Yep, I said it. Vendors are people too, and deserve to be treated . . . well, the way you would like to be treated.
Don't get me wrong. Your suppliers must earn your continued business and your trust, and when they give you less than satisfactory service you have every right to demand better or replace them. Managing your supplier relationships well is a critical component of a successful business; and companies who treat their suppliers as well as they treat their customers are way ahead of the game as a result.
But this blog isn't about how to manage your supplier relationships; you can get some great information on that much-written-about topic on the web, including these quick reads from the Atlanta Small Business Network and Inc.
This blog post is about remembering that your supplier reps have a job to do, a quota to meet, bills to pay and all variety of other obligations, including to their family and friends and other customers. It's about keeping in mind that they are not simply a salesperson, a customer service specialist, a landscaper, a technical support rep . . . you get the picture. They are real people with a demanding job that requires internal and external management of expectations, who deal with a myriad of life challenges and job challenges.
So, where am I going with this? Let me give you a few examples.
Recently I saw a post in which an multifamily executive was complaining about the number of sales emails bombarding their inbox in advance of a large conference. I get it, trust me. You don't have time and it's really annoying on top of the other 486 emails a day that you actually need to address. But these suppliers have a job to do, and that includes marketing to you. After all, doesn't your organization market to potential residents? Aren't you also selling something? I hear you asking, "couldn't they be more creative or try other methods of reaching out?" Sure, but are you willing to answer those calls? Or attend that webex? Or agree to that lunch meeting? Or spend 10 minutes at their booth? Just as you try every means to get in front of your target market, industry suppliers are trying every means to get in front of you -- especially if you have decision-making authority. It's part of the territory.
Another example is one of the big pain points for suppliers; the large number of meetings canceled at the last minute, or even no call/no shows. Again, I get it; things come up, emergencies happen, owners drop in. But please don't make your supplier work so hard to reschedule that meeting; maybe even volunteer an alternative time at the same time you cancel? Or answer the follow up call/email to reschedule? As for the no call/no show, allow me to give you my most disapproving frown; except in the most dire of emergencies, there really is no excuse.
I don't think I need to belabor the point; we are all human, and while we all have our less-than-stellar moments, I do think most of us really try to do the right things most of the time. I've simply noticed that suppliers are sometimes treated like second-class citizens, and that's really unfortunate in such a tight-knit industry and when so many sharp individuals have the ability to contribute to your success. Sometimes suppliers are too pushy or don't take the time to educate themselves on your company (as a leader of many sales organizations, I've seen it all!) - again, we all have foibles. The good news is that there are also amazing partnerships and lifetime friendships throughout the industry that transcend all titles and supplier/owner/operator roles. It's part of what makes our industry so special and creates such lifetime devotees.
That said, I think we can do even better. That goes for each and every one of us, whatever our role.