At some point in your quest as an entrepreneur and business owner, you will have to rely on someone else for assistance. Whether it be during start up to help create your brand and presence or once you’re established as a supplier, you will need the expertise of another vendor.
And let’s face it, nowadays it seems like EVERYONE provides a product or service. It’s almost necessary to survive in our economy. But that doesn’t mean that everyone provides a QUALITY product or service. Need a website done? Need business cards printed? You can probably find several people from high school, on social media, or friends of friends that claim to be able to get the job done. So in a sea of possibilities, how do you catch the perfect fish? How do you know who to trust with your hard earned money?
It’s Not a Simple Process
Choosing someone to work with isn’t a decision you make on the fly. You want to take time and make sure you are picking the right person or business to represent you because after all, that’s the end result. Whatever the outcome, it is a representation of you. And who has the time to spend days, weeks or even months working with someone only to get to the finish line and be disappointed with the results?
As an entrepreneur, here are a few pearls of wisdom that we have found to assist in choosing a vendor the right way. Before you make contact with a vendor before any meeting is held you should have done your research.
No matter how new a vendor is, there should be able to prove that they are knowledgeable about the product or service they are offering. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with reaching out to ask for that proof if it’s not available. Whether it’s a portfolio or actual client or customer work, vendors should be able to back up their brand.
The whole reason you are bringing this vendor in is because of their supposed expertise. They should be able to answer any question you may have or quickly get the answer for you.
In addition to that, they should honestly be a little knowledgeable about your business as well. How can they help you if they don’t know your mission and vision? During the initial conversations, it’s important to talk about what you want and need from the vendor. It is probably more important to listen to them and what they’re saying and read between the lines to hear what they’re not saying.
Do they appear confused or dance around the topic when you mention certain things that they should know or ask basic questions in line with their business? These are clues that they may not be the subject matter expert that you need. It is not asking too much to want your vendor to be on top of their game. Don’t feel bad for passing on those that don’t meet your standard.
Trust Who You Work With
It may sound cliché but probably more important than ANYTHING (even more that having the knowledge base) is TRUSTing who you work with. Former NBA Player Greg Smith said, “If clients don’t trust you they will eventually stop doing business with you. It doesn’t matter how smart you are.” A true statement indeed.
Again, you are putting a part of your business in your vendor’s hands. You have to trust that they know what they are doing, that they have your business’ best interest in mind. We all want to attract new customers or clients. That’s the point right? Many times people feel forced to misrepresent and over sale themselves and their business for the sake of gaining yours. When choosing a vendor you have to be able to trust that they are telling you what they can and can’t adequately provide and that they will come through with the final product.
Vendor Reliability Is Key
Following closely behind trust is reliability. It is imperative that you employee vendors you can depend on. When someone offers a product or service, you have a certain expectation that they are professional and will live up to their hype. Sadly, that’s not always the case. I cannot tell you how many “business” owners will promote a product or service and fail to deliver. The reasons or excuses are endless.
Get to know the movers and shakers in your industry and find vendors that have a reputation of meeting deadlines doing what is asked of them. Again, no matter how new a vendor is if you are going to trust them with your “baby” their “resume” is important. Ask for references. If a vendor wants your business, they will have taken theirs serious enough to be able to support their promises.
Communication is a Two-Way Process
Communication and accessibility are other key elements when choosing the right vendor. Not everyone works out of a traditional store front. And that’s ok. Many vendors wear multiple hats and that’s ok too. But nothing is more aggravating than calling to check on a product or service you have paid for to repeatedly have to leave messages and get no response.
This type of behavior often times leads to missed deadlines or even worse, a failure to deliver. During your research period, make a mental note of how often your calls or emails go unanswered and the time it takes potential vendors to get back in touch with you. Vendors who reach out to you first, call or email just to update you on the progress of your business relationship get a gold star!
Determining who to work with is hard! Many people have a problem with delegating out tasks to vendors because they fear the possible outcome. It’s not as simple as going with the first person that says they can provide a product or service. It takes a little digging, a little research, a little question asking to choose a vendor the right way. In the end, being “picky” will save you time and money. Want more tips on choosing a vendor the right way? Check out the article “4 Keys to Choosing the Right Vendor”.