How to build a great relationship with your vendors

Every retailers challenge is to always keep his suppliers happy; the success of your business revolves around the supplier's ability to source products in a timely manner.

Signing deal with a new vendor and further steps ahead to set up a profitable relationship requires a well structured set up, there are many ways to make the vendors job easy at the same time obtain the relevant info that you need from time to time. Let me share few of the important aspects of vendor management.

Vendor set up

This being the initial setup requires a lot of effort to get the right contact at the vendors end to make your proposal.

  • Fulfillment form - Prepare a form that is aligned with your business requirement, clearly mention the payment terms. The key is to have as many options as possible for the vendor; this will put him in a comfortable position.
  • Vendor product information - It should be agreed between both parties in writing that the information on any changes between both sides will be communicated within the least possible time; the key is to ensure the vendor provides you with the latest info on any minor changes to product or people.
  • Personal visit - It's always a success if you can meet your vendor in person, attending trade shows, invite sales reps to meet you personally. Giving a face to a name builds a lot of confidence in your suppliers.
  • Dedicated representative - This is very important, if your vendors don't have a dedicated contact then it's almost confirmed that your relationship with them won't last long. Present a structured contact list that includes more than one escalation point.

Vendor conversion

Another challenging task is to get your vendor to use your shipping account; this will save you costs in shipping (sometimes even drop-ship fees).

  • Conversion template - Prepare a conversion template, mention the advantages for the vendor to ship on your account. Email all the relevant documents that the vendor should need in order to follow this procedure, and most importantly - follow up.
  • Collect information - Once the vendor agrees then it is time to gather information on who is in charge of shipping at the vendor's end, what are the preferred time slots for pick up and return etc.
  • Invoice verification - It is important to ensure your invoices are verifies regularly, there are chances where the vendor has shipped on your account but still billed you for shipping.

Weekly/monthly meetings

There are always issues that the vendor might experience with the set process; the same might be felt at your end. It is therefore important to have regular meetings over the phone/in person to discuss the performance of each of your vendor and any open or unresolved issues.

  • Weekly/monthly calls - Involve the vendor in a weekly call to ensure there are no issues at both ends, a monthly performance review is important to ensure the vendor is performing as expected and meeting deadlines.
  • Meeting in person - If you need to build a good relationship with your vendor then it is very important to have on site meetings with your vendor; this is a proven method to ensure your vendor has the liberty to discuss their progress and any future plans.

The success of your business is related to the best practices of vendor management, you could learn the art by talking to biz development people at other companies, vendors and reading blogs.

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