7 Free Ways To Find Suppliers For Your Next RFP

If you are dealing with commodities purchase or for that matter raw material purchase, you probably would  have limited set of suppliers and there is not much of a challenge in finding new suppliers (assuming that you have a well defined category strategy). There might be strong focus on supplier development for reducing cost and increasing service levels.

However, for Indirect Spend, you probably always have  the challenge of easily finding new suppliers, especially for intangibles like software and services. It could be that you are dealing with a new category and you don’t know the vendor base or there are only limited set of suppliers available in the market.

Here are seven techniques you can use to find new suppliers for any category. Your mileage on finding new suppliers using these techniques may vary based on the category.So let’s get started.

  1. Search Engines


Search engines like Google (www.google.com) and Bing (www.bing.com) are great resources to get started with finding new suppliers. Most of the vendors have web presence / websites and it is usually easy to find suppliers using the search engines.


You can start with simple search like “Suppliers for” + “Your Keywords” and usually that leads you to what you are looking for. Most of the vendors have paid ads for these keywords and you should be able to see that in the ads section.

Supplier Search Results _Ads.png

If you don’t find what you are looking for by using simple search, you can also use advance search parameters in google and other search engines.


Some of the examples for advance search parameters for google.


  1. inurl: Shows all web addresses where the specific keywords are part of the url.

  2. intitle: Shows all web pages where the specific keywords are present in the specific page title.

  3. intext: Shows all web pages where the specific keywords are present in the page text.


    You can use one of them or all of them to find the right suppliers you are looking for. For  example, if I am looking for “Marketing Automation” software then you can use the following syntax

inurl” “marketing automation”


Supplier search results_inURL.png

2. Supplier Registries


Supplier registries are also a great resource for finding new suppliers.  The problem with supplier registers is that they are niche specific most of the times. So this might not be helpful all the times but works well for commodities products and services. Some of the examples below


  1. Thomasnet is a supplier directory and allows supplier discovery. They have more than 700,000 Suppliers and 100 Million + parts which can be sourced through Thomasnet. Thomasnet also have a search by UNSPSC (United Nations Standard Product and Services Code), so if you are using UNSPSC for spend classification then this might be a good way to search suppliers

Screen Shot 2015-10-10 at 9.00.35 AM.png


Otherwise you can always search suppliers by product and service keywords

Screen Shot 2015-10-10 at 9.04.40 AM.png


I will not go into specifics of each supplier register but here are few more which you can use based on the product/service you are looking for


B. Alibaba : Though primarily used for china sourcing in the early stages, Alibaba has come a long way. Some of the categories you can source from Alibaba are listed in the screenshot below (From Agriculture and food to Electronic components)

Screen Shot 2015-10-10 at 9.09.18 AM.png


C.MacraesBlueBook:  Primarily covers Industrial products and services. As per their website, they have 1.2 Mil + Suppliers and 2 Million + product listing.


D. Masterseek:  As per their website, they have 732 Million business professionals on their website. Seems like a good resource for finding suppliers for professional services.


E. Manta: Manta has a strong focus on Small Business, a good resource primarily for services categories.


3. Supplier Networks

Supplier networks play a crucial role in enabling the procure to pay transaction. Initially, supplier networks were built to support Procure to Pay(P2P) tools. Suppliers can go to these portals for checking their Purchase Orders as well as to submit the invoices.

Some of these supplier networks now offer supplier discovery capabilities. The list is not all inclusive, so feel free to add to this list

  1. Ariba: If I am not wrong, Ariba was the first company to set up a supplier network. They have around 1.7 Million suppliers who are either registered on the network or using the network for commerce transactions.  To get started go to Ariba Supplier Discovery , it allows you to try the supplier discovery for free. The list of categories available is in the screenshot below.

Ariba Supplier Discovery.png


B. Hubwoo: Hubwoo is another large supplier network and offers supplier discovery for free. There have 130 million + catalog items available on their network and large number of suppliers. To try Hubwoo supplier discovery, you can go to Hubwoo Supplier discovery, You can try it without registering by using the search bar on the top right hand corner. For more detailed search you have to register.


Hubwoo supplier network.png


C. Others: Lot of other Eprocurement / Procure to Pay solution providers are building their own networks, though they might be small but in some cases more relevant if the are focussed on your niche market. If you are using an Eprocurement / Procure to Pay tool then check with your provider, if they have a supplier network and do they offer supplier discovery capabilities.


4. Industry Analyst Reports

Another source for finding new suppliers is Industry analysts research reports, where they generally rank the vendors across different criterias. The ranking system might vary but if you are look at the Top 5-10 suppliers, you will see the same list of suppliers across different analyst reports.

If you don’t know which research firm/s covers your category, you can always google something like “analyst research” + your category Keyword.

In this example, I am using Gartner as an example but you can pretty much use the same methodology for other industry analysts.  This assumes that you don’t have Gartner subscription, if you do then skip the following steps and search directly on Gartner’s website.


  1. Search google : Let say I need to find suppliers for “Marketing Automation” Software. You can search google for “Gartner Magic Quadrant Marketing Automation”

  2. Go under Search tools and limit the search results to “Past Year” so that the results are more relevant

    Google Serch Tools Options.png

c. Go to Images results and you should be able to see the magic quadrant for that category

Marketing Automation_Image Search.png


d. Review the results and see which is more applicable to your category and there is your list of suppliers which you should include in your RFP.


e. Now if you want to read the Gartner report, then go to the website of the these vendors and most of them have the report available for download after going through a simple registration form.


You can use the same technique for other industry analyst, just change the name of the research firm in your search queries!.

5. Social Media

Most of the companies nowadays  have social media presence and you can use tools like LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook to find new suppliers. I am going to cover LinkedIn and Twitter as examples but this can be easily extended to other social media platforms.

5.1 LinkedIn

  1. Most of you should have a LinkedIn profile, if not go ahead and create Linkedin profile.

  2. Once you login, change the filter in the top search bar to Companies.

        LinkeIn Company Search.png


3. Search for the category you are looking for, for example “Marketing Automation”. You can narrow down the results by using the filters on the left hand side.




4. Alternatively, you can search for the exact company name, For example “Marketo”


5.1 Twitter


Twitter is a great tool for content discovery and you can use the tool for supplier discovery too. If you don’t have a twitter account, you can sign up for free here.

Once you sign up, you can search twitter using hashtags. Continuing with the same example,  you are search for “ # MarketingAutomationtools” will show the following results




You can see the details about the suppliers by following one of the links from the results. I am sure you can use facebook equally well but I personally didn’t had much success with that.

6. Existing Suppliers

Your existing supplier base can be a good source for new product and services, if you are maintaining a comprehensive list of their capabilities. That means, that you are categorizing your suppliers into what you buy from them but also what  you could potentially buy from them.

This approach not only makes it easier to find suppliers but also helps in supplier consolidation efforts and hence better leverage.

Given that you can not maintain detailed portfolio information about each supplier, start with supplier segmentation.  I am assuming that you have a methodology to segregate your supplier base, so focus efforts only on “Strategic Suppliers”.

You can maintain this list into your existing Spend management system, Supplier Information management system. If you don’t have any system, then maintain that in an Excel file.

7. Potential Suppliers

Sourcing teams receive lot of cold calls from suppliers and 90% of the time that information is not captured anywhere. If you are creating a list of potential suppliers across various categories you manage, then you have a ready list when you are ready to send the RFP out.


You need to have the following to create your supplier list in this way



Good luck with finding new suppliers.

  1. Criteria: Do you have well defined criteria for adding potential suppliers? if not, define that first. Usually that should cover your corporate requirements for a supplier to be considered as a potential supplier. For example, revenue of the company, location of the company, Diversity (if your company have a supplier diversity program).

  2. System to capture potential suppliers: Most of the supplier information management systems have capabilities to maintain information about potential suppliers. If you have a system like that, then you should route all the potential suppliers to register there. The system should be able to validate if the suppliers meet your Corporate criteria and store information about their core capabilities.

  3. If you don’t have an automated system, then use a simple excel file to maintain information about those suppliers. At the least, you should capture key terms of your corporate requirements.