How do I get a supplier’s attention if I’m at a small or mid-sized company?

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How do I get a supplier’s attention if I’m at a small or mid-sized company?

Joanna's Answer:

Of course, a Fortune 500 company will get plenty of attention from travel providers – what’s not to like about volume?

But that doesn’t mean all is lost for a more modest company. Because it's not just about volume – it's about the ability to move volume that gets just as much attention in the travel space. If your program is mandated, you are a client-of-choice whether you realize it or not. The case is similar if you can prove your ability to move volume to the providers in your program. Action counts.

Travel managers can also think about volume differently, by adding inbound as well as outbound spend to hotel relationships. Perhaps you don’t have enough room nights to create a great hotel program, but maybe you can do so if you include the entire volume of visitors to your facilities instead of just considering your employees. Example: this works brilliantly in a Missouri town where a client did a great deal with a local hotel by including volume from visitors, contractors, suppliers, clients and others headed to that site, not just their own employees. Have seen it work in other cities as well.

Don’t discount the value of proximity. You can leverage the goodwill of your office managers across the world by asking their help in establishing good relationships with nearby hotels and then leveraging those relationships to create a hotel program, one city at a time. Focus on location, where your firm can be a visible user of hotel space and other services. Your global volume may not be significant to a big chain, but your local volume may be very attractive to that hotel across the street.

Finally, use Joanna’s “throw yourself on their mercy” method. If there is a particular airline, hotel chain, or rental car agency that you feel strongly your company should have a deal with, there’s nothing stopping you. Find out what connections your firm may have with executives at the supplier, attend industry events, network yourself in. Then ask for a program. It works. Travel providers have rules, but there are also compassionate people and if you are honest in your enthusiasm and clear in your reasons why, you can plead your case and usually leave with some kind of an agreement. You need the nerve to try it, but it's very doable.

About Joanna


Joanna Martinez is a global procurement / supply chain leader and the founder of Supply Chain Advisors LLC. She is a frequent lecturer and blogger on procurement topics and also provides coaching, strategy development, training, and cost reduction opportunity assessment. Her clients range from Fortune 100 companies to technology startups.

As either regional or global CPO, Joanna has led transformation initiatives for companies in many different sectors: among them Johnson & Johnson (consumer products), Diageo (beverage), AllianceBernstein LP (financial services) and Cushman & Wakefield (real estate services, property management). She has also held client-facing roles, effectively giving her the opportunity to “sit on both sides of the table”.

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