As anyone who reads my purchasing articles knows, I am very big on good vendor relationship management. For the long-term success of an organization, you must have a focus on vendor relationship management with your key vendors.

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But sometimes the connotation of vendor relationship management doesn’t sit well with me.

The way “vendor relationship management” is used by some people, it connotes that 100% of the health of the relationship is dependent on the buyer. I disagree.

As a result of this perception of vendor relationship management, buyers often waste time developing relationships with substandard vendors. In a lot of these cases, those buyers need to spend time finding a vendor that can perform. Managing a relationship with a more competent vendor is ultimately more productive.

Here are a couple of signs that attempting to manage a vendor relationship may be less desirable than sourcing for a new vendor:

1. The vendor calls you way too often during the sales process, but after you give that vendor the order, you can’t get anyone to deliver what was promised or communicate progress.

2. The vendor places you on less of a priority than its other customers. Look, if you’re going to give me less responsive service than your other customers, you should be charging me a “lower priority rate.”

3. The vendor responds only when you get tough. When something isn’t going right with a vendor, I always communicate cordially at first. If that doesn’t work, then I get tough. Unfortunately, especially during a healthy economic time, vendors are busy and service levels decline. But it drives me crazy when the only thing that vendors will respond to is tough talk. But you gotta do what works. If nice, polite requests don’t get the job done, you have to remember your obligation to your company and do whatever works.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t advocate always being tough. And I don’t dismiss the notion that vendor relationship management should be a part of every purchasing department’s repertoire. But sometimes, it makes sense to source old-school style.

Charles Dominick, SPSM
Next Level Purchasing, Inc.
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Charles Dominick, SPSM, SPSM2, SPSM3

Charles Dominick, SPSM, SPSM2, SPSM3 is an internationally-recognized business expert, legendary procurement thought leader, award-winning entrepreneur, and provocative blogger. Charles founded the Next Level Purchasing Association in 2000, oversaw its incredible growth, and successfully led the organization to its acquisition by the Certitrek Group in 2016. He continues to blog and provide advisory services for the NLPA on a part-time basis as he incubates his upcoming business innovations. Charles is also the co-author of the wildly popular, groundbreaking book, "The Procurement Game Plan: Winning Strategies & Techniques For Supply Management Professionals."

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