Engagement and the “Rules” of Vendor Management

When I worked on the client side many years ago, I helped educate others on the “rules” of vendor management. One of the first lessons is: The moment you play the “I’m the client and I said so” card, that relationship is no longer in your control. Why? Because you dictated something to another group that may very well not be in their best interest.

When you get engaged to be married, you are committing to many years of working together to create the best outcome. (For some of you, you may say “Wow … what an awful way to describe a marriage!” You’d be correct … but there’s a point coming!)

When you engage with a prospective client or an existing client, isn’t the objective exactly the same? Nobody wants to be told what to do but they do want to be part of the conversation. They also don’t want to be surprised (surprise birthday parties excluded). Everyone wants to work with each other to solve the problem or achieve the goal. That same thing exists not only in a marriage, but also with your clients or your vendors.

We all know there are things that come down from above that are just unavoidable and are must do’s. You can’t avoid them and you can’t negotiate around them. If you’ve been involved with either side of outsourcing for any period of time, you know that to be true: We all accept them as matter of fact.  And, it’s not those instances I’m discussing. Whatever name you call your vendors, expect them to work WITH you, not for you. The same stands for those vendors and their clients.  The name of the game is engagement. Stay engaged! Make their email or phone call the priority! And one of the most important…be transparent! Whether it’s good or bad, just say it! Either side needs to know so that they can adjust and maneuver for the news. And just like in that other type of engagement, you leave the other side knowing (not thinking … knowing) that you are providing the best you can give.

This generates a relationship that is then the most valuable. Value is created in many ways. Some see it as most revenue, some see it as most profitable, but whether it is a dollar-based definition or not, just about every client you speak to will say the same thing about their vendors, “I need a vendor that doesn’t surprise me and can articulate their thoughts and provide input.” In fact, I’ve never met a client that hasn’t said that. Do they want the other stuff too? Of course! But whatever priority they put on the other things, this one is always somewhere at the top! And it’s achieved because you remain engaged!

 

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