4th, 2018

When it comes to event planning, your suppliers can make or break the event. As an event organizer, you place a lot of trust in your vendors to handle things on your behalf…sometimes even in your absence! In an ideal world, the relationship you have with your event suppliers should be less like a customer-vendor exchange and more like a partnership.

Every good supplier relationship starts with finding the right supplier! A proper vendor evaluation will weed out the suppliers who aren’t worth your time. To help you get started, we’ve pulled together some qualifying questions that you should ask every new vendor. Consider using the below questions to regularly re-evaluate your existing suppliers, too. As your event grows, requirements will change and you may find that some of your current vendors are no longer equipped to meet your needs.

Service

Are they in the right location(s)?
If your event takes place in multiple locations or you’re organizing a tour, make sure your supplier has a physical presence in all locations or can find a way to service them.

Do they offer the products/services you need?
This seems obvious, but don’t assume that the supplier can meet the level of service you need or take for granted that they offer every product listed on their website. It’s best to confirm!

Can they meet all or most of your needs?
Determine what is essential versus what would be nice to have. If you absolutely need someone who will be available on-site during the event to help deal with last-minute changes or emergencies, make sure your supplier can offer that level of service.

Do they offer varied products or services that would enable you to consolidate vendors?
With so many moving parts to manage, you can make your life much easier by dealing with a handful of vendors instead of a large number of specialty suppliers.

Are they known for providing great customer service, or are they infamous for bad service?
Okay, so this isn’t something you would ask your supplier directly…but it’s an important question that you should endeavour to answer by checking reviews online or asking for references!

Reliability

Are they large enough and/or established enough to meet your needs?
Smaller or more junior suppliers may be less expensive, but you might run into issues with inventory or availability. Be careful not to sacrifice dependability for price.

Do they have a reputation for meeting expectations, or dropping the ball?
If this is a new supplier, try asking their references about reliability. For existing suppliers, review past events and be brutally honest with yourself: did they need constant reminders? Did they show up on time? Were they prepared with all the necessary equipment? The last thing you want is a supplier that needs constant baby-sitting.

Are they readily available and responsive during initial interactions?
If they aren’t attentive during the discovery and quoting process (when they should be trying to win your business!), then you may have trouble getting a hold of them when you need them most.

Competency

Do they have experience with events like yours?
Ideally, you’d want a supplier who has serviced events that are similar in scale and format to yours – otherwise, their experience may not translate to your specific situation.

Does their portfolio include customers with similar requirements, challenges, etc.?
If they’ve handled similar scenarios before, they will likely be able to provide you with expert guidance when you need it…after all, you rely on your suppliers to make recommendations that help ensure your event is a success!

Price

Can they meet your budget?
Nothing else matters if you can’t afford their product or service.

Is there room for negotiation?
Are they willing to work with you on pricing in the interest of forming a long-lasting relationship?

Are all expenses clearly laid out, or is there a risk of hidden costs?
Is the quote clear and detailed, or does it leave out key pieces of information? If you have the opportunity to check references, make sure to ask them about the supplier’s billing process, and whether the final invoice matched the quote or ran up additional costs.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions! When you are assessing a new supplier, having a standard questionnaire or evaluation form on-hand can help to speed up the process. To help you get started, here’s a basic questionnaire template you can use:

 

Click here for part 2 of this post, which includes tips for leveraging your new supplier relationship to get the most bang for your buck.

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