5 secrets to negotiating price with suppliers

In today’s market, the supply and demand environment is more volatile than ever before. To make sure that you are not paying more for your stock than necessary, you will have to negotiate with suppliers more effectively.

It is said that the more you negotiate, the better the outcome for your balance sheet – but this suggestion should be taken with a grain of salt. After all, anyone can negotiate, but to successfully do it, it should be understood that the concept of supply and demand is the foundation for any negotiation. Failing to keep this in mind may end up straining or fracturing your relationships with suppliers, diminishing your reputation within the ecommerce community and placing your business in peril. 

So how should you negotiate with suppliers for your ecommerce business? There are myriad negotiation hacks that will help you secure the deals you seek and build your reputation as a shrewd business owner. The experts at Cin7 have created a list of five negotiating tactics to help you get better deals with a win-win outcome. Let’s get started!

#1 Research before negotiating with suppliers

Before you begin negotiations with a potential supplier, you must first conduct comprehensive research. Since they are selling you the product(s), they will have a thorough understanding of its market costs, demand, importance in the product value chain, and they know about your competitors. You should have a fair understanding of these factors too so that you bring credibility to the negotiating table and have a productive discussion. 

Doing the due diligence in researching a supplier, as well as their competition, will help you get an idea of market prices while keeping the sales goal of the supplier in mind. Based on your research, your proposal could involve promising long-term business, a shorter credit cycle, or changing the frequency of payments. Therefore, it is important to do your homework in order to proffer potential suppliers a fair, tangible, and mutual benefit in doing business with you.

Helpful Hint: As you research, be sure to note industry-specific terminology. Using it will help enhance your credibility and may be the difference in reducing the chance of suppliers quoting inflated prices.

#2 Calculate your purchasing needs 

Once you have a better understanding of the supplier’s business and its needs, your next step is to make sure your proposal fits both their needs and yours. 

To construct that proposal, determine the quantity of what you want to purchase, the order frequency, and the total cost of the purchases you would make during a given year. Having this information handy will provide you with more negotiation leverage and give the supplier a better idea as to how much potential you have as a business opportunity for them. The more your proposal meets the needs of the supplier, the more likely they are to offer you the discounts you seek.

Helpful Hint: Ask for bulk discounts. If you have a large order, you are in a great position to negotiate prices. Request to see their discount grids, as most suppliers use them regularly to manage sales. Be sure to refer to data gathered from your  inventory management software when finalizing your tentative order size. 

#3 Offer partial advance payments and deferred discounts

The next tip is to offer a partial or full advance for the first order. This is one of the best ways to establish trust and help the supplier decide to start working with you. You can always switch to their standard credit cycle down the line.

This also presents an opportunity to demonstrate a commitment to a mutually beneficial business arrangement. Specifically, when offering an advance payment, remember to ask for a discount on a total purchase volume after achieving a milestone, i.e., meeting a certain sales threshold. This is considered a deferred discounting mechanism, and it helps suppliers ensure that they are going to reach their sales goals before activating your agreed-upon discount. 

#4 Be honest and transparent

There are all sorts of reasons to seek a better price for products. For example, you might urgently need a product at a lower price to keep up with the competition or to have enough profit margin to meet your own sales goals. You might be a small business owner who needs a discount to remain profitable or a combination of any of these scenarios and yet not have much to offer in terms of value to the supplier. One thing you can offer, however, is full disclosure of your status. This is a gesture of good faith and will lay the foundation for a solid professional relationship. 

It is imperative that you do not use any deceitful tactics like negotiating under false pretenses or making hollow promises to get discounts from your potential suppliers. A business is only as good as the word of those who represent it, so make sure you are earnest in your negotiations. 

Helpful Hint: Sometimes a negotiation results in a stalemate. Don’t shy away from pausing a negotiation in the event of a failure to reach an agreement. Keep in mind that the number of sellers for the items you need may be limited based on your purchasing capacity and expected price range.

#5 Once an agreement is reached, get it in writing

One of the most important qualities of a good negotiator is to close the deal in writing. All too many businesspeople make the mistake of not signing agreements after they have completed the negotiation simply due to procrastination or lack of operational knowhow. This can lead to a situation where the other party forgets the details of your conversation, and hence, you may have difficulty reminding them. Also, if the decision-makers forget about certain details that you previously negotiated, you may miss out on the deal you thought you had secured. Therefore, it is in your best interest to finalize and ink the deal as quickly as possible.

Helpful Hint: You may use document signing tools available online to expedite the process and then email a copy of the signed agreement to the supplier. Place your first order reflecting the explicitly stated terms and conditions. 

With an inventory and order management system like Cin7, you have the option of connecting to your suppliers via a custom EDI connection streamlining future orders by placing them electronically.

In summary

Negotiating is a tough skill to master in any industry, but as an ecommerce business owner, you will put that skill into practice quite often, thanks to the shortening life cycles of various SKUs and sudden surges in demand for products. While you will naturally get better at negotiating over time, it is crucial that you apply the five tips to be a successful deal broker. Keep your eyes open for discount opportunities, negotiate your way into the best deals with your suppliers, and watch your ecommerce business thrive. 

Enter into supplier negotiations armed with accurate sales data gathered from a robust inventory and order management solution like Cin7 that updates in real time with your accounting software. Request a Cin7 demo today.

AMF Magnetics

To most people, magnets are just what you use to pin your child’s latest artistic effort to the fridge. But there’s a lot more to these mysterious objects. Magnets, it turns out, make the world go round. They are integral everywhere, in pretty much every electronic device that exists, from headphones to computers to MRI machines. 

AMF Magnetics is an Australian company that specializes in selling permanent — or “rare earth” — magnets. They’re now the largest supplier in Australia, with a range of something like 1500 products” 

“It’s a very niche product, but it’s needed by all segments of society in one facet or another,” says Mark Kapo, owner of AMF. “ We’re very fortunate that we’re in this space.” 

Mark wasn’t always in the magnet market. Before AMF, he owned restaurants. But after ten years in the hospitality industry, he wanted to try working on something less intensive. “We wanted a business that didn’t operate on the weekend, and was closed over the Christmas break.” Mark says. This, he reckons, made the rare-earth magnet business particularly attractive. 

AMF was an established business that had been running since the early 1980s, when Mark bought it in 2006. Back then, it was very much an “analog outfit,” as Mark puts it. 

“I’m from the analog era. I’m old school. But I decided that we had to push the online side of things — we were running blind. It wasn’t easy to decide what to do.” Mark’s desire for a digital transformation was complicated by the fact that the magnet business was inherently complex. AMF supplies all kinds of customers — from enormous B2B orders of hundreds of thousands of items, to specialist medical equipment with extremely high quality requirements and tight deadlines, to casual D2C customers who just want some magnets to play with. On the supply side, there are multiple suppliers in several different locations. And the complexity grows even greater with AMF’s uncompromising approach to customer service. 

“We deal with everyone equally, and we take it pretty seriously. Being from a family that’s very hospitable, service is important to me. That’s not just a word, it’s not made up. We actually do care. If the customer’s not happy, we’re not happy, and that attitude just runs through the whole business.” 

Over seven years, Mark managed to grow the business, but he found that inefficient operational processes were holding things back. They had managed to digitize to some extent, and were working with MYOB desktop software to manage inventory and accounting — but they found it wasn’t up to the task. 

“We had MYOB, and we deal in multi-currencies, and frankly, MYOB’s management was too slow to go into the cloud and work with multi-currencies. That really held us back,” Mark says. 

“But all that said, I was very comfortable with it, and it’s pretty scary transitioning from a system that you know, to one that you don’t know how to navigate.” 

Even though he didn’t know for sure what the business needed in terms of its digital transformation, Mark knew how to find out. He made two particularly smart choices: hiring an exceptionally talented in-house marketing and IT team with modern software skills, including a new Marketing Manager (later CEO) — and working with external experts, including SMB Consultants. 

The right hire can fire up your business

As the CEO of AMF Magnetics, Catalina Rodríguez is responsible for every aspect of business’ day-to-day operations. With an impressive resume including Deloitte Colombia, Catalina says she didn’t know much about the magnet business to start with. 

“Before joining AMF I didn’t know that almost everything in this world had magnets — airpods, doors, medical devices, cars, speakers and even the superhero costumes in Marvel movies!” Catalina says.

But after sticking around a bit, Catalina learned quickly. She led a crack squad of developers, IT professionals, customer service team members, and external consultants to get AMF running as well as it possibly could, and one of the main steps she took was building a team to transition the business from MYOB to Xero. 

With Xero as the accounting system of record, things were already running more smoothly across much of the business, with one exception: inventory management. Xero, by design, is not inventory management software, and Catalina and Mark both knew that to really power up the business they’d need to couple Xero’s powerful accounting capabilities with a best-of-breed inventory management solution.

To find the right one, they turned to SMB Consultants, who recommended Cin7 after an in-depth scoping session where they took time to understand AMF’s particular business requirements. 

“AMF were using a server-based system called FileMaker before they came to us,” says Deepak Stevens, an integration expert at SMB Consultants. “Our job was to understand their needs, and recommend a platform that would set them up for the next ten years at least. It was quite clear that Cin7 would be a good fit for AMF Magnetics, because we were confident the system would be able to adapt to any specific needs they have.”

After the initial scoping session, SMB Consultants put together a proof-of-concept — Cin7 running to AMF’s specific requirements. 

“SMB advised us that Cin7 was a perfect fit for where we wanted to take the business in the future,” Mark says. “We wanted to optimize email marketing, social media, and paid advertising, and we needed our websites to work at their very best in order to do that. And we needed the inventory system live and helping us with the accounting side of things. Cin7 covered a multitude of these areas, which other systems we looked at didn’t do.” 

Working with the SMB team, Catalina and the AMF team hit on a hybrid solution. Together with another consultant out of Sydney, they integrated Cin7 with Xero, and built a custom integration between Cin7 and Shopify that suits AMFs diverse customer base and specific operational requirements. Thanks to SMB’s expert guidance, and the understanding gained through the interactive proof-of-concept, all the moving parts fit together seamlessly. 

“When we did Cin7, I was a bit scared. It was going to be a big change. But to be honest, the transition was very easy,” Catalina says. “The proof-of-concept was really good, because it helped us mitigate the risks, and showed us the impact the new platform would have for the business. It was done on a weekend, and in one or two days, we were operating.”