By Stephanie Garcia - November 4th, 2016
Even if you don’t directly work with vendors or outside agencies as part of your current role, chances are you’ll come into contact with them at some point in your career. Use these 5 vendor management best-practices to create a mutually beneficial relationship that will advance your organization’s goals.
Many organizations utilize vendors to take on specific projects, or on an ongoing basis, because they don’t have the time, resources, or expertise in-house. Vendors offer organizations a wide variety of services depending on their specific industry. These outside companies can be contracted for almost anything from consulting and sales, to technology solutions and supplies.
As vendors take on more and more clients, it can be hard to feel like you’re more than just a number. Similarly, as organizations take on vendors, the vendor needs the attention of the organization to deliver on the outcomes in the contract. Make sure both parties are successful with these 5 tips for managing vendor relationships.
#1: Build and maintain the relationship.
When you start working with a new vendor it’s important to build a relationship with your point of contact and open the lines of communication. Getting to know each other, including understanding each other’s needs, expectations, preferred method of communication and best times to meet, will save you hours of lost time and aggravation in the future.
If you’re managing a lot of vendors, take notes so that you’ll have something to reference at your next meeting. Mentioning a recent trip they took, or an event that happened in their life will further your relationship by showing your investment. Having this human connection with a vendor could be quite valuable if you ever need a quick turnaround on a project or a special request.
- Build a good rapport
- Get to know one another
- Remember to be human
#2: Set expectations and define desires.
Setting expectations and defining your desires should be part of the vetting process when you’re looking for a new vendor. It’s imperative that the vendor be capable of doing the job they’re hired for, but it doesn’t end after the contract is signed. Expectations, both internally and with your vendor, should be revisited throughout your relationship. Make sure things are getting done efficiently, each side is following through, and deadlines are being met. If the ball is getting dropped somewhere it needs to be identified and addressed to keep things moving smoothly.
Defining your desires is another key topic to address both in the vetting process and throughout your relationship with a vendor. Many times an organizations’ desires or goals will change over time and that needs to be communicated to the vendor. Don’t be afraid to challenge a vendor to meet your desires or find a new provider who can evolve with your needs.
- Establish expectations internally and with the vendor
- Decide who is responsible for what (e.g. meeting agendas, task management, timelines)
- Check in regularly to confirm expectations and desires are being met
#3: Provide insight to current and future needs.
Vendors and organizations need each other to thrive, so although you’re from two different companies, both sides are invested in exceeding expectations. Utilize your vendors’ experience with other companies, knowledge of the industry, and input when you’re strategizing and optimizing your projects. They may be able to provide resources that aren’t part of your team, so let them know what you need and see how they can help.
Many times vendors are managing multiple clients and if you haven’t built rapport with your point of contact, you could miss out on new developments. As vendors evolve and add more services, capabilities, or offerings you want to be aware of what’s available. Let your vendor know that you always want to be included on these types of announcements and remember to foster your rapport so that you’re the first to know.
- Collaborate on strategy development and optimization
- Make sure you’re included on new offering and capability announcements
#4: Challenge them to “work for it!”
No matter what, you have to remember that you’re the client. That means you’re in charge and your vendors should work to keep you happy. Challenge them to introduce new ideas, strategies, and resources.
Continually check in with the expectations and desires you established initially. Make sure the system you’ve set up is working as intended, or make adjustments. If you’re not getting what you want from a vendor after addressing the issue or restructuring your system, move on. Provide the vendor with feedback on why you’re terminating your contract and use the experience as you seek out a new solution.
- Be prepared with new opportunities or unique ideas
- Check in regularly
- Don’t be afraid to say “no”
#5: Do what’s best for your organization.
No matter what, you should always do what’s best for your organization. Vendors may try to sway you to do something that doesn’t match your brand, mission, values, or goals. Always hold firm on your allegiance to what matters most for your organization and let vendors know these deciding factors. It’s a good idea to provide a brand guide for vendors to reference as they’re working with you. Having a comprehensive overview of your style will save time and frustration as they create solutions.
In doing what’s best for your organization, you need to treat vendors as if they are part of your organization…kind of. While vendors should be held to the same standards as far as quality of work, timeliness, communication, and respect are concerned, they shouldn’t have the same access as an employee. Sensitive internal materials must never be shared with outside vendors. Provide them with what they need to complete the job and nothing that could put your organization in jeopardy.
- Hold them to the same standards you’d expect within your organization
- Limit access to sensitive internal materials
Stephanie Garcia is the Media Associate at CSU-Global. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Advertising & Marketing Communications from Johnson & Wales University and has called Denver, Colorado home for the past seven years. Outside of work, Stephanie enjoys traveling, being outdoors, and spending time with her husband and mini goldendoodle, Colton.