Getting Along With Vendors
Too often we tend to see our relationship with vendors as a confrontational relationship. That is exactly the opposite of the way it should be if we want to succeed. Vendors can help you in many ways, so consider these thoughts:
Consolidate purchasing to fewer vendors.
There is power in buying from few vendors. By limiting the number of vendors you work with, you can drive more sales, which is what gets you noticed by and ultimate supported by vendors. They work with people who sell their stuff. So by consolidation you can help make it a deeper engagement.
Learn who your assigned reps are.
This takes some effort, but it can be done. You need to know who supports your account at your key vendors. That includes field resources, inside sales people, marketing managers, and anyone else who is charged with working with your company or companies like yours. This takes a little investigation and persistence, but it can make a huge difference when you are working on a special deal or want some type of interaction.
Understand their compensation plan.
The single most important question to ask your vendor reps is how they are compensated. Everyone responds to success with compensation. People do the things that cause them to be paid more. So find those out and do them.
Participate in their programs.
Many partners don’t realize that most vendor reps have a number of areas in which they are measured in their compensation plan. Often getting partners activated and engaged fits in there somehow. While many businesses often see the meetings, trainings, and events offered by their vendors as very optional, for a vendor rep they often are a significant metric toward their comp plan. So support your rep – find out again how they are paid and make sure you are there if participation is a factor.
Get your team trained and certified.
This is a critical part of building a deep vendor relationship. Most vendors are looking for signs of commitment to their products and solutions, and nothing spells committed quite like making significant training investments in your team. Often you can get help from the vendor in defraying the costs, but you need to be focused on making time and availability to get it done and keep it current.
Know their partner success model.
Every vendor has a different model for their partners to use in order to succeed. Their partner programs vary and are all over the board in terms of commitments, benefits, and requirements. But it is up to us as a partner to understand those programs and leverage them to build strong relationships. Most of the time they are pretty good and lead a partner to success with the particular vendor. So get involved and engaged.
Spend time planning with them quarterly.
It is important to spend time planning with your vendors on a regular basis. I believe an annual plan is critical, and then quarterly reviews to measure and tweak it make it valuable to all. There are many ways to develop these plans. Having routine follow-up and ROI reporting is critical to keep that going, but it is worth the effort.
Now you have some ideas on how to engage vendors effectively. Make it your intention to build deep and profitable relationships with your vendors. It can make a significant impact on your bottom line and really lead to more success. They truly are not the enemy, and should be treated as a valuable asset to your company.