There’s a lot of talk about customer relationships — after all, they bring in the money you need to keep the doors open. And, there’s a lot of talk about employee relationships — after all, they deliver your services to your customers.
These are critical relationships, and without them you wouldn’t be in business. But there’s a third relationship that often gets overlooked, yet it can create game-changing opportunities in your business — from more profit to more customers to business growth. And more!
Vendor relationships: the overlooked relationship
Vendors. When most contractors think of vendors, they probably think of their vendors as part of a purely transactional relationship of convenience. Whenever you need something, you call your vendor. If you don’t need something, you don’t even think of them.
However, your vendors are probably an untapped resource that you should value and work with more. In fact, intentionally building your vendor relationships can help your business in amazing ways. Here’s how:
Vendor Relationship Strategy No. 1: They want you to succeed, so get them to help you succeed. Vendors aren’t just in the business of supplying you with your raw materials and equipment invisibly and behind the scenes. Most professional vendors recognize that when you do well, you’ll order more from them, and therefore they will do well.
Therefore, one of the very first things you should do is ask your vendors how you can use their products and services more effectively, or if there are additional products or services you’re not aware of. There’s a good chance that you are using your supplies in one specific way but there could be other ways to benefit.
Vendor Relationship Strategy No. 2: Get training. Your vendors may have training materials, including books, online training, or even people who will come to your headquarters to train your people. Are you using all of these resources? Why not?
Contact your vendors and ask what training materials they have available and get them to help you train your team. You already know that training your team is important, but maybe you don’t have the time, so get your vendors to help you.
Vendor Relationship Strategy No. 3: Get help in a pinch. Want to know when most contractors value their vendor relationships the most? When they’re in a pinch and need something in a hurry, but there’s a shortage of that item. If you haven’t intentionally built a solid relationship, you’ll be last on a long list of companies looking for that item.
However, a strong, solid, trusting, and mutually beneficial relationship with your vendors will help you get help from them when you need it the most. It starts with paying your invoices on time and in full, but that’s just the beginning. Reach out and treat their employees like gold. Send them gifts of recognition and proudly talk about their products and services.
Vendor Relationship Strategy No. 4: Give and get referrals. Your vendors can be a source of referrals for you, and you for them. You already know that you work in the same industry and serve similar customers, so take advantage of that when ethically appropriate to do so.
Find out what their full product line is and what kind of customers they serve and actively keep your eyes open to refer customers to them. And, make sure they know who you serve so they can send customers to you. Expand your thinking because you may not refer your end-customer to them as a customer, but you may have a colleague, peer, or even competitor who could become your vendor’s customer and would benefit from an introduction.
Vendor Relationship Strategy No. 5: Get them to grow your business. As mentioned, they want you to succeed because they will succeed too. Therefore, your vendors are not only interested in selling you stuff. Are you focused only on their products because they probably know a lot more than that!
Chances are, they have a wealth of knowledge and industry experience that you can learn from. So free your mind from thinking about their relationship as transactional and instead start asking them what they know so you can grow. You’ll be surprised at what they are willing to share to help you improve your business.
(Bonus tip: Vendors work with many people like you, which means they probably have a perspective of the industry that you do not, which means that they may notice trends long before they impact your business. Want to accelerate ahead of your competition? Find out the trends from your vendors!)
Summary: Employee relationships, customer relationships, and vendor relationships — it’s a three-legged stool that you can build a solid business upon. Most contractors overlook the vendor relationships because they’re focused only on the transaction of purchasing supplies and materials. Yet, those vendors are an untapped wealth of knowledge, strategies, and industry best practices that you can take advantage of. Treat your vendors like gold and they’ll help you grow.
Mike Agugliaro, is the “Business Warrior” and founder of CEO Warrior, a business consulting and mentoring firm, providing tested and proven methods to defeat the roadblocks that prevent small to mid-sized businesses from achieving their ultimate success. He has played a key role in building Gold Medal Services’ success, as co-owner of the company. For more information about CEO Warrior, visit www.CEOWARRIOR.com.