Partnership vs. Vendor"ship"
n one hand, there are companies that provide products or services with clearly identified prices and possible discounts based on volume. On the other, some companies seek to understand their customer’s needs and tailor what they provide to meet those exact needs.
When you read these descriptions... Which hand does your company fall into?
After you’ve evaluated, realize that the first alludes to what can also be called a vendor, and the second, a true partner. There is a big difference between partnership and vendorship. Identifying your company in the correct category allows it to prosper and grow in the way it needs to.
This article is not to say there is no need for vendorship. The world needs widgets and parts and predictable supply chains. Vendors allow for smooth business operations. There are plenty of opportunities for vendors to be successful.
I am not saying every company needs to reinvent themselves to become a partner instead of a vendor. But today I’d like to ask: Does your company identify as a vendor, or a partner? If the answer is partner, or your company hopes to grow into partnerships in the future, I challenge you to examine the following criteria.
Partners don’t let internal bureaucracy, or a that’s-the-way-we’ve-always-done-it attitude get in the way of success. Partners are in a state of constant growth, and they focus on innovation to create efficiency. “Partnership” is a real word. “Vendorship” is not. The biggest difference between partnership and vendorship is not that of efficiency. It is that of relationship. To build relationships with your clients, you must attend to these four characteristics:
Being a partner instead of a vendor requires an investment of time and often resources. The payoff from a profitability perspective may be months or even years in the future. Don’t stress- an investment is always worth your time when you become positioned as an essential part of your customer’s business. To stay in that position, make sure you continue your investment; don’t take it for granted.
The ultimate goal is to build relationships. Without trust, relationships can’t flourish. Trust takes time, so focus on long-term engagements rather than single interactions. What begins as a simple transaction often leads to mutually beneficial engagements between two organizations. Patience is how you build a symbiotic business relationship.
One of the largest challenges as a partner is when customer’s view you as a vendor because most business relationships begin this way. Moving from that initial engagement where you are viewed as a vendor to being known as a partner requires execution. Anyone with proper perspective doesn’t expect that partnerships won’t have challenges and hiccups. People buy from and work with people and your customers’ need to be able to trust that you will deliver on your promises.
To be a good partner you must be a great listener. Very often customers are still trying to figure out what they need or want, and they need your help to figure out the best way to do that. They’re relying on you for the expertise that you bring. First, listen. Then, act specifically on your customer’s need.
Over time, as the relationship grows, you’ll be able to anticipate how changes may impact your customer’s business. That is when the real shift happens. When you can consciously acknowledge how a new process, change, delay, or decision will impact your customer’s business, you are best positioned to help them.
One of Hyperion’s successful partnerships is with a multi-faceted transportation company. This company provides services to municipalities, school districts and private clients. Due to their client's needs often changing, the company’s needs change. To execute and deliver on their requirements, Hyperion knows to first listen and then plan. We are flexible enough to change as the partnership presents new requirements. Our goal is to be the preeminent partner; in order to sustain this position our priorities must always be their priorities.