Bombardier chief urges control on 'back door' selling

29 April 2013
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29 April 2013 Paul Snell in Grapevine, Texas

You cannot stop suppliers trying to sell to your company through the ‘back door’, but you can try to control it, according to Claire Auroi, director, supply chain business development at Bombardier Aerospace.

Speaking at a session on supplier relationship management at the Institute for Supply Management annual conference in Texas, US, she said the technique – where suppliers attempt to make sales by engaging with stakeholders in key functions rather than through procurement – is powerful (and successful) for vendors, making it important that the supply chain function manages it. And while having policies and procedures is a basic foundation, “it is by no means sufficient”, she said.

“Don't think for a second that it won't be there. It exists and will exist, so how do I control that? Communication is key, both internally and externally.”

She said the first step for procurement is to identify the departments that will be directly contacted by vendors. “In our case, engineering is absolutely the key targeted function. In other [companies] it might be product planning or marketing.”

Next, train staff and stakeholders to understand the impact it has on the company, she said. “No-one gets up in the morning saying I'm going to hurt my company, but they don't understand the potential negatives of back door selling.”

And the third step is addressing the issue with the suppliers themselves. “You pass the message to your suppliers that this behaviour is not accepted,” Auroi said, explaining that Bombardier has even temporarily suspended some providers from selection processes in the past for aggressive back-door selling, which sends a powerful message.

“It exists – it always exists – but learn how manage it and take a comprehensive, ‘one voice’ approach,” she advised.

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