A supplier coaching story. Who is to blame for the great flopperoo?

Supplier Coaching

Supplier coaching isn’t an exact science, which leaves ample opportunity to mess it up. But it’s not like we are trying to figure out how to time travel either.

Therefore, I decided to take a look back at what happened, and potentially where I went wrong. Hindsight is 20/20, so why not assess my own performance?

Nothing better to prepare for the next time of supplier coaching, by assessing what went wrong/what went well with the last time I did it! Being able to ensure you don’t repeat the same mistakes is always useful!

supplier coaching

The Why of the Coaching

I tried, I really did. I spent more time with the team discussing best practices for pitching, and interests than I normally would with more than six separate RFPs on my plate. Why?

First, they were a great cultural and business size/fit. If you’re at a big business, this may not make as much sense. But when you are a small fish in an ocean, it matters. Especially when bigger businesses let quality slip for their smallest clients first.

Second, we could cut out the middle man and implement a strategy to help streamline the business and reduce costs. And last but not least, I really liked the team. They were straightforward and honest. The type of people to ensure YOUR company’s success.

But as you probably have guessed, it didn’t go all to plan per usual.

The Supplier Coaching Story

A little bit of background. We had a large RFP with multiple projects to give us a little bit of negotiation leverage. That said, we had two separate presentations due to the timing of the projects and four different suppliers we asked to participate in.

Which is actually beneficial if you screw up only slightly in the first round. (We won’t talk about the one supplier who was asked not to come back for round two). Now, I did give feedback to another supplier regarding pricing, which was a very simple and easy conversation. But the second supplier I had to coach, was a much more difficult situation.

Let’s discuss why. This was the first time in my entire career, we’ve asked someone to present their proposal to us, and they literally showed up with no slides. For an hour-long meeting. With Nothing.

Only a set-up for a tea-time conversation with the Queen. This apparently was the strategy since they assume we found their company, so we must have known all about it and need no further detail from them (facepalm). We (in procurement/sourcing) had to pull up their presentation for them, which then seemed to make things go as normal.

That’s why part of the coaching/feedback that I gave to them, was to add the “Dog and Pony Show” so that the rest of the team could gain a better understanding of who they were, their business, and their experience. Basics right?

In the next part of the supplier coaching I gave them, I actually spent time with them talking in-depth about our business needs, our current provider pain points, and details on what we look for in a business partner. Something that I don’t typically have time for, but given their strengths and the flow of the conversation, it seemed that this could immensely help their chances.

I really thought the conversation went well, and I got them to move forward with the right priorities in mind. They could update their slide deck, and showcase their talents and potentially win the second part of the business.


What I didn’t take into consideration, was the fact that pitching their business, was a bit outside their norm. Typically, they are subcontracted through with a middle man.  So all the sparkle and shine you would see from a well-polished sales team wasn’t going to be there, no matter what I said.

And that’s what I missed. No matter how much information, supplier coaching, or feedback I gave them it wouldn’t make a big enough change in their overall strategy or approach. 

But obviously, it was, and that is the point. I failed to in-depth understand why they had made the presentation (or lack thereof) in the first place. Therefore, I didn’t realize that no matter what I said, my insights would change their approach to the presentation. The second round was much better than the first (don’t get me wrong). But, there were a lot of things that mirrored the first round and tarnished their chances.

Which has to be one of the most frustrating situations ever. It wasn’t for lack of a good solution, pricing, experience, or anything else tangible that they lost the business. No, unfortunately, it was all about the pitch presentation and impressing the business partners.

Which when it comes down to it, is really what wins the business isn’t it? You can have the greatest solution, product, or bit of transformational technology that could change the world. But if you don’t know how to sell and market it, you are bound to fail.

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A supplier coaching story. Who is to blame for the great flopperoo? 1

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