3 Truly Effective Supplier Interview Questions

PurchTips edition #280

 

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What Questions Should A Supplier Interview Include?

Supplier interviews can be a critical step in making an optimal supplier selection. While many procurement professionals conduct them, too few ask questions that actually help them predict the future of working with a supplier. Good questions catch suppliers off-guard and yield honest, unscripted answers.

Here are three probing questions to help you get the most out of your supplier interviews. They are most effective when asked of a supplier executive familiar with the supplier's internal operations, rather than a salesperson focused strictly on external relationships.

"How will doing business with your company instead of your competitor(s) make my organization more profitable?" Every supplier will tell you that they are a better choice for you than their competitor because of some unique advantages. But for such advantages to be a reason for choosing a certain supplier, they should have some positive impact on your organization's "bottom line." For example, "better quality" is nice, but the supplier (and you) should be able to translate better quality into a monetary value.

"What have been the biggest operational challenges that you have faced recently?" You want to assess the risk of a supplier failing to meet its commitments. The supplier's answer to this question may alert you to hidden problems that may make the supplier a less attractive option or may reveal a supplier's ability to solve problems in order to meet customer obligations.

"What changes do you see in your industry in the next few years and how are you preparing for them?" Think of how innovations such as the Internet and smart phones have drastically changed how business is done in so many industries over the past 15 years. Change is constant and will only accelerate in the future. You need to know whether a supplier will be a leader of change or a follower of change. A supplier's answer to this question can enable you to assess how well the supplier is positioned for the changes that you predict. And you may actually learn about forthcoming changes that you haven't even thought about yet.

For a fourth question, see https://www.nextlevelpurchasing.com/blog/2013/05/the-supplier-interview-question-that.html.

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