Enhancing the Vendor Relationship…
Now that you have selected the vendors that you should be managing, lets take a look at what I think is the first step to managing them… Creating or enhancing your relationship.
Like any relationships you have in life they need to be nurtured. Your relationships (like spouses, kids, neighbors, friends, etc) need attention from time to time to make sure that they are working well. Here are some steps that can be taken to create or improve your interactions with your vendors.
Step 1: Meet face to face as often as you can. If it is the initial meeting then make it in person. Most vendors would love to have some face time with you. They can better understand an environment that they have seen. You also can then put a face with a name. Take the time to show them around the office. Introduce them to some of your end users. Show them where the equipment or software that you are buying is used.
Step 2: Go to there office, training facility or demo room. Take the time to go see them on their turf. Get out of the office and make a road trip. Seeing them in their environment will show you what depth they have in personnel, what kind of support they will have in making you happy.
Step 3: Have them contact you once a month – even if nothing is going on. I make sure that I tell each of my vendors to check in with me on a monthly basis. It may only be a 2 minute call, but I request it. Then I watch to see which ones actually call me. Are they paying attention to me and my needs? They are trying to sell to me. It should be on their shoulders to contact me regularly.
Step 4: Give them permission to sell to you. Let them know that you want them to keep you informed. Don’t let them badger you to death. Just let them know that they should let you know about software or hardware that will really impact your operation.
Step 5: Set out the ground rules. Whenever I meet with a new vendor I set out the ground rules. I go over step 3 & 4 and other items that I think they should know about me and my operation.
Step 6: Keep them in line. Don’t let them access others in the firm without your permission. I don’t want my vendor trying to bend the ear of my CFO trying to convince him of some crazy ROI on some tool that I don’t even want to use. make sure that you don’t let them wander the halls. All interactions with the firm will be managed thru you.