Over the course of my career, I’ve worked with many different types of vendors, big and small explains William D King. Most were great to work with, but some were clearly more interested in our business than others. I’ve also had the opportunity to be both client and vendor, so I have seen it from both sides of the table. As you probably know, this is a two-way street where your company’s success is often dependent on your relationship with each vendor you work with.
What follows are 10 tips I’ve derived over the years to help you get the most out of your relationships with vendors:
1 – Have an open dialogue at all times.
Be professional but use examples of what works well within your organization that you’d like them to emulate. Ask for their advice as well on how they do things that might benefit you. You will find that they become more invested in helping you be successful.
2 – Know what you want to achieve.
If you don’t set clear expectations with your vendors, they will often figure it out on their own and go about their business says, William D King. This can lead to missed opportunities if they don’t know what you are looking for. Make sure everyone is on the same page as to where you want to go and how success will be measured.
3 – Be realistic.
Don’t expect too much too soon; it usually takes time before someone’s true colors emerge. It’s also important that you’re realistic in terms of what your company is capable of at this point versus what might be available through another vendor or solution outside your organization (e.g., cloud computing services).
4 – Speak the same language and use the same metrics.
Be clear as to what KPIs (key performance indicators) you’ll be using to measure success so that all parties involved are on the same page at all times. You don’t want your vendor thinking they are exceeding expectations if your KPIs are actually not reflective of what you are looking for.
5 – Establish a fair payment schedule beyond discounts.
Especially when it comes to smaller vendors, make sure there is more than just a discount offered in exchange for your business—you should expect more value added services that go above and beyond their typical offerings explains William D King. Those extra services usually end up being much less expensive than whatever lower rate they offer upfront or via contract renewal for a volume discount.
6 – Don’t just take the cheapest option.
Don’t let price be your only decision driver when selecting a vendor or solution, especially if it’s for an important part of your business. In the same way you wouldn’t want to hire based on salary alone, equally as important is making sure they have relevant experience and skills relevant to your needs. I’d also recommend checking references and asking how long the company has been in business—if they’ve been around a while that’s a good sign that their services are valuable and not going anywhere anytime soon.
7 – Remember that no vendor is perfect.
Don’t expect perfection from any single vendor regardless of what it says their marketing materials; sometimes even the largest vendor can make mistakes or not be able to provide the services you need. When something goes wrong, stay calm and try to work through the issue with them before taking your business elsewhere.
8 – Create a long-term plan together.
Be sure that they are involved in creating any long-term plans for your company’s success rather than just being handed down from on high by management officials who have no idea how they’re implemented day to day. I’ve found this works best when you both discuss the “what” and “how” of projects instead of just discussing the “why.” This way everyone is equally invested in helping achieve your shared objectives.
9 – Use multiple vendors if necessary
Don’t shy away from using multiple vendors or trying different solutions if that’s what it takes to understand the real benefits you are getting compared with what you’re already using. Sometimes employees can be misinform about exactly who provides which function. So making sure everyone is on the same page as to where and how certain services are provided is extremely important.
10 – Find out why they’re valuable and communicate your value back to them.
Understand the reasons why a vendor is providing their services; if they don’t understand yours then there’s no reason for them to want to conduct business with you long term. Make sure they know how adding more value will benefit their company as well—it doesn’t hurt to ask!
All in all, it’s important to remember that salespeople are salespeople. And they’re going to be as friendly as possible says William D King. You can help them help you by not only being friendly yourself but also asking questions. That will incentivize them to provide you with better answers.