3 Important Things to Look for in a Vendor Partner                

Post By Tim Curry

Finding a good supplier match is a lot like dating.

Don’t believe us?

We’ve put together a list of what you should be looking for in a long-term vendor partner relationship. (And if you want to take it as solid dating advice, we won’t try to stop you.)

1. Partnership versus Personal Gain 

In work as in life, you want someone who looks out for your best interests. Someone who, while they have their own goals and wants, considers you and puts your needs into consideration as well. While the terminology has shifted to refer to vendors and suppliers as ‘partners’, how many of the vendors with whom you work with would truly qualify as such?

Think about the vendors you’ve worked with in the past, and the ones with whom you’re currently engaged. Now do an audit of the partnership by asking yourself these questions:

  • Are they considering your best interests, or forwarding their own agenda?
  • Do they recommend only their solutions, even when they might not be an appropriate fit?
  • Do their solutions play well with others, such as your agency and other suppliers?
  • Are they really trying to be your partner, or just chasing POs?

Set boundaries by first establishing what your expectations of a supplier are, set roles and responsibilities, and negotiate firm, attainable KPIs.

2. Expectation versus Reality

You have an expectation of flawless service with no hiccups along the way. You didn’t arrive at this expectation on your own. Your supplier has painted a picture of a seamless partnership, one in which there won’t be any unexpected issues. They’ve told you everything you’ve wanted to hear.

You are SO in love with the idea of them and the promises they’ve made, that you don’t really mind when little issues arise. You tell yourself that sometimes these things happen, and that’s okay, but then there’s another snafu…and another problem.

The shiny is wearing off the vendor partner that you loved so enthusiastically not so long ago. You don’t know if you should try to work things out, or start considering the dreaded D – Discontinuation of Contract. How do you decide if you should patch it up or go your separate ways?

Ask yourself:

  • Are they making your life easier, or do you end up doing most of the heavy lifting?
  • Do they take responsibility when issues arise, or point fingers?
  • Do they tell you your top is a lovely shade of blue or that your new tie is swell? (Okay, this last one isn’t necessary, but sticking with the theme here.) More work appropriate: do they make you feel good about yourself and your work with them?

Life happens, and issues arise. How those issues are addressed and how behaviors change moving forward is very telling as to whether or not you’ll be able to march ahead as partners. Which brings us to point three…

3. Fling versus Forever

So how do you know if it’s the real deal? Like any budding relationship, it takes time to learn if they’re the right fit for you. You don’t shake hands and say, “I love you”, on the first date, (and back to this being potential dating advice, RUN, don’t walk, if someone drops the ‘L’ word on the first date.)

Your vendor might be a huge conglomerate with reams of SOPs and a multi-national staff in place, but doesn’t offer the personal service that your business needs. The supplier might be a boutique firm that responds with a sense of urgency to all of your requests, but doesn’t have the staff in place to execute your vision.

Your true love vendor is out there, just waiting for the two of you to find each other and make it work. Find your fit, be patient, and look around.

Start by assessing:

  • Do their business practices and culture complement your company’s practices and culture?
  • Think of a project you brought to them, and how they handled the planning, execution and follow up. Did they perform as well you had expected?
  • Are you staying with them out of a sense of obligation (or contract or MSA,) or because you truly want to partner with them? (If the way they answer your e-mails, or they way they chew their food annoys you now, I promise, it won’t become an endearing quality as time goes on…)

If your realization after reading this is, “I’m pretty sure this is not true love”, then you have a short-term vendor working for you.

It’s okay. We all need those learning experiences to show us exactly what we don’t want to prepare us for appreciating the right match when they do come along. Pat yourself on the back for being willing to leave a comfortable-yet-unhealthy relationship to follow new trails when the time is right.

So where do you go from here?

Think about your perfect vendor partner. What do you need to be happy? What is your wish list, and what are your deal breakers? We’ll help by starting you out with a high-level checklist of what you should be looking for in a match made in heaven.

Dream (Vendor) Partner checklist:

  • Looks out for you and your best interest
  • Does the heavy lifting and makes your life easier
  • Meets or exceeds your expectations
  • Shares responsibility for successes and takes responsibility for failures
  • Helps you and your company grow

If you think you’ve met your perfect match, we wish you nothing but sunshine and perfect projects. If you haven’t…

MedPoint Digital has been the perfect vendor partner fit for Top 20 pharma companies, biopharmaceutical startups, and teams of all sizes in between. We’re big fans of sharing the MedPoint love. We would be happy to demonstrate to you how our products have been a match made in heaven for our clients. Swipe right for a demo (dating speaks for “email us at jennifer.tontini@medpt.com for more information,” or call us at 847-440-9459.) You can also visit our marketing services page here.