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Your longtail supplier onboarding program shouldn’t have to be like getting glasses

For the longest time, I had a small but bothersome bruise on my left shoulder. This came from my wife constantly nudging me when I asked her what time it was, or what the captions on TV said. Occasionally there would be a matching bruise on the right shoulder from where she would let me know that I was about to miss our turn (because I could not see the street sign). I knew I needed glasses, I even had a 10-year-old pair that kind of worked for me, but I always found plenty of reasons not to go back and get checked. My reasons for not getting glasses were very similar to the reasons that a longtail supplier resists onboarding to an organization’s P2P process.

Previous bad experience: When I had gone in for my original pair, I had a horrible experience, from pre-registration straight through to payment. While you may have never gone through a P2P onboarding process with a supplier, I can guarantee that the supplier has had several experiences with this with other customers. Typically, these negative experiences are one of the major roadblocks to getting supplier buy-in.

Resource Drain: For me, it was my time. The ability to schedule an appointment that I knew that I could keep. I traveled a lot for work and did not know my schedule more than a week out. For your suppliers, this equates to the time needed to go through the onboarding process. More importantly, most programs are asking a supplier to implement a manual process (invoice upload / PO-flip, etc.). This presents a far larger resource burden that many suppliers simply cannot afford. Remember, you are probably not the only customer asking them to do this. While the process may only take a few minutes, multiplying this by the number of invoices, and the number of customers, and it can become a major bottleneck.

Perceived Benefit: I knew that I would be able to see better with new glasses, but it wasn’t like I was bumping into tables, and the bruises on my shoulders were just a minor nuisance. Most Long Tail programs fail to convey what is in it for the supplier. If you were being asked to do considerably more work, with no added benefit, how eager would you be to sign up?

Ultimately, my story had a happy ending. My wife finally found a new eye doctor, with great references from our friends, flexible scheduling, and friendly doctors. She made a compelling case that I would be missing out on seeing all the beauty on our vacation (we were planning a two-week tour of Italy). Now that I have been to the eye doctor, and I have a new prescription, I fully understand the benefits.

Keep this in mind when you plan your long tail adoption strategy. The key points to consider are:

  1. Messaging: Put together a plan for how you will reach out to suppliers, with the understanding that there are negative experiences that you will need to overcome.
  2. Resources: Make sure your ask of the supplier will not over-consume their resources. They are a long tail supplier for a reason. Your contact at the company is most likely wearing several hats. Utilize technology to provide them a seamless, automated process for submitting invoices, and make sure that your onboarding process takes 5 minutes or less.
  3. Benefit: Make sure your suppliers understand what is in it for them. Topics like fewer late payments, better A/R visibility, preferred status, and better terms (or flexible terms through discount programs) are all benefits that suppliers can receive but are rarely talked about.