Tips on how to better handle Technology Vendor Relationships

Ok everyone take a deep breath. This whole Digital Disruption story is exciting but I am also hearing how it’s becoming overwhelming and fatiguing for some. I personally find this exciting as business circles back to the good old fashioned way of knowing and looking after the customer, intimately.

A congruent relationship ethos will always empower the opportunity to exceed results for your business, vendor and customer.  Agostino Carrideo

So in the rising wave of technology vendors providing the various increasing business solutions for your business digital evolution, have you thought about how you’ll better handle these all? and these new relationships are potentially strategic relationships? I bet you haven’t.

I have always stressed the importance of making sure everyone involved in the relationship knows one another’s’ roles, to avoid confusion during stressful times. You need to work on galvanising the relationship. Remember the many dollars invested in selecting your vendor, and vice versa for the vendor pitching to your business.

We are all Vendors and Customers. Simple. So build all your relationships with trust, respect, accountability, credibility and respect. If your true to these values, then maintaining a mutually beneficial culture becomes possible. Turn your Vendor into a Raving Fan and Customer.

A few tips to remember for building effective vendor relations with technology vendors:

1.    Know your negotiation playbook

Have a clear understanding on how much you can “give and take” during contract negotiations up front. Don’t wing it, it’s not fair for both parties. Thats one of my tips to remember for building effective vendor relations. They will know very quickly when you start winging it or bluffing them. Even becomes embarrassing for you if your banding around the word “partner” or “strategic vendor” in early business conversations yet your behaviour signals the opposite. Call out assumptions early and assist each other early on with fact finding. That way when it’s negotiation time, its not interfered with stakeholders questioning vendor capability and the sourcing process takes its course.

2.   Make time to know who they ALL are

Instead of just getting to know a account manager, plan and invest time to develop a relationship with senior vendor executives who are farther up the vendors organisation. Be diligent in understanding the vendor’s motivation — beyond the Deal — in securing a contract with your organisation.

3.    Encourage and Reward increased Performance 

If possible, use a scorecard methodology to further performance and incorporate regular feedback via formal governance. Agree on spot incentives for fast improvements. Celebrate the wins jointly, preferably in the same location if possible. Make the wins mean something.

4.    Communicate, I mean Really Communicate 

I have experienced many so called leaders talking AT THEIR VENDOR. Where’s the respect? As an external consultant, I have read many organisational value statements, watched how permanent employees are performance managed on demonstrating how they apply their values in their roles. Yet the examples I have experienced have broken all the values rules with below par communication being fired at the Vendor in appropriately.

Make it a point for both parties to subscribe to open and honest communication about needs and expectations and ensure both parties have the authority to escalate if the communication fails to match the values agreed. No matter how bad your day is, table thumping and yelling (yes I have shut down such behaviour) can destroy an otherwise working relationship. Be frank and transparent in the relationship. Invest in cultural alignment at the account level in first instance. This is the cold face of the daily relationship. It’s at this level where communication is key. If your struggling or recognise that leadership is not up for the task, then bring in an expert.

5.    Know the contract

I am always amazed how 2 organisation who have an agreement cannot agree on the overall obligations in execution. All of a sudden, one of the parties is calling out foul and this deliverable wasn’t contracted for!

Contract education is key, let me say that again, educate who needs to know all the aspects of the contract. Even do this jointly if that best works. Understanding the scope of what needs to be accomplished in a project is paramount. What’s even more paramount is knowing who will interact with the services from both sides. If this is done well, then throwing contractual terms around during stressful discussion is in the past.

We talk about being open, timely and honest. Well, you better get started then and watch how your words and actions bring powerful results to your vendor relationships.

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