Partner vs. Vendor

Partner vs. Vendor

5 Tips on Becoming a Partner Rather than a Vendor

  1. Be a Good Partner – create obtainable standards
  2. Know What it Means to Be a Good Partner – develop a profile that fits culturally and economically
  3. Share your Vision, Goals and Standards – define your goals, help your client’s execute theirs and share standards
  4. Candor and Conclusion – show commitment with candid conversations that result in action plans and specific deliverables
  5. Review, Adjust and Celebrate – review shared goals, company vision, adjust the plan if necessary and celebrate the wins quarterly

Be a Good Partner:

Elevate the conversation. In order to be a good partner, you need to know where you are going and why you want to go there. You need to recognize and define your vision so you can clearly choose the right partners to help you along the way. More specifically, which customers align with your goals and will commit to you on a higher level?

Many business relationships begin and end because neither organization leveraged the other’s assets. Innovations lost. Cost savings lost. New clients lost. Millions of dollars lost because neither organization took the time to have an “everything on the table” type of conversation. They avoid the possible risk and end up abandoning the huge reward. It doesn’t matter how big the company or the amount of employees; the company is made up of people who have dreams, agendas, needs and wants. If you never have an elevated conversation reaching beyond product benefits, specs and RFP’s – you will never become more than a vendor.

Know What it Means to Be a Good Partner:

Profile, profile and profile again.  Every time you have a “Ah ha moment” or you have a huge win and get that itch to write a case study – you just uncovered clues about the characteristics of your best type of clients. Pay attention. Evaluate. If you get a clear understanding of the “who” you are looking for, then you can spend more time and energy going after real relationships and less time wasted on relationships that never grow; relationships where you end up as only a vendor.

Build a profile that allows you to spend quality time pursuing quality relationships.  The BIG lesson – not all client relationships are created equal. Similarly, the time, money and energy you spend – should not be created equal.

Share your Vision, Goals and Standards:

Everybody that draws a breath makes decisions either with logic or emotion. The only difference is ratio and justification. In a low margin environment, 1 to 2 percent can drive the decision one way or another. As a partner, you have the relationship where the price to win the business is openly discussed.  Otherwise, as a vendor, you’ll spend months cutting your price multiple times only to end up losing the business.

The problem – vendors listen to what the potential client is saying (their perception, justification for a decision) instead of truly understanding the company’s vision, goals and standards.

Despite the current selling atmosphere, sales people and employees who share their visions and goals figure out how to win together. They make the numbers work. Shared goals and visions can be the biggest competitive sales advantage an organization has. Price, service levels and product capabilities are mere tactics to execute the common vision.

Candor and Conclusion:

Organizations are afraid of exercising candor within their business relationships. Yet the reality of selling anything involves two things that are usually different:  people’s perceived expectations and what actually gets delivered. As a team, you must be committed to crossing this divide. Be candid. Demand conclusions that elevate the relationship. This is a key to becoming a partner and not just a vendor. Make a commitment to success and create quality standards that are shared. Know that issues will arise, but, if handled openly and properly, these can be building blocks to long-term partnerships rather than reasons to go your separate ways.

Review, Adjust and Celebrate:

Business relationships usually start great and then head toward a steady decline for a few simple, yet common reasons.

  • No review
  • No adjustment
  • No celebration

As a business consultant, I witness many companies that have a “wait for the call” policy when handling a client complaint. There is not a standard review proactively scheduled. The relationship is never audited. There is no plan on how to measure the relationship so it can continue to improve. This systematic reviewing of the client relationship is key in creating the innovations, ideas, easy fixes and no brainer adjustments that stop a relationship from turning bad – fast.

More important than anything else, celebrate the wins! Hand written Thank You’s for a new PO, lunch sent to the office for a referral, anniversary gifts celebrating the partnership can be the cement that holds organizational relationships together for years.

If you take some time to nurture these relationships; to take your relationship from that of a vendor to a good, strategic partner, you will increase the number of long-term relationships and reduce the cost of acquisition by 1/3.

So, what’s keeping you from becoming a good partner?


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