We always talk about being a valuable vendor, but what about being a valuable customer? If you think about it, you’ll realize that being a valuable customer matters too—especially if you want to get the most from your vendor-supplier partnership. It is always important to be your supplier’s favorite customer, even if what you buy from that supplier is not enough to make you qualify for the 80-20 rule that all companies live and die by (80% of your business comes from 20% of your customers).
The most important thing in any relationship is to be fair and equitable. And the best way to do this is to always treat your suppliers as you yourself want to be treated. You should always work on intentionally making your relationship valuable to your vendors and doing whatever you can to make sure that you have to vendor’s loyalty and attention at all times.
Here are five guidelines for making sure that you are always your suppliers’ most valued customer.
1. Ask them what they like in a customer.
Yes, just ask them. Many companies develop an ideal customer profile when they are looking for new customers. By using this profile as a template, they decide who their best customers are from their own customer base and then use that template to find new similar customers. Ask your vendors if they have an ideal customer profile and how you fit into that profile. You are going to get a lot more out of your relationship with your vendors if you allow them to let you know what they feel makes an ideal customer.
2. It’s not all about the money.
There is much more to a customer-vendor partnership that the money. Don’t get me wrong, we all think that money is great, but that is not the most important factor in a great relationship between you and your vendors. What’s most important is that both companies in the partnership get something out of it that they would not get alone. A key factor can be technology. I have heard some PCB suppliers call it “paid tuition”; they love the idea of learning new technologies and getting paid for it. For both parties, this is one of the true benefits of a great partnership. Your vendor grows with you as your need to develop new technologies arise. It’s good for you because you have your own R&D partner, and it’s good for them because they are learning and developing a new technology that will make them a more valuable PCB supplier to their other customers as well as to you.
3. Be accommodating.
This is an easy one, but not too many customers consider it. Try to help your vendors as much as they help you. Please get rid of the old saying, “Whoever has the gold makes the rules.” That is not the true golden rule; it’s one of the factors that hurts most vendor-customer partnerships because companies that follow this rule often put an edge in their relationship that will never allow it to turn into a true partnership. Instead, follow the true golden rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” or, “Treat others as you want to be treated.” This is the simplest and most effective guideline for a successful and valuable rep-vendor partnership.
4. Share your future.
This means trusting your vendors with your proprietary information, as well as sharing your plans for the future, including new strategies, technologies, and products that you plan to introduce. This kind of trust not only creates a bond with you and your partner, but it also helps you to get their input and cooperation by making them a part of that future.
5. Pay them on time.
Nothing creates more loyalty with your vendors in a timely fashion or even before they expect. Another advantage of being a good and early payer is that it gives you tremendous leverage when it comes time to negotiate for that annual bid or a new piece of equipment. Your vendors will be more than anxious to work with you, even if this is only based on your payment history. You are going to pay them anyway, so why not make the payment on time and get all of the benefits that this will earn you instead of having your supplier chase you for payment?
Many factors go into making a company successful, including how good your products and services are. And the key to producing and delivering great products and services is how you treat not only your employees but also your vendors. Always keep that in mind, and your chances of building a great company will greatly increase.
Anaya Vardya is president and CEO of American Standard Circuits. Vardya is also co-author of The Printed Circuit Designer’s Guide to… Fundamentals of RF/Microwave PCBs and Flex and Rigid-Flex Fundamentals. Visit I-007eBooks.com to download these and other free, educational titles. He has most recently co-authored Fundamentals of PCB Technology.