Cultivating Relationships With Vendors Opens a World of Opportunity When managed correctly, the relationship with a key vendor is a powerful partnership you can work together to enhance.
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Recently, I was invited to meet with a vice president at a global cloud-computing company. The invitation wasn't just a sales pitch, but rather an opportunity to get advice on how they use their own tools and services to run their own business. In short, I would be getting a chance to see if they really drink their own Kool-Aid. (Spoiler alert: They do.)
The meeting was set-up in Canada's largest city, Toronto, about a two-hour train ride away from London. To make the most of the day, I asked to have other meetings at the company set-up, making sure the day trip would be worth my while.
Before going further, allow me to clarify the term "vendors." Vendors, sometime referred to as service providers are companies that provide a product or service to your organization that enables you to run your business.
Thinking about your own business, I'm sure you can rhyme off a list of companies that you heavily rely upon which may include your telecommunications provider, your banking institution, your credit card processing firm, your business software provider and perhaps even a shipping company. The list will vary from business to business, but the premise is the same: these companies provide you a valuable service and you couldn't operate without them.
Vendors should be seen as partners. You provide them with business and they in turn provide you with a valuable service. Seeing these service providers as partners opens up your imagination to how you can work together, such as co-hosting a webinar, telling your story in a case study or serving as a reference account. By doing so, you'll surely be earning goodwill.
It's that goodwill which I believe earned me an invitation with the VP and regional director.
During our meeting, I was given the floor to pepper them with questions along the themes of building a high performing culture, something I've always admired about their organization.
We talked about best practices for recruiting, onboarding, training and retaining employees. We discussed how they use their tools to enable individual and even entire departments to break through to new levels of achievement. We even covered key metrics they use to measure performance.
Clearly, they walked the walk.
After our extended meeting, I was offered a tour where I witnessed firsthand many of these practices being lived out. Seeing their best practices in action took my understanding and belief in their system to a whole new level.
Visiting your vendors allows you to:
Ask senior level people how they use their own products in their business.
Gain insight for the product roadmap and recommend features for development.
Discuss operational best practices which you could apply back at home base.
Get a tour of their facilities and gather ideas for how to create a high performing corporate culture.
On the train ride home, my mind was clear with a fresh perspective. But just like waking up from a fabulous dream, the vision for what could be was fading quickly. I jotted down the highlights into the computer and let the ideas gel.
When returning to the office the following day, I shared the discoveries with members of our leadership team. We talked about the pros and cons, what could work and what likely wouldn't in our business. The most promising ideas are already on deck, which is exciting. We move quickly.