Project Management

5 Places To Look for Project Suppliers

From the The Money Files Blog
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A blog that looks at all aspects of project and program finances from budgets, estimating and accounting to getting a pay rise and managing contracts. Written by Elizabeth Harrin from GirlsGuideToPM.com.

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Categories: supplier management


If I want to buy something, I end up browsing Amazon first. I might end up purchasing from somewhere else, but I tend to use Amazon as my shop window.

You can’t do that with project procurement. I can’t search for ‘buy ERP system’ or hunt around in Amazon for a data center hosting package that meets the needs of my software firm.

So where do you go to look for suppliers?

First let’s talk about why a Google search isn’t your best bet. Some companies don’t have the budget to rank continually in the top search engine results. Some companies wouldn’t necessarily want or need to. Searching online is always a good starting point but shouldn’t be your only way of sourcing potential suppliers.

Here are 5 other places that you can look.

1. Your Current Pool of Suppliers

You already work with suppliers – I’m sure of it.

Can any of these offer the products or services that you want for your new project? You don’t have to go back to the start and source a brand new supplier for every project if you have one contracted already who can do the job.

Using a current supplier is normally faster than having to go through a lengthy procurement cycle. They know you and your business so there’s less time getting them up to speed on your requirements.

However, if you aren’t happy with the service you are getting from them, then obviously think twice before giving them more work.

2. Trade Fairs

There is a world of trade and industry exhibitions that let you meet suppliers in real life before signing a deal with them. This is a good option if you have done some online or desk research and you want to move to the next level before finalising an offer.

Plus, entrance to many shows and exhibitions is free.

They can be hugely timewasting if you don’t have a list of target companies to go and see, so do your research before you arrive and head for the trade stalls where you think you’ll get the most value.

3. Industry Press

Look for who is advertising in your industry press (online or a print magazine). Look for who is putting flyers in the magazines that come from your professional bodies. These are potential vendors, and they are actively targeting customers in your area.

I’ve not come across an industry yet that doesn’t have awards, so reading up about the winners of these awards can also give you an insight into who are the movers and shakers in your target industry. Awards normally include neat case studies of what the company has achieved so you can see how they work with others and do what they do.

4. People Your Suppliers Use

If you have trusted suppliers, ask them who they use to fulfil their needs in a similar space and see if there are any connections there that would also work for you.

Often, the same companies come up time and time again because they are tried and tested. Your current vendors may well be willing to recommend people who are not competitors to themselves but who would complement the services they offer.

5. Word of mouth

Alongside asking your vendors, ask other people for recommendations. Ask your clients. Ask your colleagues. Ask your network on LinkedIn or here at ProjectManagement.com in the forums. People love to share stories.

Also, discreetly, ask for information on vendors whom they would avoid. This can be harder to find out but it is infinitely more valuable, as long as you trust the source.

These 5 sources of potential vendors will hopefully give you a list to choose from. You can then take that list and turn it into a shortlist for you to do a deep dive. Start your procurement activity from here – and you are no longer wondering who to invite to tender for your project work.

Posted on: February 21, 2017 11:59 PM | Permalink

Comments (3)

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Hi Elizabeth . Good Article .
Just like to add a comment though. In companies there is generally a policy that if the value of the goods or services to be provided exceeds x amount of dollars and if you know the major players in the market, you will still need to go through a tender process according to your company's internal procurement policy. Yes the ways you suggested above are definitely helpful ways to identify your suppliers

Great article, thanks. It is very useful to have a list to start from when faced with the task of finding who to go to for a quote for a new service. Thanks again.

@Deepesh: yes, the tender process is a robust way of seeking input from a wide range of suppliers. For smaller engagements, you can perhaps manage with a less onerous and less time consuming way of procuring services, but it totally depends on the situation.

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