STECKLEY CONSULTING GROUP Recruiting and HR Team Solutions for Success!

Managing Your Vendor Relationships

Written by Tanya L. Johnson

We live in a small world. When resources are scarce, it becomes even smaller. When good resources are hard to find, companies must sometimes turn to vendors to find the resources they need. The challenge for most companies is that vendors have options. For every great resource they find, they have several clients interested in hiring that resource. The key to being the first in line for these highly sought-out resources is to build a partnership of trust and respect between you and your vendors.

The goal of any company that utilizes vendors is to establish and maintain the status of preferred client. We all want to make one call and have our vendor drop everything they are doing to address our needs and concerns. Building this relationship can take some time but will reward you for your efforts. Establishing this status, however, does not mean bending to their every command or providing them top dollar. It is about the partnership that you create and the value you place on their efforts.

Here are five keys to a successful vendor relationship:

1. Set expectations. Setting clear expectations with your vendor partners up front is critical. Execute a clear contract and discuss all terms and agreements. Develop guidelines for the submission and contracting process and clearly define what the vendors must do to abide by those guidelines. Take this opportunity to set parameters for measuring their performance and address any concerns you or they may have. By providing them with a structured process and clear rules, you ensure not only consistent submissions, but also their focus on the important job of finding the best candidates for your needs.

2. Communicate with your vendors regularly. The vendors that will work the hardest for you are the ones that feel like they are an extension of your company. Communicate frequently with your vendor partners to solidify processes and standards to ensure that they are focused on your priorities. Consistently provide them with timely, well-defined placement opportunities and ensure quick and thorough responses from your internal departments to keep your vendors up-to-date on all opportunities. Provide real-time updates on open positions. This constant communication will allow your vendors and their teams to be confident that they are working on only your hottest needs where they have the best likelihood of placement. By keeping them in the loop of all challenges, delays, and closings, your vendors will know that you value their time and efforts.

3.   Be honest. Vendors will want feedback on their performance! Be sure to take time to tell them when they have really stepped up and exceeded expectations. Don’t rely on successful placements alone to communicate your satisfaction with their performance. Also, don’t be afraid to tell them when they are not meeting expectations. By providing them with constructive feedback, they know you are invested in your relationship and want them to succeed. Develop KPI and metrics to identify and manage vendors’ effectiveness and discuss your findings with them. If they believe you truly want them to succeed, they will work harder to meet your expectations.

4.  Keep your list of approved vendors short. You will get more value from having a shorter list of really great vendors, than you will from a list of a larger group of vendors. Keep your list of approved vendors to less than 10, and make sure that your vendors know this! If a vendor thinks they are competing against 20 other firms, they may decide not to work on your needs or, if they do, they may not put as much effort into searching for new candidates. If they know that you are only working with a small group of vendors, they will realize their chance of success is good and will work to fill the need. All vendors want exclusives, but this type of decision can put you at risk. Only provide an exclusive to firms with whom you are confident of their capabilities. In addition, make clear deadlines for providing an exclusive. If your chosen vendor does not produce viable candidates in 5 work days, open it up to other vendor partners.

5.  Be your vendors’ point of contact and, when necessary, their advocate. If you are going to invite vendors in, support them in the process. They are outsiders, doing their best to support you and be successful in your company. Provide them with one point of contact for not only the submission and contracting process but also for any additional challenge they are facing within your company. If they know they have someone to turn to for help with solving issues, to help them solve issues or to protect their ownership of their submissions, your partnership will only grow stronger.

The most valuable vendor is one that feels they are a trusted advisor and partner. As you will want preferred client status with them, they will work to earn preferred vendor status with you. Constant communication and relationship building plays a vital part in that partnership. It demonstrates your respect and understanding that their time is valuable and their success is directly linked to your company’s success. Once you have a trusted vendor partner, the sky is the limit.

Tanya Johnson is the Operations Manager for Activation Services at Encore Health Resources, LLC