Among the most important people you interact with in managing your shop, are your suppliers. And if this wasn’t apparent to most of us before, it is now after recent disrupting events such as the pandemic, world-wide supply change break-downs, raw material shortages, and price increases. In some cases this has tested customer-supplier relationships.

According to an American Express paper on the topic, the key to maintaining a resilient and flexible relationship with suppliers is building a strong rapport. This has been my experience too. In practice it usually means finding the person or people within the supplier’s organization who directly affect your interaction with the supplier. This would be the person or people who can (and would be inclined to) solve issues affecting your relationship such as, for instance, expediting orders, tracingĀ  missing shipments, dealing with defective products, and a myriad of other things that can test a customer-supplier relationship.

Remember that people prefer doing business with people they like. This is the foundation to building a rapport. The way to do it is to find common ground with the “target” and then build on that. It may be a common interest in a hobby or a sport, or it may be that you have kids of the same age. You can mark the person’s birthday with a congratulatory email or card, you can share articles on topics of interest . . . I think you get the picture. But always use good judgement. You don’t want to overdo it, be inappropriate (its’ still essentially a business relationship), or be cheesy; a genuine, respectful, friendly rapport is all you need.

Set up a strong rapport with the right people and your customer-supplier relationship is bound to function well.