ISO 9001 Implementation: Should You Wait Until Your Customer Asks?

I often hear from clients and prospects that they would consider implementing an ISO Quality System only after “my customers start asking for it.” Is this a wise strategy?

In reality, by the time customers ask for your certification, it is often too late. Let’s examine why that “waiting” strategy frequently results in huge lost opportunities.

Your customer may not have flexibility to wait for your ISO certification.

Several months are required to develop the documentation and prepare for a certification audit even when a mature quality system is already in place.Your prospect may not have the patience or the flexibility to wait for you to become certified.

For instance, a marine parts manufacturer lost several large contracts due to the lack of ISO certification. After registering to ISO 9001:2008, the company was able to bid and secure a multi-year five million dollar contract with a Middle Eastern luxury yacht manufacturer only a few weeks after passing the certification audit. The bid request specifically stated that ISO9001 registration was a pre-requisite for participation.

Similarly, a Miami medical device distributor failed to qualify for bidding on several large contracts with South American hospitals due to the lack of ISO registration. After becoming certified, he was accepted as an approved vendor by many of these hospitals and was invited to participate on numerous solicitations.

Supply chain partners are required to be ISO certified.

Globally, more than one million organizations have become registered to the basic ISO 9001 international standard ( One reason for this high number is that many large companies today require their supply chains to be certified to the standard as well. The certification validates that the supplier has developed a compliant Quality System that has been recognized by an accredited and independent third party.

Dealing solely with ISO certified suppliers, the customer eliminates or reduces the need to conduct its own supplier audits. ISO registered companies, large and small, normally seek other certified companies and include the registration as an element of its vendor selection criteria.

ISO registration reduces the necessity for the customer to conduct on-site audits at the suppliers’ facilities.

As companies supply chains spread over the globe, the need to conduct supplier audits is a drain of resources for both customer and supplier. Registration to the standard provides assurance that the supplier has implemented a Quality System that will meet the customer’s primary expectations for product and service quality and on-time delivery.

Lack of certification serves as an early screening criterion on deciding what suppliers to consider.

It is very likely that some of your competitors have already registered and thereby attained a competitive edge over your organization. Of course, many customers will ask for your ISO certification. Unfortunately, others will not even ask. Like a skill that is missing from a job candidate’s resume, a lack of certification serves as an early screening criterion on deciding what suppliers to consider. The ISO certified companies will gravitate towards those suppliers that have already been registered.

An ISO certified company adds value and competitive advantage.

ISO certified companies also want suppliers that speak the same “language” and are more responsive to their Quality requirements. ISO registered suppliers understand the standard’s requirements for controlling and measuring processes and will generally be more cooperative with corrective action investigations to resolve problems promptly. To maintain registration, the ISO registered supplier must demonstrate that he has consistently met product requirements and continually improved its processes to attain full customer satisfaction.

Once registered, a company can announce its achievement to the world and use the new prestige and added value to gain competitive advantage.  Your marketing media is used to publicize the accomplishment including: web site and blogs, press releases, email signatures, email campaigns, stationery letterheads, directory listings, and so on.

The waiting strategy can result in lost business and some of these losses may never be revealed because of early disqualifications. The costs of implementation and maintaining registration are nominal compared to the potential loss of revenues and profits.

Sharing your ISO certification experiences can help others understand the sales and marketing rationale for attaining registration.

This article has covered the sales and marketing rationale for attaining registration. My next article will discuss how ISO 9001 implementation will help improve the way you do business.

Have you experienced any incidents where ISO certification helped you get business that you would not have been able to obtain without it? Please share your experiences in the comments.

QMA specializes in leading companies in the implementation of Quality systems, such as, ISO 9001:2008, AS9100, ISO13485 and FDA GMPs.