August 7, 2023
Written by
Sarah Clarke

The Say:Do ratio: building trust and success in supplier relationships

Prioritising consistency between our words and our actions is a key way to cement trust. In this article we look at how improving your procurement Say:Do ratio can help strengthen your supplier relationships and help you reap the benefits of supplier collaboration.

When it comes to both personal and professional relationships, trust is the currency that underpins all interactions. Trust is the glue that binds individuals and organisations together, trust sits at the heart of a highly effective and successful team, and trust is a non-negotiable foundation for effective Supplier Collaboration & Innovation. 

A crucial factor in establishing and maintaining trust is the "Say:Do" ratio – the alignment between what we say we will do and what we actually do. In this article, we will delve into the concept of the Say:Do ratio, exploring its significance, its impact on relationships, and strategies for improving it.

Understanding the Say:Do ratio

The Say:Do ratio is a simple yet profound concept. It reflects the consistency between our words and actions, representing the degree to which we follow through on our promises and commitments. When our Say:Do ratio is close to 1:1, it means that we consistently deliver on what we say we will do, building trust and reliability. On the other hand, a poor Say:Do ratio can lead to scepticism, frustration, disappointment, and ultimately erodes trust in our relationships.

The significance of the Say:Do ratio in relationships

Building trust and credibility

Trust is the foundation of any successful relationship, be it personal or professional. The Say:Do ratio plays a central role in establishing trust and credibility. When we consistently act in alignment with our words, others perceive us as reliable and trustworthy individuals or organisations. This enhances our credibility and fosters a positive perception of our character or business values.

Strengthening communication

Effective communication depends on trust and transparency. A high Say:Do ratio strengthens communication by ensuring that our messages are seen as genuine and reliable. This facilitates open and honest dialogue, as others feel more comfortable sharing their thoughts and feelings when they trust that their words will be heard, respected, and acted upon where necessary. 

Enhancing reliability

In professional settings, reliability is highly valued. Employers, colleagues, and of course our suppliers appreciate individuals and businesses who consistently deliver on their promises. A high Say:Do ratio makes us reliable partners, leading to stronger and more fruitful business relationships.

Cultivating accountability

A high Say:Do ratio encourages personal and organisational accountability. When we are committed to delivering on our promises, we take responsibility for our actions and strive to meet expectations. This accountability drives us to perform at our best, ensuring that we meet our commitments.

Boosting ‘Customer of Choice’ relationships and loyalty

For businesses, the Say:Do ratio has a direct impact on supplier loyalty. When companies consistently fulfil their promises to suppliers, it builds trust and confidence in the buying team. Satisfied suppliers are more likely to choose the buying organisation as ‘Customer of Choice’.

Strategies for Improving the Say:Do Ratio

Be realistic and transparent

To improve the Say:Do ratio, it's essential to be realistic when making commitments. Avoid over-promising and under-delivering. For instance, if you offer a supplier preferential payment terms yet fail to follow through on the offer, this will damage the trust in your relationship. Instead, be transparent about your capabilities, communicate clear expectations, and always deliver on your commitments.

Prioritise communication

Effective communication is key to maintaining a high Say:Do ratio. Actively listen to others' needs and concerns, and ensure that your messages are clear and unambiguous. Regularly update stakeholders on progress and be proactive in addressing any challenges or changes in plans. This may come in the form of digital QBRs; make sure they always happen and make sure that the outcomes and decisions are documented and always followed through.

Set SMART goals

When making commitments, set Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound (SMART) goals. This approach helps you define clear objectives, monitor progress, and meet deadlines effectively.

Be accountable and responsible

Take ownership of your actions and commitments. If you encounter obstacles that prevent you from fulfilling a promise, communicate proactively and offer alternative solutions. Being accountable fosters trust, even in challenging situations. Make this is a critical element of your joint business planning with a strategic supplier – setting the intentions and expected behaviours of both parties in the relationship to ensure success. 

Consistently follow through

Consistency is key to maintaining a high Say:Do ratio. Make a conscious effort to consistently follow through on your commitments. Demonstrating reliability over time will strengthen trust in your relationships.

Learn from mistakes

Even with the best of intentions, no individual, team, or organisation is perfect, and there will be times when you might fall short of fulfilling a commitment. When mistakes happen, acknowledge them, apologise if necessary, and learn from the experience. Demonstrating accountability and learning from errors can help rebuild trust.


As individuals and organisations, fostering a high Say:Do ratio not only enhances our relationships but also strengthens our reputations and drives long-term success. By understanding the significance of this ratio and striving to maintain its integrity, we can create an environment of trust, respect, and mutual benefit in all our interactions.

For more information on how to engage effectively with supplier stakeholders, download our guide "Top 10 tactics for better supplier engagement".

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