3 Lessons from Managing Partner and Vendor Relationships

By Julia Burnett

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Recently, I was reading up on vendor management best practices when I came across this passage about selecting the right vendor. “The vendor selection process can be a very complicated and emotional undertaking if you don’t know how to approach it from the very start,” the author wrote.

I was intrigued by the “emotional undertaking” aspect of negotiations. Dealing with various partners to reach an end goal can be highly rewarding, yet exhausting. You know the saying “it’s not personal – it’s just business!” Well, we’re all human. Success and failure in our business can most definitely feel like our personal success and failure.

It’s especially frustrating when a partner doesn’t hold up their end of an agreement, negotiations sour, and a business relationship ends. You may be quick to condemn the other party out of frustration, but there are always two sides to every story.

Have you ever asked yourself: Could I have done anything better to communicate problems before they reached the point of no return?

Working at Zenput provides me a unique experience. On one hand, we provide a service to our customers and in a way, act as a vendor. On the other hand, many of our partners are retailers looking for ways to improve vendor management with companies that deliver tangible goods. Since I see both sides of the equation, I want to share some practical advice for maintaining good relationships with vendors:

1. Communicate with Vendors From the Start

When I enter into a new agreement with a customer, whether it’s a retailer, a restaurant chain or a distributor, I want them to explain their business goals clearly from the start. I know customer service is important to any company, but if I can understand how they want to improve their business, I can better execute our strategy.

At Zenput, we also encourage our partners to communicate their expectations with vendors delivering good and services. Of course, it’s always recommended to put the finer points of the contract in writing.

2. Vendors are Not Mind Readers

If only we had this ability! Zenput relies on our partners to tell us how we can better meet their needs and improve our service. Similarly, we encourage our customers to notify their vendors of exceptions in real time. If there’s an issue affecting contractual obligations, retailers can provide visual evidence and resolve the issue in an up-front and efficient manner.

3. Request Progress Reports from Vendors

Vendors and customers rely on each other to reach their goals. With Zenput, our customers have options to change the way data is collected and presented to them, which is the chief advantage of a flexible platform. Similarly, a retailer’s vendors and partners can collect data on your behalf, and you can control their account access and privileges.

The purpose of these custom reports goes back to point No 2. You want to identify and address issues as they arise and before they impact your business.

Remember: Neither side of the vendor/customer relationship likes to be blindsided with complaints. Communicate consistently and give your vendor a reasonable chance to resolve issues that may arise.

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