Improving Your Vendor Relationships

This is a subject that is very true to my heart. Having been a vendor for over 20 years, I had always tried to be the very best rep in the field. Set appointments, never no- showed, never lied, stole, cheated or deceived, provided training and other like programs. I remember once, I was trying to set up a business meeting with a Dr. – He asked me why- I told him, I consider myself as a partner in his business, his success is my success, and wanted to know what more I could do to help him.

His reply, was something to the extent, ‘I am not a partner in his business, and he didn’t have time to speak with me’. I could accept that, but the reality is your vendors are your partners. A good vendor can help make or break your business, provide great solutions to your problems and give you endless ideas on how to increase business and profits.

But far too many business owners think that effective vendor management means they must retain control by treating their vendors badly. A good vendor relationship comes about not from making arrogant demands with an attitude that a business owner is far more important than a lowly vendor. A good working relationship gives benefits for both. Too often, a vendor shows up for an appt- and the appt. is canceled with no warning or told they can’t buy today, or I forgot you were coming in.  A good thing to remember, your vendors are in business like you. They spent the time and money getting to your office for a set apppointment- think about how that feels when your patients do not show up for appointments.

Treat Your Vendors with Respect:

  • Treating the vendor company rep or owner with respect will warrant you the same treatment. No one likes to deal with a pain in the butt person. Vendors run businesses that cater to your needs. Set and keep appointments, be nice when meeting with them.  Some business owners seem to think that maintaining a distant, cold attitude creates more vendor management power than being approachable. It doesn’t and only serves to create worry within reps assigned to serve your needs. The reality is that vendors talk, and if you operate in the autocratic mode, you’ll gain a deserved reputation of being difficult to deal with.

Be Honest with Your Vendors:

  • Nothing is worse than not telling a vendor the truth- if you are not going to use their products anymore- tell them, don’t put it off by saying, next month, next month. Save them and yourself the constant phone calls to set up an appointment.

Be Nice on the Phone and in Person

  • I remember once, I was cold calling in Las Vegas. We walked into a nice office, and 3 staff were chatting with each other. They totally ignored us for 5 minutes. Yes, we looked like reps, but we could have been future patients and looking to set up an appointment, or wanted to know about eye exams. I will never recommend that office to anyone, and even though I don’t live in Vegas, I know plenty of people that live there. Those staff were just rude! I would never wish rude people on my friends. The same holds true for phone calls. It costs you absolutely nothing to be nice and polite. You never know who that person is, and how they are related to anyone else.

Invest in Your Vendor Relationships.

  • Your vendors should educate and inspire you. You should be getting results with their training and products.  You must be able to trust them. If you do not trust them and or not getting anything out of the relationship, let them know. – they probably will be shocked. If not, then let them go. Your vendors should bring value to your office. Value is not just the product, but what else do they bring to the table.

Remember

  • Every one of those vendors have family and friends. Those families and friends are your future patients. I only recommend Optical Places to offices I like, who are nice. (and they didn’t have to buy from me- they were just nice people) Picture this, you have 50 vendors, if each of those vendors sent you 1 patient per month- How great would that be!
  • The better you treat your vendors, the better they will treat you.

What a Good Vendor Relationship can do for you

  • Offer  Free and Great Training Programs
  • Provide Marketing Information
  • Provide Solutions to Problems
  • Provide Competitive Information
  • Provide Employment Opportunities
  • Provide Profit Solutions
  • Provide Product Updates and Trade news

Tips on Building Good Vendor Relations

Set up at least 2 business meeting per year per vendor.  Each meeting should be about business, reviewing progress, profitability, training and more. If you send or email your rep first, they can come prepared. Write down your meeting plans so both of you can follow up.

Sample Agenda: (Frame Vendor)

  • Review of Board Space and Inventory Turns
  • Review of their reports.
  • Review of Returns- how to bring it down
  • Progress Report on achievement of goals
  • Review of Marketing Programs available, Co-op plan
  • Review Discount changes if any.
  • Review of Training Programs the Rep can Provide – set up schedule for year
  • Review your goals for the year- and what can they bring to the table. Set new goals

Other Idea for Vendor Partnering:

  • Can they help you with your newsletter or website by writing articles, putting in an ad?
  • Do they have special products, that might fit with any promotions you will be having?
  • What Give-aways, might they have you can use for patient raffles, or events?
  • What types of print do they have, you may be able to use (postcards for Thank you’s, Education Literature)
  • What type of media, DVD, VCR tapes that they could provide for patient and or staff education?
  • Would they be willing to participate in an event, such as a Trunk Show, Patient Appreciation Days?
  • Would they be willing to help you merchandise your office for a month?

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Comments

  1. I own a rep agency and I act as an independent eyewear rep in both the optical and sport field. Thanks for the insightful blog, I agree with your take on the advantages of a good vendor relationship. I used to own and run a sunglass company (still a shareholder)and when I got into repping I was amazed at how some Optical Shops did not value the vendor reps. Simple things like answering email or phone calls for appointments or at least being polite seem out of reach for some folks. But, we never know what personal issues they are having, so we need to let it go.

    Joel

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