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Five Ways to Get the Most Out of Your Vendor Relationships

The number of businesses currently in operation proves that competition is alive and well. A plethora of options means that consumers always have a choice of whose business they support. As a vendor, customers expect you to provide quality goods and services at competitive rates, while also offering a little something extra that makes you stand out from the crowd.

Selecting a vendor to work with is a straightforward and simple process; sometimes learning how to get the most out of those relationships is more challenging. Below are seven suggestions to guide your vendor relationships to result in more positive, profitable outcomes.

1.  Show genuine interest, and stay engaged in your projects.

When you hire a vendor to help produce a project, you are employing them to help make your dream become a reality. Whether you’re building an e-commerce website to sell homemade goods, building a booth to display at upcoming trade shows or printing business cards and letterhead to market your business, your enthusiasm and interest in the project is what will generate the same excitement in your vendor.

If you let your projects fall to the wayside, always cancel critical meetings or blow off important deadlines, your vendor team will likely find it hard to muster the energy to give your projects their all – if the project is not a priority for you, why should it be for them? Projects truly are a group effort, and that’s required from both sides. Before you embark on a large project with a vendor, ask yourself if you (or a designated member of your team) have the time to devote to the project through completion. If the answer is no, consider acquiring additional resources to support the project, or postpone the project until you and your team are available to focus on it.

2.  Educate your vendors.

When you were first hired to do the job you’re doing now, you probably required a good bit of on-boarding and training to prepare you to perform your daily job duties. Even if your education prepared you to perform the work, you likely had to learn the systems and processes of your company to work within a new system with new coworkers.

Likewise, when working with a new vendor, you should spend some time training and onboarding them to your company. Do you prefer to communicate via email, office phone or cell? Are you a client who likes to be pushed to meet deadlines, or do you prefer a more lax relationship with floating deadlines allowing for projects to move at their own natural pace? Who are your competitors? Who do you admire in your industry? What are the personality traits of your brand? There are many areas in which you can educate your vendors to help them think like an employee and ensure the best, most strategic outcome for projects.

3.  Be nice.

This one really should go without saying, but BE NICE. Sure, you can throw your weight around, threatening to pull your business or cancel a project if you don’t get your way, but that’s likely to backfire in your face very quickly.

Instead, try making an honest plea when you truly need a favor from your vendor. Need to push a deadline up or have a strict budget for production? Explain your situation, offer to make it up in some way in the future (cookies, anyone?) and show appreciation for generosity. Should you find yourself in the same position in the future, the latter approach is almost guaranteed to result in a helping hand being extended every time it’s needed.

4.  Stick to deadlines.

Project managers expend a lot of time and energy (read: budget) on planning out workflows for projects. Additionally, projects are scheduled, teams are debriefed and business operations are planned around capacity for work at any given time. Sticking with deadlines means that your vendor stays happy and efficiently completes your project, while you get what you need on time and within budget. Win-win!

5.  Pay on time.

Another one that truly goes without saying. This tip is as straightforward as they come. It’s a sign of respect and good business practice to pay vendors on time. Most invoices include payment terms on invoices, and most businesses expect you to stick with them. If you must pay a bill late, if nothing else, give your vendor notice so they are aware of your situation.

Being a good customer comes down to some pretty basic guidelines. If you’re a kind, considerate person who places value on vendor relationships by showing interest in projects and making them a priority, you’ll have no problems producing impressive work, especially when you ask for things nicely.