Vendor is a supplier to a client. It provides input such as materials or labour to the final product or service the client produces. The power resides with the client, who makes the decisions on how much, when and how the input will be consumed. As a vendor, you likely yield to the client’s demands.
The situation changes when you become a partner. The relationship becomes cordial. The client:
- Seeks your input for ideas
- Engages you in his decision-making process
- Requests your participation in other business opportunities
- Trusts you
It takes effort to turn a vendor relationship into a partner relationship. There are several ways to get there.
- Demonstrate commitment. In the eyes of the client, you need to demonstrate that you have a genuine interest in his success. Apart from fulfilling your commitments in delivering quality products and services to him, you offer assistance in working through his customer issues. You give your client priority.
- Share useful insight. Learn about the client’s business and understand his customers. The best place to start is how the client consumes your product or service. Understand the process, the effects, and the critical success factors. Learn about the client’s customers and how they benefit. The knowledge might trigger ideas for improvement and new products for your client and your own business. Share relevant observations and insight with your client regularly.
- Build trust. This requires action and communication. Ask for permission to set up a routine for this. Make it a habit of sharing information on your business that relates to how you support your client and ask for feedback. The open and honest communication, focuses on helping your client, is a sure way to build a strong relationship. Trust is earned along the way.
- Ask for collaboration opportunities. A good relationship doesn’t prompt your client to action unless you make it explicit. By clearly communicating your desire, you plant the seed for getting the client to seek your input and engage you in his business processes.
When you are successful in cultivating a partnership mindset with your client, your client takes an interest in your business because he trusts you. He is anxious to get your input. He is receptive to your constructive feedback and ideas. Most importantly, you also establish loyalty and likely, a strong advocate for your business.