We have come up with a new phrase for terrible vendor relations: the vendor bender. A vendor bender is exactly like a fender bender, except you have butted heads with your vendors, leaving your entire business in the lurch. To prevent you from heading right into a vendor bender, here is a guide on how to maintain rock solid vendor relationships.
Best Vends: How to Strengthen Your Vendor Relationships
1) Designate a “vendor diplomat”
Assign one employee to handle all of your vendor relationships, or at least have the same employee handle each of the vendors. This may seem like a big job for one person, but many invoicing softwares help you manage your vendor lists easily. If you are constantly passing a vendor back and forth between managers, you may end up sending duplicate communications or mixed messages. In short, your company will feel confusion, leaving your vendors with frustration. One “vendor diplomat” will make sure no vendors slip through the cracks while putting a friendly, familiar face on your vendor relationships.
2) Confirm everything
You may fear that insistent confirmation is an annoying business practice, but vendors would be even more annoyed if miscommunications kept popping up. If you have a phone conversation, send or request an e-mail confirmation. A written document and acknowledgment of all your correspondences means you are both on the same page, and understanding one another’s expectations lies at the center of vendor relationships.
3) Work together
If you are experiencing problems with your vendor, seek out a solution. For example, let’s say that a vendor sends a product late. You may be incredibly peeved, but you should speak and act carefully. After all, whether its customers or vendors, the right wording works to your advantage. Do not accuse the vendor of mismanagement or call the company irresponsible, nor should you threaten to discontinue your business immediately. Direct criticism and fruitless complaints are bound to create bad blood.
When a problem arises, simply contact the vendor and describe the issue. If they are having trouble with your delivery, work with them to create a schedule. Keep in mind that your vendor wants to work with you too. In addition to strengthening your vendor relationships, such loyalty may even result in perks such as discounts of free services.
4) Refer your friends
Sending your vendors extra business is a great way to get in their good graces. Of course, make sure you really believe in the vendor before referring someone else, or you may be compromising your relationship with your friends. Remind your friends to mention the referral. Some vendors may even have referral programs already set up. These programs often grant discounts or credit, depending on the number of referrals you have made.
5) Know when to walk away
For the stability of your own business, you do not want to change vendors left and right, so choose vendors carefully from the get-go. Nonetheless, you may have gone through every length to find the right vendor, and the relationship simply does not work out. As they say, there are plenty of fish in the sea. If your vendor is consistently unreliable, you simply have to know when to sever ties. End the relationship gracefully, as industries are small and you do not want to hurt your reputation with other vendors.
6) Pay on time
This seems simple, but vendors are constantly chasing customers down to get paid, and they often find themselves listening to a whole litany of excuses. Paying on time shows your vendor that you are consistent and responsible, and they will likely prioritize your needs. With that said, paying early will really win you some major points.