Vendor Relationships Pt 2: The Partnership

By the time I started at my current company four years ago, I had been in digital marketing and social media for almost 9 years. I had used many tools and products over those years and had an affinity to so many of them. In my new role, I was able to bring vendors to the table which I believed could enhance and support our business.

And as with any partnership, we must treat each other with honesty and mutual respect.

The sales pitch:

One of those vendors was a reputation and testimonial product I had used at a previous company. I was a big fan. I tried to reconnect with my previous salesperson who was no longer there. That person had left the company, and I was connected to a different salesperson. I set the stage for the vendor, lined up the stakeholders on my end, and reviewed the sales presentation before the big meeting. The vendor came to the meeting, and promptly blew the sale. Forever.

The vendor spoke over me, and interrupted me. The vendor didn’t prepare for the meeting with the information I provided about my stakeholders and about our focus areas. The vendor made a pitch that was tone deaf and insulting.

It is important for the vendor and the client to both realize that we need to support each other. It does not reflect well on me if I treat a vendor with disrespect, and vice versa.

Honesty:

Of course we cannot go around giving away company or trade secrets. However, the ability to be as open and honest with a vendor is key to a productive, ongoing relationship. The ability to be honest about timelines or budgets is a time-saver, plain and simple. I understand the art of negotiation, but true negotiation needs to start from a more honest place because then both vendor and client can prioritize real issues over non-important bickering.

I have been asked numerous times to provide feedback on products to a vendor product team or development team. In that feedback, I am respectful and honest. If a product is lacking in an area, I provide constructive criticism as a way to help them improve. If a vendor respects me enough to ask for my opinion or feedback, then I need to provide value.

Mutual respect:

I have worked with products and agencies who, in earnest, work to be a partner to the account contact or counterpart. If I am honest and forthcoming with a vendor or agency, I not only show them respect but I save myself time. It is too much work and takes too much time not to align my partners with my business goals and address the ways we can best work together to accomplish mutual goals. If the vendor succeeds, the brand succeeds. Why wouldn’t we both want that?

I have seen an agency try to go around the account rep or their counterpart contact to a) try to make themselves look better, or even worse b) work to diminish or even replace the account contact or counterpart. I have also seen a brand misdirect or disrespect a vendor or agency so that an exaggerated line of dominance is clear to all. This is inefficient and often ineffectual. No one in either scenario succeeds in the long run.

Four years ago, I began bringing proven products to my new company. I have also gotten to build relationships with new vendors. Today when I need something quickly, I can call on these contacts and every one of them goes above and beyond. If a vendor or partner needs a business recommendation or product feedback, then I am always willing and ready to contribute my perspective. All of his is because of mutual honestly and respect. It is when the golden rule is applied with business acumen that both parties are able to accomplish goals in a mutually beneficial relationship.

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