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How to Improve Your Vendor Management

We may be living in the modern era but we shouldn’t forget the importance of picking up the telephone

That’s right, a phone call. For those of you out there who have switched your main communication style to text, email, or even instagram – please do not ignore the power of a phone call.

I understand the challenge as well as anybody. When I started my career as an inventory manager for a start-up retail chain, there were four employees at our corporate office, and we were all in one room. Any time I called a vendor to ask for a discount, it was as if I had a megaphone in my hand. Everybody could hear me.

At first, I chickened out. I would send each vendor a strongly worded email asking for a discount. But you know what? It rarely worked as well. In fact, I don’t know that it ever really worked! But as I started actually picking up the phone – I found my negotiating voice…

 

I soon knew their birthdays, knew when to send flowers at the death of a loved one, looked forward seeing them at annual conferences, and started receiving their family holiday cards. 

When business was tough and we needed to ask for increased payment terms on our outstanding invoices, it was a phone call to someone who knew me rather than a stranger. It wasn’t always an automatic guarantee, but there is no question that it helped our case. 

And over time I learned about each company’s values and background story which gave me better perspective on their businesses. As I came to understand the motivating factors for my vendors, I was able to figure out new ways for us to both succeed.

Now, almost three years since I left the company, I’m still in touch with a few of my vendors. I know I could ask them for a business reference or insight into a new problem I’m trying to tackle.

When your business gets busy and you want to do the easiest and quickest thing, remember that the extra five minutes on the phone is worth it. Invest in your relationships with vendors. Go to the trade show, even if it seems like a big expense. Giving up a small amount of money or time now will pay off in the long run.

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