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10 Ways to Build Stronger Vendor Relationships

Anyone in business knows the importance of cultivating a strong relationship with key vendors. But relationships with vendors can sometimes be tricky. Whether it’s a lack of clear communication or a dispute over responsibilities, managing vendors can be very taxing and a distraction from essential core business activities. Here are some tips to keep your vendor relationships strong and your supply chains pumping along!

1. Pay Your Bills

Admittedly, nobody’s favorite task! But your vendor is a lot like you. They need to be paid in a timely fashion in order to service their own obligations. Paying them on time and respecting their conditions can elevate you to a position of great trust in their eyes.

2. Appoint Vendor Manager

Having one person be able to serve as point for your relationship with your vendor is far more efficient for both parties than a never-ending game of tag. Put the vendor manager in charge of the entire relationship, from the sales pipeline to project management. It makes the whole process easier, according to this Thomasnet review.

3. Don’t Blame

Avoid strongly laying blame if a vendor makes a mistake. Unless you really intend to dissolve your relationship with the vendor — which should still be done as diplomatically as possible — you should work with them to figure out why things went wrong and what will be done to prevent it from happening in the future. Give the vendor a chance to bring their performance up to par. There may even be things that your company can do to help.

4. Smaller Is Better

In most cases it’s better to have a smaller number of highly trusted and competent vendors rather than switching at every transaction. That’s not always true, of course, and sometimes your firm will have to shop around to find the service you are looking for. But these small vendor teams allow you to spend more money and get higher quality from each vendor, which can lead to a stronger relationship — and a competitive edge.

5. Throw Them Business

Your vendors want to grow and thrive just as your company does. If you can make that happen, it can only help your relationship with the vendor. The most obvious ways to do this are to buy more or find more work for them in your organization, or to provide them with a reference if they are looking for another buyer. But if you happen to know of any other company in need of their services, you could also arrange a phone call or meeting. A bit of consideration goes a long way.

6. Communicate

This should probably be number 1, but at any rate, make sure you understand what the vendor needs from you. Make sure you understand their procedures, rates, conditions, and necessary documentation. Also, make sure that your own needs have been fully understood. Your vendor should be able to tell you what you want clearly and thoroughly, elicit requirements you found hard to articulate and tell you what options are on the table for meeting your needs. More generally, they should understand what your company’s goals and values are. Do they know everything they need to know to support your mission or distinguish your brand?

7. On-Site Vendors

On-site vendors should be treated as integral members of your corporate team as much as possible. Make sure they’re invited to all-hands meetings, and to team meetings as often as necessary for them to fulfill their role.

8. Info Sharing

Share information and business plans with vendors as needed. Yes, the information is highly sensitive, but you don’t have to show them everything. They need to have some concrete idea of how well your company is doing and what they need to do to help you achieve your goals.

9. Lead Time

If there are big changes to your business plans or organization coming down the pike that might impact a vendor, let them know ahead of time. Certainly, make sure that they have enough time to adjust their own efforts so as to accommodate your needs, and if you’re really not sure how much time that is, ask.

10. Integrity

This isn’t something you can learn in business school. Either you have it or you don’t. Treat people with respect, be considerate of their legitimate interests, speake politely, and always try to keep your word. A little bit goes a long way.

Written by Nat Sauteed

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