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12 tips for making your vendors partners

When we look at vendor transactions, the language isn’t particularly warm, and it usually doesn’t describe a relationship in which everyone is valued and comes away whole and satisfied.

Salesman showing product from a tablet to a happy client who is looking at device in an office indoor

“Companies use vendors to provide services”

“Service providers fill customer orders “

Valcort’s #30 Key to Business Growth calls for a much different kind of relationship:  Work to build strong, long-term partnerships with your vendors to help them reduce their costs, to grow and prosper to serve you even better.

Sounds great, but how do you do this. Here are 12 quick tips to start on a journey that will require care and vigilance.

  1. Hire a vendor who shares your values. When you’ve already established an agreement with a vendor and they demonstrate behaviors that are contrary to your core values, it’s not likely to be a long or trusting relationship.
  2. Hire a vendor who understands and supports your vision and mission. Take the time to communicate your vision, mission and goals, and where you plan to take your business in the future. Invite their suggestions on the role they can play in achieving these goals. A trusted vendor will likely have unique insights into the industry and offer helpful feedback you won’t find anywhere else.
  3. Research potential vendors’ reputations and offerings by connecting with colleagues in your professional network. Get feedback from the vendors’ past clients; find the details behind the case studies they present.
  4. Understand what you want to accomplish. Be specific in defining and documenting your requirements, as well as the goals of the projects your bringing to a vendor.
  5. Develop effective internal relationships. Strong partnerships with multiple departments, such as IT, finance, and the senior executive team create alignment and build the foundation for long-term agreements.
  6. Look for vendors who take the time to listen to you and absorb your requirements. Then have them explicitly demonstrate how your needs will be met.
  7. Be as transparent as possible. The piece of information you withhold may prove critical. Your transparency can ensure alignment
  8. Understand that it isn’t always about money. Let your budget be your guide, but request creative solutions from vendors that allow you to accomplish your goals within your allocated amount.
  9. When mistakes happen, don’t point fingers. Problems are inevitable. Your vendor relationship will be strengthened if, instead of finger-pointing and assigning blame, you work to clarify the situation and take steps to ensure the same issue doesn’t crop up again.
  10. Refer a trusted vendor to others. When your vendor is contacted by a prospective customer that you referred, their loyalty to your business becomes even stronger. This is a concrete way to show your appreciation for their services and it’s likely they will return the favor at some time in the future with a referral.
  11. Pay Your Bills on Time. Just like you, vendors, product manufacturers, and wholesale distributors depend on prompt payment for goods and services. For vendors working on thin margins, cash flow is essential. When you consistently pay on time and respect agreed-upon conditions, you demonstrate appreciation for their contributions and your business rises to a “most trusted” status in the vendor’s eyes.
  12. Assess everyone’s progress as the partnership evolves. Go step-by-step together. The relationship could be a long one, so you both want to get it right.

Businesses that see vendors as partners rather than just another operational necessity gain a competitive advantage in the marketplace. Because of the relationship they’ve developed, they can depend on vendors to come through in times of increased customer demand and to offer the best pricing arrangements available anywhere. In these situations, everyone wins.

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