Supplier Selection Process

Learn everything about the 7-step supplier selection process to accelerate your search for the best vendor or provider for your business.

business owner talking to suppliers as part of the supplier selection process

What is the Supplier Selection Process?

The supplier selection process is a systematic approach used by companies in identifying, evaluating, and choosing third-party product vendors or service providers. It involves seven main stages, starting from determining the needs of the organizations and ending with managing the relationship with the supplier. The entire process ensures that suppliers meet the organization’s specific needs and requirements for their operations. This methodology is commonly employed in manufacturing, retail, construction, automotive, and healthcare.


Finding and choosing suppliers can be particularly challenging because organizational requirements are quite diverse. On top of that, not every single standard can be precisely matched, despite the numerous options. While this multi-step process tends to be arduous and long drawn out, keeping to this process can help companies in various ways:

  • Cost efficiency – With this process, companies can compare the offers from various third-party vendors or service providers and pick the one offering the most competitive pricing. 
  • Quality assurance – Finding the most appropriate suppliers through this meticulous system ensures high-quality goods and services without worrying about defects or rejects. 
  • Risk mitigation – One of the steps in the procedure identifying threats in quality, finances, and ethics, and ensuring that are measures to mitigate these risks
  • Supply chain reliabilityDisruptions in the supply chain, such as late deliveries or materials scarcity, could impede operations. By reviewing suppliers through this process, companies can assess their dependability. 
  • Long-term collaboration – Compatibility, shared values, and mutual goals are factors companies often look for in their suppliers, resulting in enduring partnerships.

The supplier evaluation and selection process benefits not only the company but also the customers they serve since the products and services are delivered exceptionally and on time.

The 7 Steps in the Supplier Selection Process

While organizations can set up their own methodology in looking for suppliers, the most basic outline consists of seven fundamental stages. 

1. Identify Organization’s Needs

The first phase is defining the company’s requirements and expectations that complete the product or service they plan to offer. This is facilitated through constant back-and-forth with team members, conducting needs analysis, assessing feasibility, looking at trends, and creating project timelines.  

Digitizing these requirements and storing everything in a centralized database ensure that managers remember every detail when reviewing these against supplier offers. Software systems also provide up-to-date market trends and industry benchmarks, assisting in better decision-making.  

2. Establish Criteria for Evaluation 

The second step is the creation of criteria that helps managers objectively evaluate suppliers. Factors to be considered can also be digitized and shared among managers, auditors, and other stakeholders. This includes the following:

3. Screen Suppliers

Based on the criteria set, businesses can begin to pre-qualify potential suppliers by conducting thorough market research, reviewing supplier profiles (particularly their licenses and certifications), and requesting references. 

4. Ask for Requests for Proposal (RFPs) 

This is the part where organizations actively reach out to their top choices to solicit proposals and quotations. The RFP should detail these essentials:

  • Full scope of the project
  • Requirements listing
  • Procurement process
  • Timeline of activities
  • Commercial terms and conditions

Vendors and service providers will then submit their quotations within a given timeframe and should include the following:

  • Product specifications
  • Pricing
  • Delivery schedules

Tracking all the information is possible with a digital solution. This also facilitates better data collection and more efficient comparison of proposals.

5. Evaluate and Select Suppliers

Organizations are likely to receive numerous RFPs to review. To expedite this part of the process and come up with a manageable number, companies should create a scoring system based on qualitative and quantitative analysis. Factors like quality, pricing, reliability, and overall value should be considered.

Score sheets can be analyzed using a software tool, assessing every supplier based on predefined metrics. With the help of integrations, these can be calculated and then converted into easily viewed and understood graphics. 

6. Audit Supplier Sites

Potential partners who passed the evaluation must be visited for more comprehensive checks. During this look-see of facilities, production process, and quality control measures, business auditors can use digital checklists to streamline the inspection and immediately send back reports to their managers for a more efficient review.

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7. Finalize the Supplier Agreement and Relationship Management 

The final stage is selecting the supplier and entering into a formal agreement outlining the terms and conditions with confidentiality clauses and mechanisms for resolving disputes. This step also involves the commitment of both parties to collaborate and ensure both quality management and transparency throughout the contract’s lifespan. 

Software solutions help with efficient data collection, supplier directory creation, supplier management, and secure document management. Quality is also ensured through constant monitoring of KPIs and real-time communication for quicker resolutions to problems. 

Eunice Arcilla Caburao
Article by
Eunice Arcilla Caburao
Eunice is a content contributor for SafetyCulture. A registered nurse, theater stage manager, Ultimate Frisbee athlete, and mother, Eunice has written a multitude of topics for over a decade now.