3 Tips for Managing Vendor-Client Relationships
Managing vendors on behalf of clients is a part of agency life. Whether it’s a tool provider, search engine or social network, we’re often asked to serve as the intermediary between the client and the vendor, but this can be a tricky minefield to navigate. Since the client is ultimately paying for both of our services, this often results in an interesting dynamic. But fear not, we have some tips to make sure that your vendor-client relationship is set up for success.
Communication is Key
As with any relationship, communication is key. Arguably, your job as a liaison between the two parties is to make sure you keep the lines of communication open.
- Schedule check-ins between you, the vendor and the client at a regular cadence. This can be bi-weekly, monthly, quarterly, whatever works for you. The point is to have time blocked off where you can discuss any open projects, challenges or shifts in goals
- Bonus Tip: At least once every six months, use these meetings to have a frank and open conversation around what’s working, what’s not and how you can improve in the next six months-- on all sides of the relationship
- Clearly communicate deadlines and expectations. Your vendors and partners are not mind readers, so if you need them to support you on a specific task or hit a deadline, you have to tell them
- When emailing with your vendor POC, make sure the client is cc’d on the message, unless they have specifically requested not to be. This ensures they are kept in the loop
- Bonus tip: When in doubt, overcommunicate. Make sure you reply by email to confirm next steps and timelines. This can prevent headaches down the road, as if there are any disputes or discrepancies, you can point back to your email
Be Collaborative, Rather Than Combative
Remember, you and the third-party vendor are both on the same team: the client’s. It's important that you both work together to meet their goals and objectives. You should be fostering an environment built on collaboration, trust and transparency.
- Be willing to share information, data and goals (within reason). Holding back information or keeping things siloed only makes it more difficult for everyone to do their jobs
- Consider bringing the vendor in on more strategic conversations. They might be able to offer a fresh perspective or show you a way that their tool can help solve a problem you’re having. As they say, two heads are better than one
Be Solution Oriented
If something isn’t working with the vendor, make sure that you bring solutions to the table rather than just identifying problems.
For example, if you feel that joint meetings are lacking purpose, a tactical and solution-oriented way of handling it would be to start putting together agendas and recaps for calls.
If you’re having an issue with the tool or platform itself, make sure you’re clearly outlining the issues you’re having and what you’ve done to troubleshoot to your vendor POC, so that you can have a more productive conversation with their team and get to a resolution sooner.
If at the end of the day, the problem is insurmountable and the solution is that you need a new solution (or vendor), that’s OK too. But, if that's the case, you should take a proactive approach. If your recommendation is that the client should move to a new vendor, make sure that you’re providing at least high-level recommendations on potential replacements. Businesses are constantly evolving and that often means that you need different tools to get to where you’re going next.
Ultimately, our job as an agency is to keep the client happy and help them meet their goals. In most cases, this also aligns with keeping the vendor happy. But when the two are at odds with one another, you have to do what is in the best interest of the client.
Have any good tips on how to manage vendor-client relationships? Share them in the comments below or tweet them to me @up_for_grabs89.