As a business, you wouldn’t be where you are today without your vendors. However, sometimes those relationships get difficult and you have to have a tough conversation with them. For some of us, this is difficult if we don’t like confrontation or are afraid of losing their business. Fortunately, there are some tips for having harder conversations with vendors without burning any bridges.
We’ve put together five tips for you to use when you have to have tough conversations with a vendor.
Related: The Ultimate Guide to Hiring Executives for Your Company
Review your contract
The first tip, and likely the most important, is to review your contract. This can help both parties see what went wrong based on the agreed-upon terms. Reviewing your contract verifies that you’re not holding them accountable for anything that’s not outlined in the contract. All the terms and conditions for both parties should be outlined in writing. While verbal agreements are great, you likely won’t be able to recall the details and call out any misunderstandings. Make sure you get any misunderstandings resolved with a formal contract.
When you have a contract in place, please review it to ensure neither party is required to do anything unreasonable. As clients, we need to make sure we’re not asking anything unreasonable requests of our partners.
Tell them your concerns
A fault of human beings, especially in a time with ubiquitous technology, is being able to communicate appropriately. When each party is not meeting these expectations, it becomes crucial to communicate what’s gone wrong. If your vendor is violating part of your contract, bring it to their attention. This method isn’t meant to be aggressive, but rather to address problems and take corrective action.
That being said, be sure that the vendor follows up to fix the problem. Ensure that they understand the urgency of your request and want the issue resolved as soon as possible. You want them to take responsibility for their actions and solve the problem without escalating it.
Related: The Ultimate Guide to Building a Corporate Communication Strategy
Prepare a backup plan
Sometimes it just doesn’t work between a vendor and a business, leading you to part ways. Don’t look at it negatively — it’s no different than breaking off a romantic relationship or a friendship. However, only take that course of action when you’ve expressed your concerns, and nothing has changed.
With this type of communication, you usually get back one of two responses; either addressing your concerns right away or parting ways. If you have a feeling you will end up parting ways with your vendor, start coming up with a backup plan to fill the gap. You don’t want to be left with an unforeseen vendor gap that will slow down your workflow.
At VP Legacies we have helped multiple clients clean up messes that past vendors have created due to lack of systems and processes. While saving money and looking for the cheapest solution may save you money upfront, in the mid and long term it will most likely cost you significantly more.
Learn more about our premiere eLearning and micro-learning production capabilities.
Set clear expectations
Going along with setting up a formal contract, you need to set clear expectations with your vendors. Listen to your vendors to hear what they expect from you and vice versa. Give them a chance to explain their needs — their contentment matters just as much as yours.
Additionally, it would help if you communicated what you want from your vendors. Don’t use complicated language to explain a simple concept. This will confuse them even more. That being said, while you talk through your wants and needs, make sure you record the final agreement in a contract that both parties sign to which you can refer to if there happens to be a miscommunication between the two parties.
Leave the conversation with action items
When you talk with your vendors about any concerns, make sure you leave the meeting with action items. Whether it’s following up with them in a given amount of time, or set tasks for both parties to do, make sure these are outlined before both parties part ways. This makes both parties accountable for tasks to make for a faster resolution.
Action items give both parties something to work on to strengthen the relationship. They provide both parties with a better way to work together by both being part of the solution. You’ll want to focus on fixing the problem, not assigning blame. Your vendors and customers want to feel like they are a valuable part of the partnership and heard. Assigning action items is a way to make sure the partnership becomes valuable for both parties.
As a manager or business owner, difficult conversations aren’t fun to have but are sometimes necessary for both parties. Through communicating, you can keep your vendor relationship intact, even during tough conversations. With these tips, a little patience, and a good attitude, you’ll be able to mend your vendor relationship in no time, becoming stronger than ever.
Deciding whether or not to continue with a vendor is never an easy choice. However, having a conversation with your vendor to salvage your relationship can prove fruitful if approached in the right fashion.
In this article, we discussed five strategies for addressing your relationship with your vendor. We started with reviewing your contract, as this gives you an idea of what you want to discuss, including the pros and cons of your agreement. Next, we recommended voicing your concerns and preparing a backup plan should your initial discussions fail to meet your conversation’s goals. We suggested having a clear list of expectations going into negotiations and a list of actions to take after the meeting has completed.
By following this list, you will be well-prepared to voice your concerns and negotiate a better deal with your vendor and establish a stronger, lasting business relationship for years to come.
While you may enter prepared, negotiations may not work out in your favor, and you may be left with the choice to seek a new vendor. Fortunately, you’ll be prepared for this outcome. By having a backup plan and a list of actions to take, you’ll be on good footing to take your business elsewhere.
If you are looking for a strong vendor to help take your training and courses online for your employees or students check out our custom eLearning and micro-learning production capabilities.