In order to function properly, any business will need to procure certain pieces of equipment. Some of this equipment will be specialized to the business’ purpose, while some will be the sort that may be more commonly found in offices everywhere. This equipment must be procured from somewhere, and this is where vendors come in--but who in your organization is responsible for your vendor management?
A Two-Way Street
While you might consider your vendors to be an asset to your business, providing you with what you need to function, you have to remember that they are businesses as well. As a result, they are trying to profit from your relationship with them. However, the relationship between you and your vendor doesn’t have to have nonreciprocal benefits.
Rather than attempting to undercut their businesses by seeking discounts and cost cuts, form partnerships with your vendors. Be open with your needs so that they may better serve them, and contribute resources that can assist the vendor in fulfilling those needs. Instead of looking at your relationship with your vendor as a business transaction, look at in in terms of being a partnership--preferably a lengthy one. The longer you work with a vendor, the higher quality service you will likely receive, the friendlier your negotiations will be, and you will more likely develop a working relationship that focuses on maximum benefit for both parties.
Finding The Right Vendor
Of course, like any business relationship, there are good fits and bad fits. You will want to make sure that you are selective as you choose your vendor from your many options.
First, you will need to establish what you require from your vendor, based on the principles that are foundational to your business. Once you have done so, establish how you will rank each candidate you consider against each other in order to make your final call.
This can be made easier by creating a variety of bid documents to inform vendors of your business’ requirements. These can include:
- Request for Quote, or RFQs. This is most useful when price is your largest concern.
- Request for Information, or RFIs, can help you to get an insider’s look at the market as a whole to better inform your decision. If you like what you see, it is common that you would move on to the next variety of bid document.
- Request for Proposals. RFPs are almost a practice run for the vendor to prove their worth. By presenting them with a problem, the RFP allows vendors to show you what they would do to resolve your issues. However, if you make the RFP too detailed, or not detailed enough, you could scare away prospects or receive inaccurate quotes back.
At the end of the day, you will need to find a vendor who is willing to work with you to mutually achieve your goals along with theirs. To do so, you may have to compromise, but with clear and constant communication, you will likely find a vendor whom you can work with easily.
Purchasing a solution from a vendor isn’t typically the end of the relationship. In fact, when something goes wrong, it can take a lot of time to work through issues. Depending on your SLA (Service Level Agreement) you may need to put in a ticket and wait for a response, or sit through hold music and describe your issue to multiple support representatives until things get moving in the right direction. The last thing you want is your employees stuck in support purgatory while they wait for something to get fixed. Having a dedicated resource for managing vendors, who understands all of the various SLAs and warranties will go a long way.