Your most important business relationships aren’t just with prospects and clients. The connections you build with vendors are equally critical to your company’s success.
For example, suppliers sometimes have to raise rates. However, a vendor you treat well could be less apt to raise prices if you pay on time, are easy to reach, and keep lines of communication open. Even if the vendor increases costs due to rising inflation, you might get some kind of discount because you don’t treat your partnership as an impersonal transaction.
Another advantage to treating your vendors well is that you could experience fewer supply chain stumbles. A vendor might give you preferred treatment, striving to prioritize their service to you above their other customers. This can lead to more efficient workflows and fewer fulfillment gaps.
Can building strong relationships with vendors really make a difference? Absolutely. I have a colleague who treats vendors with gratitude and respect. (He even buys them end-of-year gifts.) As a result, his vendors have helped him achieve his goals.
Another business owner I know took the opposite road: He viewed vendors as commodities. So, he was taken aback when a vendor cut him loose. From an objective, third-party viewpoint, he hadn’t done anything wrong per se. But he didn’t form a strong connection and had to scramble to find a replacement vendor.
Obviously, you want to be like the person in the first scenario. Here are five ways you can develop trust with your vendors and build strong relationships:
1. Express how much you care.
Your vendors aren’t nameless or faceless. People work at every company you partner with, and you likely have your own account representative. You need to show that person the highest degree of respect.
I know you might feel like you’re going a mile a minute but take some time to create touchpoints. Showing you care will go a long way. Remember important dates, ask about subjects that matter to the vendor, and just text or email once in a while to check in. You don’t have to go overboard, but you do have to be present.
2. Jot down notes.
Most businesses work with a lot of vendors. The easiest way to build strong relationships with them is to take notes on each one. You could formalize these in a customer relationship management system or just use pen and paper.
You’ll be surprised at how often these notes come in handy. Be certain to capture the names of spouses, kids, and other important people, places, and things.
3. Send thank-you gifts.
Most vendors see you as their clients. As such, they might send you presents from time to time. They don’t expect you to reciprocate. So, use this as a chance to surprise them by dropping a note in the mail with a gift card or small present.
It can be very powerful to receive an unsolicited gift from someone you’re doing business with. Not only do people tend to think more often about whoever sent the gift, but they also might brag about the random act of kindness. Who knows? A referral could come your way just because you showed tangible appreciation.
4. Highlight your vendors on social media.
All businesses like to secure backlinks to their websites or earned media. Give your favorite vendors a little love by spotlighting them on your social pages. It takes minimal effort to dash off a Facebook or Instagram post praising a supplier, but the effect can be substantial.
You might want to talk to your marketing team about building vendor shout-outs into your content. Formalizing the process keeps your appreciation efforts going and shows other employees your commitment to all relationships.
5. Pick up the tab in person.
If you were taking a big customer out to lunch, you’d pick up the cost of the meal and bar tab. Do the same with your vendors. You might have to insist that you’ll be the one paying, but that’s OK. Be a little assertive.
At the same time, make sure all your physical get-togethers are memorable. Take a vendor to a local sporting event or do something splashy. They’ll know how much you value them based on your investment in the relationship.
Just because you pay your vendors’ invoices on time doesn’t mean you’re setting up terrific relationships. You have to go the distance and harness your creativity. When you do, you’ll reap the rewards you’re missing out on right now.