Vendor relationships serve as a mutual correlation to your organization’s success. If you do well, they do well; on the contrast, if they don’t perform as you need them to, it will cause you major headaches. Conducting business with a vendor doesn’t necessarily mean you’re necessarily getting the most out of the relationship. Even the most minor delays can lead to major holdups down the line and poor service can lead to frustration and low morale on your own team.
Difficult vendors are definitely a risk that project managers need to take into consideration and know how to deal with when they arise.
Some signs of difficult vendors:

  • Disinterested or unclear communication
  • Inability to give correct estimates of when deliverables will be completed
  •  Work isn’t up to the agreed standard
  • Constant need for revisions and returns
  • Missing agreed deadlines with no warning 
  • Lack of follow-up support
Work on your communication

Some vendors may have an overall  bad attitude, where others may simply lack in organizing themselves. Whatever the problem is, they key to managing vendor relationships lies within communication. While it’s completely acceptable to be friendly and sociable when things are going well, you must be just as comfortable in conveying dissatisfaction when expectations are not met. To reinforce your position, keep communication open and polite when respectfully addressing any issues,  and don’t step back even if they don’t respond in a kind manner.

Get everything in writing

A sure-fire way to clear up most problems when managing vendor relationships is to initially get as much as possible down in writing. If the vendor relationship has grown on word-of-mouth but is becoming unmanageable, simply state that due to management or administrative reasons, it’s necessary that you establish limits and expectations of your cooperation together. Furthermore, ask your vendor for their input and sign-off.

Ask them what they need from you

Most vendors don’t set out to be difficult, often they might not know (or care enough to find out) if they aren’t delivering what’s expected of them. To be proactive in this situation directly ask them if there is anything you can do to help. For example, better defining the terms of your expectations \or assisting them with migrating to a more productive project management system. While it may uncover areas where you can help them give you what you require, it is also a good way to head off excuses and put the ball back in their court.

Escalate in a timely manner

How many chances should someone get? How many deadlines do they have to miss before you start feeling irritated? Certainly, the answers to these questions boil down to personal style, but the old adage, “once is never, twice is always” serves as a good rule to follow for vendor relationships. Don’t allow situations to get out of hand and normalize poor performance; recognize an issue when it occurs a second time and escalate your language and/or actions at each subsequent occurrence.

Evaluate if their service is actually the tool or platform you require

Upon the souring of a vendor relationship ensuing frustration and acrimony on both sides, it can be a good time to re-evaluate why you actually need them. Not necessarily in the sense of finding a replacement but rather that maybe the frustration is stemming from the fact you are trying to put a square peg in a round hole. Sometimes the service you need and the solution they are providing might seem to match but when you look deeper you are not a good fit as you previously thought.

Don’t be afraid to pull out

Though not exactly a strategy for managing vendor relationships, getting out of the situation is an option that must always be on the table. At the end of the day you are the client, and while this doesn’t excuse ill-behavior with your vendors, it also doesn’t mean you can be pushed around and be at the whim of their decisions. If your current vendor can’t supply what you require then you need to find one who can.

Managing vendor relationships continues to serve as an effective business tool and-if correctly maintained-can lead your business to success. However, the worrying number of difficult vendors provoke transparent doubts in the early stages of generating relationships. Disregarding the outcomes of any your vendors-or future vendors-ensure that you that you are both moving forward with mutual standards agreed upon. If soured vendor relationships have left you and your team recovering from a painful headache , contact us today to help pick up any pieces and guide you moving forward. Our team at MCDA CCG, INC. has helped numerous businesses find success with their vendors while building necessary communication abilities for the business world. Repair and build effective relationships today, call us now!

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