While working for a previous employer I sent a Request-for-Quote to a supplier for a somewhat uncomplicated industrial component they manufactured on a previous program. Due to a recent design change the part needed to be sourced as soon as possible due to the project timing, and I expressed those needs in the RFQ.
After 10 days and with no word from the supplier, I sent an e-mail asking for a status of the quote. I again expressed the urgent need for the part. I received a reply that the RFQ needed to be processed through a few internal departments before they could provide the pricing and lead-times.
Within the next five days I sent three additional e-mails asking for the status of the quote. I finally received a response after my third e-mail. The supplier said I could expect the quote by the end of the week. Of course, the end of the week came and went with no quote and no communication.
I then sent two more e-mails asking for the quote status. No response. It had now been three weeks since I sent the RFQ with little response from the supplier and precious time ticking away. So I sent yet another e-mail to the supplier explaining if I didn’t receive status by the end of the day I would be compelled to move forward with our other options for that part. That got a response! The response was that they were doing everything they could do to expedite a response. (What?) I thanked them and asked if they could simply provide a “best-guess” lead time for the part. No response. I again e-mailed asking if they were able to at least provide an estimated lead time in an attempt to save them some work if I knew the lead time was beyond the project schedule. The reply came back that the lead time would be provided in the quote that was still being internally worked on. They apparently didn’t understand my request and there seemed to be no sense of urgency on their end. I then asked if they had any existing parts from the previous project sitting on a shelf somewhere or at least the raw material so we could move forward. No response.
Now it’s my understanding that the supplier described here was in financial distress, which surprised me based on their seemingly lack of motivation to provide me with a quote. (Or maybe that shouldn’t have surprised me!) But whether or not a supplier is experiencing monetary issues, the main question is this: What type of internal process does the supplier have that apparently inhibits them from providing a quote within a reasonable amount of time, especially knowing that it was urgently needed? Was every department informed the quote was hot? Was the sales representative concerned about my needs or the financial needs of his own company? Were sub-suppliers tasked with the same pressing need for costs and timing? And are their mandated internal processes constraining their ability to improve sales and revenue?
Too many times internal corporate guidelines and culture inhibit companies from realizing their true potential. How many of us are forced to comply with strict mandates set forth by executive management that are not in the best interest of the company and, in fact, prevent the company from standing out from its competitors? How many times do we sit at our desks and say to ourselves, “This process is totally screwed up. It doesn’t make any sense. We could do things much quicker if we were able to bypass one or more of these steps.” As employees we owe it to our company to prudently point out written procedures and everyday practices that impede our ability to legally and ethically prosper and become the benchmark of the industry. But too many times we find that ego, politics and the “we’ve always done it this way” mentality stands in the way.
FEEDBACK: My “Sales Advice from the Buyer’s Desk” is for your Sales Team to meet with all applicable departments and individuals in your company and go through the complete process of quoting: How is the RFQ received? How quickly is the Buyer responded to? How quickly does the RFQ make it to the estimating department? How fast does the estimating department jump on the RFQ? Are fast are questions sent back to the Buyer? Are sub-suppliers contacted and requested for their own quotes with the same urgency the Buyer has? Can pricing from previous projects be used based on common sense estimating and progressive cost increases instead of waiting for third-party quotes? Are communications from the Buyer being addressed within a reasonable amount of time, even if it’s only to say, “We’re still working on it”? Does the information being provided in the subsequent quote actually match what the RFQ requested? If the Buyer asked for pricing and lead time on (30) blue widgets, does your quote instead provide information on (50) green widgets? If the Buyer stated Net 30 payment terms and FOB delivery terms, does your quote reflect the same terms? How many steps, days, personnel and work can be pulled from the quoting process and still provide an adequate quote per the Buyer’s request?
Improving the quoting process, even by a day, can greatly increase a supplier’s ability to increase sales. Steamlining corporate procedures, finding faster ways to determine pricing and lead times, and adherence to the terms of the RFQ “the first time” will also give your company an advantage over your slower competitors. From “The Buyer’s Desk” you need to know that many times I’ve placed purchase orders to acceptable companies only because theirs was the ONLY quote I received in time to meet the project schedule. We live in a business environment in which timelines are short and design-to-build schedules are even shorter. In fact, with the project I’m currently working on, placing orders to suppliers who were the only ones to provide a quote within the time I needed it has been the norm and not the exception. So make sure your company reorganizes, restructures and streamlines your quoting process to take advantage of those opportunities.