How to kick start a supplier partnership in 2022

Jan 5, 2022 | Sector & policy

A good supplier partnership can provide you with a much-needed business supporter. Read advice from ISE experts to help those looking to form and develop new supplier partnerships.

ISE supplier members cover a vast range of services, from full applicant tracking system solutions to supporting social mobility. They are all experts in their field, but if you are new to early talent it can be a daunting task to navigate your way through.


Concept of partnership

It is likely that you will have commercial and contractual arrangements with your suppliers, but that doesn’t stop you thinking about them as partners.

The concept of a partnership suggests a relationship beyond a simple transaction. One where both sides get equal value, and one where there are shared goals and positive outcomes for everyone.

It can be the case that the relationship develops gradually – what began as a simple transactional arrangement grows into something deeper. Or it may be that you set out to actively build a partnership with another organisation or group of organisations.

Either way, finding the right partner, managing the relationship and balancing what you both get out of the relationship takes time and effort.


Do you need a supplier partner?

The ISE Complete Guide to Student Recruitment and Development shows just how much there is to do, and to do it well takes a lot of resources – either budget or people. There are several reasons why you might want a supplier partner at some point in that journey:

  • Expertise You might not have the expertise you need in-house.
  • Reach A partner might be able to increase the reach of your activities.
  • Efficiency It may cost less to work with a partner than to try and do it yourself.
  • Creativity You might want a spark, an insight or to be challenged to consider a new approach.

Once you have recognised the need for external support you can work towards finding the most appropriate people and organisations to work with.


Timing is everything

Depending on your internal organisational protocols, if you are looking to enter a commercial arrangement you may have a defined tender process.

However, sometimes the most productive partnerships start with a chance meeting in a networking environment. In fact we hear this time and time again from employers who have attended one of our events.

However, timing is everything and the resulting supplier partnership is often because they were talking to the right person at the right time – they had a problem to solve and the supplier knew just how to do it.

If it’s not the right time, think twice and spare a thought for the suppliers who might not know when the right time is for you. If you are approached at a point that is not that helpful in your recruitment or development cycle, taking the time to ask some key questions could prove fruitful down the line.


Start with some useful questions

Here are some example questions to get the ball rolling:

  • What is the nature of the product/service? If you don’t understand the details, ask more questions.
  • How long have they been operating? Start-ups can be exciting, they may be using new technology to solve old problems, but understanding where they are in the evolution of their business will help you shape an idea of whether they might be a good fit to work with.
  • What other clients are they working with? You might be comforted to know if they are working with others in your sector, or you might prefer to be first to the table.
  • What regions or demographics do they cover? Are they going to be a good fit for your business – and are they willing to stretch into new areas for the right partner?

Asking questions is important, but so is giving information. Let them know when you might be open to a future discussion, or if you’ll be willing to ‘keep warm’ the relationship.

Also explain the direction of travel for your strategy – what the challenges are that you’re trying to solve. You don’t need to hand over commercially sensitive information but do remember the ‘give and take’.

This is an excerpt from ISE’s Complete Guide to Student Recruitment and Development

Read more insight and know how from ISE’s Guide



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