How to Build a Successful Supplier Relationship

By Linda RoperSeptember 7, 2021

A good supplier can be the lifeblood of a successful business, yet businesses often overcomplicate this relationship unnecessarily. While some see themselves as the all-important customer in this scenario, it’s important to realise that the supplier and business relationship is a two-way street.

Two business people shaking handsImage: ©filadendron via

Thankfully, learning how to build a successful supplier relationship isn’t hard. Through following these best practices with sourcing, contract exchanging, and invoicing, you and your supplier will have a mutually beneficial partnership for years to come.


Sourcing a Supplier

Not every supplier will be right for you, and likewise, your business won’t be a good fit for every supplier. Therefore, finding the right supplier for your business requires some research on your behalf, as you want this to be a long and fruitful relationship.

To get started with sourcing the perfect supplier, you can:

  • Do an internet search for wholesalers

  • Attend an industry event where relevant suppliers will be present

  • Join an industry group or forum where you can gain supplier recommendations

  • Find a list of local suppliers using an industry database

  • Ask other business owners you trust for supplier recommendations

Comparing Suppliers

After your initial research, you should have a list of potential suppliers. The next step is to work out which of these is the perfect fit for your business, and therefore, who you will be able to develop a good relationship with.

To do this, you’ll want to compare each supplier in terms of the following:

  • Price

  • Reliability

  • Size of operation

  • Experience and length of time within the industry

  • Location

  • References

Contract Exchanging

Once you’ve narrowed down your supplier list to the one which you want to do business with, it’s time to develop and exchange a contract with them. This is one of the key steps to starting out on the right foot with a supplier and developing a good relationship with them.

Generally, your contract with a supplier should address the following:

  • what goods or services are being provided

  • pricing

  • payment terms

  • delivery times and terms

  • product timeframes

  • warranty periods

  • insurance responsibilities

  • dispute resolution terms

  • clauses relating to termination and exclusion

Of course, you’ll want to develop contract terms that both you and your supplier are happy with. Additionally, you should seek trusted legal advice before drafting and exchanging a contract.


As your partnership kicks off, you’ll soon be required to pay your supplier’s first invoice. Invoicing will occur regularly from your supplier, so it’s vital that you keep on top of these to ensure timely payment. Failing to pay your supplier on time can be one of the most significant factors in this relationship turning sour, which is exactly what you don’t want.

In the past, processing supplier invoices would take finance teams hours on end. Thankfully, however, there’s an easier way.

ExpenseIn recently released a much-anticipated invoicing module, which provides real-time invoice scanning and automated approval. Additionally, it gives users the ability to submit purchase requests, allowing managers to pre-approve spend before the purchase has taken place. The feature is accessible 24/7 and users can switch between the expenses and invoicing module at any time in the ExpenseIn web portal.

Finance teams can now capture, process, and approve their supplier invoices from anywhere, before posting them with the click of a button to their accounting system. This completely removes the need for manual data entry, therefore speeding up the invoicing process for all involved.