Why is my Supplier Slow in Getting Back to Me?[Podcast ep.035]

Why is my Supplier Slow in Getting Back to Me?[Podcast ep.035]

Have you ever had this feeling that your supplier is getting slower at responding? 

Well, this week, I did an online presentation discussing the different scenarios why your supplier might be slower at getting back to you, and how you might be able to fix that!

We even included a slideshow so you can watch this on YouTube. [click here to watch] 

This episode will also cover: 

  • How your supplier might be seeing this situation differently, and if your questions are making your suppliers doubt you?
  • When is the right time to pull the plug on your suppliers?
  • What can we do to help us and our suppliers understand each other better?

You can also watch it on YouTube here

I hope you enjoy it! 

Let us know if you have any questions. Schedule your free call today!

Simple. Free. Advice. No Obligations. 

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Listen to all our podcast episodes here.

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    • CNBC Made it, alongside titans like Shark Tank's Barbara Corcoran and Serial Entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk
    • Business Insiders David Hoffmann with Gary Vaynerchuk and other successful leaders on how to respond when employees royally mess up.

Podcast Transcript 

David 0:34
Welcome to this week's session. Today I'm really excited to talk about a question that just keeps coming up over and over again. And the question that I hear from so many people when I talk to them is my supplier is just so slow in responding. What am I doing wrong now The good news is that it's not unique to you. It's quite common. We hear it all the time. So when you do go through this experience is not something you need to take personally or feel per se that you're doing something wrong. But there are definitely certain signs and signals you want to look out for. And certain ways you want to deal with this because it can be extremely challenging, and it can be extremely frustrating. The good news is that we've been living here for 16 years now doing these projects in China and developing our own products in China. And it's nothing unique. We have the same problem. We have the same problem where we dealing with suppliers, it really starts off so well that communication is fast, communication is smooth, and there seems to be this incredible willingness to help you and support you and cooperate with you. Then suddenly, as time goes by, the responses just start getting slower and slower and slower. And it even happens to me all the time. So it's really not a case of all you're doing anything wrong, but more a case of understanding what is happening, right? What's going on? Why are they responding so slowly? And what can I do about it? Is there anything I can do about it? So I'm going to dedicate this session today to trying to address some of those issues, some of those problems, some of the scenarios and understand what to do and suppliers are slowly responding slowly, and what are the steps we can take? So there's really a few scenarios as we see them. Right. Now I'm going to, as you can specifically say, I'm taking you through how we see these scenarios. These aren't necessarily the way the solution Apply a series of scenarios. So the first scenario is they really started responding well, and suddenly their account manager changes. So you're talking to a girl or a guy, and they super proactive, super enthusiastic. And suddenly they say, I'm on leave, I'm going away, my colleagues going to be taking over the account and helping you and your whole relation just show relationship just as a 180 degree flip. And suddenly, when you're excited about dealing with these suppliers, it just becomes a very painful, slow experience. That's one typical scenario we see all the time. The other scenario is we send samples out and we just can't understand why they're taking so long to send your song to supplier you'll say this is what I'm looking for. Can you make it you want a whole bunch of questions, and they just take so long and coming back to you, you almost feel like it's just gone as black hole and this void and that's something we encounter quite rare. regularly, then there's a scenario where you find at the beginning, you're getting responses almost every hour, depending on how you're talking to them. Is it a WeChat conversation? Is it a Skype conversation? Is it an email conversation? Whatever the communication channel is, this is always this initial heart, high speed communication. And then as questions start getting deeper or the demands, or requests start getting more detailed, you start finding that under apply the same day, it's the next day. Or you might find your communication cycle starts becoming every two days every three days. And that's when you start wondering, wow, this project is taking so much longer than I thought or anticipated. Then what starts happening is they keep promising the samples and it's always delayed. You got to chase them. Hey, you promised me samples in two days. Where are they? I don't have them yet. Right? I'm sure if you've been Through this, you probably like smiling and feeling a little bit of relief that this is such a predictable scenario, right? So you chase samples, where are they, they promise you they're coming. They say they're coming tomorrow, tomorrow comes, your samples don't come. This might sound very familiar. And this can go on for one two weeks, whereas my samples or your samples are coming. We nearly done with them. And it just can be quite excruciating. Right? The bottom line is, you just generally don't know why it's taking so long. Right? So these are the scenarios

kind of that we go through all the time. I'm sure you've been through them. If you haven't been through them, I can almost tell you with certainty that you're going to go through them. So maybe it's even better to be pre warned, I don't know. But there's one reality these scenarios don't change. Right off the 16 years. I still deal with manufacturers Go through the exact same scenarios all the time. So the big question really is why do we go through these scenarios? What's actually happening, right? What's going through the suppliers mind? What are we doing wrong? I always ask myself, what am I doing wrong? So what's actually going on behind the scenes? And are there ways that we can get over these hurdles? Now, a little bit of a spoiler alert, they aren't always definite ways to get over these hurdles. But once you understand what's going on behind the scenes, and what the suppliers are thinking to themselves, it'll help you navigate the waters quicker and faster and easier. And once you've got this kind of understanding, it changes the way you start dealing with the suppliers and it helps you ask better questions to really figure out what's going going on. Because at the end of the day, what we don't want to do is waste a whole bunch of time facing these frustrations and challenges and not getting the result. But if we can get the result, then we have to understand what's going on, sometimes rod this road and see if we can ultimately get the result we want, which is our product, even if it's not easy. Remember, I always say this is not an easy journey, but it's about grit and perseverance, because you want a business to build and you've got a product to launch. So let me try and paint a scenario of what the actual factories go through. Right. So we're wearing our head just now. Now we take our head off, and we're going to put on the factories hat, right, because I think it's always best to understand what's going on with somebody else to really figure out how to deal with it. So these scenarios, guys, I haven't made them up. These are real scenarios. And I know them because I have many friends that are factory owners. I've spent many a time with them talking about this discussing this with them. And this is really the types of things that go through their heads. And some of these are factory owners. Some of these are actually people that just work in factories and all reporting to a boss and have to deal with what the boss instructs him, hotels him, but I think once you go through it, you can kind of understand what their mindset can be. So I'm a factory now, these are the things going through my head. These guys keep asking me so many questions, and I don't think they know what they're doing. I often find this that by the questions you ask. The factories lose confidence in your knowledge and experience in the industry. Right? Does that make sense? Sometimes the samples you request are just too difficult and unusual. So it's outside kind of the cookie caught cookie cutter approach of what they normally do. So it's a hard, it's hard work for them to figure out with their production team or their sampling team, how to do it, but they don't want to say no. So they say, Okay, I'll try when we have time. And that's what they're thinking. It's a difficult request. We'll try when we have time. But this isn't really at the highest level of our priorities. Then there's a scenario where they're simply thinking we're just too busy. The production team is really slow and getting back to us, keeping in mind that you're normally dealing with a salesperson who's now dealing with a production team. It's different people. It's different departments. And they don't reply to you because they're trying to fight that internal struggle in the internal battle, and they got in their minds they're thinking, not going to apply today. I'm going to apply tomorrow. And hopefully I'll have good news because I don't want to give you bad news. I want to give you good news. But obviously, we're pushing daily, sometimes two, three times a day.

David 10:09
And I

David 10:10
don't really want to respond, because I haven't got an answer internally yet, or they haven't made progress internally yet. So they're kind of waiting to get that good news to give to you. Right. So I think they're doing you a favour and you're experiencing this extreme frustration on the other end. Then there's a scenario where they say, my team messed up. Let me make sure that I can reply positively before I get back to the client. So maybe they've made a mistake of some kind. It happens, they've missed quoted, or they realise I can't produce the product or they've sent a sample out that is riddled with a bunch of problems or issues that you're not happy about. And they again, coming back to the earlier point, they trying to figure out themselves With production, how to fix and how to resolve this, and that does take time. And in between this, they're helping other customers, right? You're not the only customer they have. So they don't feel it's worth time engaging in too much dialogue, when they're still trying to get the solution internally and we have got the solution internally, they're going to come back to you. Does that make sense? So, of course, in a perfect world, we wish that they would just tell us that, hey, David, really dealing with us internally. Give me three days, and I'll come back to you with an update. It's a bit more complicated than I anticipated. Well, that's how we think it's not necessarily how they think. Right? So if we start understanding this, we'll start understanding what the issues are. Then is the cultural element of I can't say no, but I really don't want this order. It's a pain for me. It's not lucrative for us. It's more customization than we anticipated. The quantities aren't exciting. My boss just doesn't want to take the order, right? These things happen. But because of the cultural, the cultural aspect of not saying no, and trying to be polite and help you as much as possible, they just can't say no. So they drag their feet on, or they drag the hills on it, and kind of becomes this very, very low priority project for them. Right. So that's another scenario that you have to be aware of. It can be the case. Now, as I'm running through these scenarios, I'm not saying that which one is specific to your case? These are just typical examples, right, guys? So these are typical examples of what happens and we're going to figure out how do we get to the bottom of which one is affecting us, right, and what do we do so I'm going to run through the last three. There's a scenario that the factory saying these guys want everything they've asked him for so much from me in terms of quality in terms of requirements, details, and all they do is keep squeezing the price every, every sentence ends, the price is too high, the price has to be below $1, the brass so there's a huge emphasis and focus on what the lowest price is. Yet there's this long list of demands, right? That for us, we feel like we did a great job negotiating and keeping the pressure on the supplier. Whereas behind the scenes for them, they are looking at this and going, huh. They want everything but they don't want to pay for everything. There's just an imbalance, right? And when the minute in any negotiation is an imbalance or not a win when we go back to that cultural scenario of I just can't say no, but I don't really want this order. It's a pain. So it's not going to get my attention. Hopefully the customer Someone's going to disappear. And that's the same thing for volume sometimes right?

David 14:05
They'll say we'll try make a

David 14:06
smaller quantity, but we can't. So it's about that interest and willingness from the supplier. So the last scenario that I find is probably very common and more common than we realise. And that is the supplier actually doesn't control a specific part of their production. And they don't tell you that they're actually going to a third party, subcontractor, or supplier of theirs to get these answers. And I can give you a lot of examples where this is the case. A very common one that you all go through is packaging. Most, most of your manufacturers will not produce their own packaging, right. So every detail you ask about packaging or printing they're just saying In your questions, and transferring them to a third party and asking the same questions, they are getting the answers back. Can you see this broken telephone pattern happening already? And they then go back to you and give you the answers. You feel something doesn't make sense and challenge one of the responses and they don't have an answer for you. So now they just delay and stall and go back and forth and back and forth. So you get this really fragmented communication channel. Now, this doesn't only happen on packaging, it happens on a lot of sub assembly components, right. I know guys that make soap dispensers, but the factory specialises in the actual ceramic pots, but they don't specialise in the pots. I mean, in the pumps. So when there's an issue with the pump, or a question raised to the pump, which is what we call a critical component. They just don't do anything or they can't answer and they can't figure out how to fix or change it all. They go to a third party, their supplier and have the same conversation. And that might take 234 days until they can come back to you. So, guys, what I want you to understand here really is that these scenarios as the factory sees them, and then going back these scenarios as we see them, right? What we're actually seeing is the side effect of one of these scenarios that the factory is facing. Does that make sense? So, if we can understand what we're seeing, trust, figure out what the factory seeing and this is challenging, we got to talk to them, we got to communicate with them. We got to be very open without leading questions to try to figure out what's going on. Remember, we have to make this a win, win and get a strong relationship with him. If we can figure out What scenario the factory is facing, we can then figure out how to improve our situation, or how to understand what's going on in their mind. So we can sort it out. Now, that's the theory, easier said than done. But that really is what it comes down to in terms of building the right relationship with your suppliers. So the big question is, when should I pull the plug on them? Right? We've gone through the scenarios, the good, the bad, the ugly. We've been patient, we've been tolerant, we've been understanding. But there has to come a time where we do pull the plug, right where we just say, this isn't working for me. I'm not going to get my production icon work with a supplier. When do we pull the plug? So I'm going to walk you through kind of mod guiding principles on when I have the He decided to pull the plug. And I want to emphasise something here that I see people pulling the plug too often, which is very understandable because the frustrations, as we've discussed in our scenarios, as we see them are very are daunting. And in a normal space or environment, we would never accept that in our local environment, such poor service. But there is a reality and that these factories do have these real problems and real scenarios to deal with. And we are trying to get these factories to produce our goods. And by going through this hard work, that's what's gonna make us successful, because if we could do it cheaper in our own country, we would but we can't. So we got to understand what's going on behind the scenes here. And

it is a much harder work then you would typically tolerate from a local or domestic supplier right? It's just the way it is guys. And that's why but understanding what's really going on here, you can hopefully take some of the stress and frustration out of it and spend your energy figuring out what's going on. Because ultimately, what you want to do is either have success, or make that decision when to pull the plug. So, when do we pull the plug? This is the big question. Firstly, before I answer that, I'm going to spend a bit of time on what we can do. Okay? We don't want to pull the plug yet we want to figure out what can we do to make this better?

David 19:39

David 19:40
the first thing is to build the relationship and communicate. We want to find the win win situations, right? Talk to your suppliers, bring it down to more of a personal conversation, to figure out what is holding them up what their challenges are, what their problems are. Don't put the burden on the salesperson To give you all these immediate audience's immediate responses, try and get them to open up to you in a bit more of an open relationship and share with you what their problems are, say, Hey, what's going on? How can I help to make this easier for you? Or is there something I can change or do that will make this simpler for the factory? Talk to me about the challenges I want to work with you to make this happen. That's the kind of tone and approach you want to have yet. So it's very much a collaborative approach and a supportive approach towards you and towards the manufacturer. And, and just really showing them that you want this to be a win win, that will really open up that relationship. And remember you opening up the relationship to understand what the scenarios are, what what scenarios the factory is facing, right? And having this list in front of you will help you to ask certain questions to figure that out. Most important Gently though, is through all these conversations that you're going to be having with the factory in understanding what their challenges are as they're seeing them, is you're going to be learning as much as you possibly can about the production process. What are the challenges? What are the obstacles? Why can't they do things? Because the more you learn about the production process, and the more you learn as much as possible about the factories, capabilities and experience, and they size and what they do well, what they don't do

David 21:28

David 21:30
the more you learn, the more you're going to be able to communicate with them better. And most importantly, with the next factory better, right? So none of this is ever going to be a waste of time. If I come back to this scenario here, where I said, the factories thinking these guys keep on asking questions, and I don't think they know what they're doing. The truth is, that may be true, you may be doing a product that's new to you, and you're using the factory Communication as a bit of a learning curve, and that's fine, we all do it. We can't be experts at everything. But what is going to happen is all that communication, even if you decide to pull the plug on those suppliers, you need to make sure you're learning as much as you can about the production, the process the problems, because when you talk to the next supplier, you don't want this to be a problem anymore, right? You don't want to be the guy anymore, that now doesn't have that experience. You want to come across a lot more knowledgeable, a lot more experience, about what you want and what you don't want. So even if that supplier doesn't work out, it's fine because this process you going through is prepping you for the next supplier, and it's going to make them take you a lot more serious. Can you see how that works? That learning and experience you're getting here is taking away a lot of these scenarios that the next factory may feel Think about your business.

David 23:03
Does that make sense, guys? Okay, so

David 23:07
coming back to what we can do assuming you've done all of this. There's a few things to consider what we can't do, right? So guys, I'm taking you through step by step with determining when should I pull the plug. So just to frame this up a bit more logically, when determining when to pull the plug on the suppliers. So we first figuring out what can we do? If we've gone through a whole list of what we can do? Now we're going to focus on what we can't do. So here's what we can't do. We can't make them more efficient, right? We might think we can, we might think we can lecture them. But from good experience, we just can't make other companies or other people more efficient. We can't make them want our business. We can't change their business processes. And we can't change their internal culture. In the culture, right? So if we understand that, we go through our process, we figure out what possible scenario are we going through with the supplier? We do that by focusing on this list of what we can do. We then realise what we can't do. And we then come to what I kind of consider my three major factors of when I pull the plug on a supplier. So my three criteria really are when I find a repeating pattern versus roadmaps. Okay.

David 24:38
I'm going to emphasise that

David 24:40
a lot of these challenges we speaking about now, are just road bumps. And if you don't expect road bumps on the way, it's just not realistic, there's going to be lots of road bumps is going to be big road bumps. Some of those road bumps are going to feel like mountains, right? But it doesn't mean you give up or you throw the supplier away and move on and pull the plug But what I generally look for is repeating patterns versus road bumps, right? I don't mind big road bumps, I don't mind small road bumps. But if I've got this repeating pattern over and over and over again and kind of stripe threes Ma, personal limit on this,

David 25:19
I didn't give up and say, Well,

David 25:21
I don't think this is a road bump issue. This is a repeating pattern of the things that we can't control, which is their efficiency, their willingness to do business, the business processes or just simply their culture, right. So repeating patterns versus road bumps are important to differentiate and don't mistake big road bumps or challenging road bumps for some of the problems if another repeating pattern. The second one I look for is lack of responsibility. So I find if a supplier accept responsibility for a problem or delay an issue with a sample, anything like That is really important to me. It shows me that they are somewhat accountable, and that they can realise when they make a mistake, and I can get better. If there's always a blame, but you told me this, but you told me that and you really don't feel comfortable about that I find that's more of a cultural issue that I want to move away from mistakes happen, guys. They happen all the time. We're dealing with humans. That's okay, we can get over mistakes, but it's the it's the willingness of taking responsibility that I look for. And it's really a high order bit for me in in kind of measuring how much I want to deal with a supplier or not. And then the last one, and this is really probably the most important and that is if a supplier generally has an inability to explain why does that make sense? So why if you look at The scenarios the factory is going through, we look at what we can do what we can't do. And through all these communications, we just not able to get to that stage where we've got a relationship with the supplier, where we understand why not just why they're not coming back to us or why they're taking so long. But why things have to be a certain way in production, why they can't do things, why some things are a challenge, right? If we can't understand why from the supplier, it probably means I can't articulate and explain themselves well, or they're just not telling us the truth. Common Sense, in my mind always prevails. So I don't look at Road band challenges, not being able to do something as my criteria for pulling the plug. I look at the inability to explain why, and the repeating patterns and the lack of responsibility. So those are my three criteria. I know it's harder to get to To the end result in reality, but I think if you go back and use this as a guiding principle and guarding checklist, hopefully you can have better experiences or get to the problems quicker and faster. It really does ultimately come down to building a relationship well and understanding the journey you're on has all these road bumps and mot one of our favourite ways to just simply look at it is just don't stress about these things. Sometimes you got to move on. Rome wasn't built in a day and it does get easier. I hope you find this helpful and useful. If you've got any questions feel free to reach out to us. You can go to our website at global tkm comm you can schedule a free call we always take free calls to help you guide you give you advice, or you can just shoot us some questions by email at team at global tkm comm if you find this useful you have questions or challenges Guys, we always here to help you. So good luck and have a lovely day.




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