(Hat tip to Pete for the photo)
When you take on the role of the customer, it’s sometimes easy to forget just how important the relationship your company has with your vendors and suppliers is. Like any relationship, communication is the key to success.
Being intentional about the way your business communicates with its vendors can change the quality of that relationship, so keep the following in mind:
1. Be informed.
Information is the key to negotiating discounts, discussing concerns or knowing what questions to ask. When talking to a vendor, you need to know where your company stands and as much information as possible about the product or service your vendor has.
2. Straight talk.
Take the lead on setting the tone for the relationship. Always remember that you are talking to a person and each interaction will affect future conversations. Filter out jargon, be polite and be honest.
3. Ask questions.
At the same time, acknowledge the expertise of your vendors. If you’re informed about what you need, you can ask for information on how their company can fill that need.
4. Give your vendor time to answer.
When you have a question they weren’t ready for, you want to hear ‘I don’t know, but I’ll find out.’ To do your job well, you need accurate information, so don’t pressure your vendors to make something up on the spot.
5. Set clear expectations.
It’s hard to please someone when you don’t know what they want. Help your vendors serve you better by making your expectations known.
6. Address issues.
Depending on the size of your vendor’s business, they may not have been informed that something went wrong. If you are not satisfied with how an order was handled or the quality of product in a particular shipment, a good vendor wants to know about it.
7. Broach the money subject.
Be open with your vendors about when you pay bills, how you pay bills and why an invoice is overdue if it is. One of the most touchy subjects can be money, so make sure to broach the subject early.
8. Don’t ask for the impossible.
If your vendor typically has a lead time of 7-10 days on your orders, don’t act surprised when they can’t complete the same order in two days. Ask for the impossible too often and you’ll find yourself leaving a lot of voicemails.
9. Give recognition.
Tell your vendors when their product or services led to a success and be specific about what they do well. This kind of affirmation will help them know how to continue to best serve you.
10. Return calls and emails.
Make sure you respond to calls and emails from your vendor in a timely manner. If you answer them right away, they will be more likely to show the same courtesy to you.
The business sense in good vendor relations
Understand that your relationship with your vendors goes both ways. You as a customer support their company and they, as your supplier, contribute to the success of yours.