Dating for Business? Part I

At a recent sit-down, I was talking about the concepts for managing supplier relationships, and a colleague asked, “So is it really like business dating?” And I loved that insight, because developing and navigating supplier relationships can indeed mirror the world of dating.

Now, all this can play out in a few different ways—and in my humble opinion, some “business dating” strategies have a much better chance at success than others.

When I was a sourcing manager and buyer at Target, I was approached by many vendors who wanted to get their product onto the shelves of a mass retailer. Honestly, not many of these proposals ever panned out—they were too similar to “getting hit on at the bar,” where one party makes some sort of proposition based solely on high-level information.

Now sure, these types of hook-ups can work every now and then, but overall, they have a pretty low success rate. In the end, you simply won’t have enough knowledge about your partner to live happily ever after.

Another “business dating” approach I’ve seen closely resembles “The Bachelor/Bachelorette.” Here, competitors vie for a single prize and put their best foot forward to secure their objective. The candidate pool is assembled to represent a range of needs and some vetting does occur. But the competition is fierce, and way too often, candidates focus on undercutting their contenders, rather than showing why they’d be the best match.

So . . . that’s two matchmaking options down and out. But in the next article, I’ll talk about a way to help you find that oh-so right supplier, and how your business can pursue this option.