There is nothing like a global pandemic to spearhead an overhaul of the world of business. Supply chains have been hit hardest, throwing procurement teams into a sourcing frenzy — but is this really the opportunity suppliers think it could be? How can business leaders position themselves to stand apart from the competition?
As a current head of sales seasoned in the process across multiple industries, I’ve developed several ways to take advantage of the current landscape in order to support growth as companies explore the option to reshore their business.
1. Utilize tech to simplify processes and become easy to onboard.
Many buyers are having to onboard suppliers through lengthy, robust onboarding processes, and this works well if supply chains are secure. However, when time is of the essence and resources are short, the onboarding process of many companies may become frustrating. How easy is it for your company to be onboarded? Are supplier questionnaires bounced around between back-office, quality, finance and management?
2. Understand the expectations and if in doubt, ask.
Put yourself in your customer’s shoes for a moment. If you moved your supply chain, what benefits would you expect? Faster response times? Well for one, if both businesses are operating in the same time zone that should make response times faster. Quicker lead times? Surely delivering down the road or even across the country provides a shorter lead time than overseas. What about price? It is typically more expensive to buy in Europe or the U.S. than in Asia, right? Both parties — customer and supplier — will be making assumptions often based on personal or previous experiences. It is important to uncover which of these assumptions are wrong and reset expectations with your customer early on.MORE FOR YOU
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3. Identify your ideal customers and don’t be afraid to turn business away.
Do you really know what your customer’s end game is? Are they looking to reshore or simply explore the options? Many businesses have seen an influx of requested quotes but have limited resources and are unlikely to be able to offer everyone the same service levels. Be clear in your sales strategy who it is you want to do business with — then prioritize them.
4. Be agile and data-driven.
There is, of course, a cautionary note to point four and that is to be agile. The market is evolving, and your ideal customer today might not be the same in six months or two years’ time. It is important to frequently look at the data and review the wider business environment with an open mind. This will enable you to spot and react quickly to new opportunities.
5. Mimic your customer’s communication style to build your relationships faster.
Your customers might not be returning to the supplier’s market they remember — many moved supply overseas to capitalize on cheaper production costs, but that came at a price. Centralized production teams had to learn how to manage relationships with their overseas counterparts, which saw communication happening over the phone or via email rather than face-to-face long before the pandemic. As a supplier, you need to be mindful that many procurement teams are used to managing suppliers at arm’s length and tune into their communication styles.
6. Challenge your sales leadership to ensure you’re being measured on the things that count.
If you are still measured on the number of visits you make in a week then something has gone wrong. Sales is evolving, and long gone are the days when a sales rep can make six face-to-face appointments a week. If that’s how you’re being driven but your customer wants to do all their business by email, you’re likely to miss the opportunity as you favor those customers who will see you and enable you to hit your KPI. Use customer feedback to help you build your business case and propose new metrics that are customer-driven.
Although reshoring provides opportunities for businesses to increase their market share, you will only be able to truly take advantage if you put the customer at the heart of your organization.