I've never had a face-to-face meeting with some of my longest standing vendors. Is that bad?
It occurred to me today while our team was prepping for an upcoming tradeshow, that I’ve never met two of the vendors I rely on and am fiercely loyal to. The first is our exhibits provider and the other is our printer whom I have been working with since 2005. I don’t know what they look like, but I would choose to work with them over a competitor every time and here is why.
1. They keep in touch.
They email me once a quarter or so - not to sell me something or pressure me, but usually to send me an example of a new service they have or to show me a project they have recently worked on. Sometimes they just ask if I have any needs coming. They aren’t offended if I don’t write back. I’m guessing that many times these are just email blasts…but oddly, I kind of find them comforting. I haven’t lost them in a sea of timelines, emails or projects. If I need them, they are just an email away.
2. They always come through.
I can’t tell you how many times I have sent our printer an email saying, “I know this is totally unreasonable, but I need you to get something printed and back to me by end of day tomorrow. Can you do it?” Our printer and his team are really good at specifying what they need and when they can deliver. He’ll come back and say, “I need files from you in the next hour, and I need you to approve the proofs by 6 pm. Also, I won’t be able to get the entire quantity to you by tomorrow. How many do you absolutely need?” He usually will get me enough so I can get by. If something is printed wrong, he gets it fixed ASAP.
3. They always work with us.
I’ve started many emails to our exhibits provider with, “We only have $5K, but we need a cool booth - what can we get?” He will work with his team to research options and often mock-up renderings (as an investment on their part), so we can see what it will look like. It might not end up costing $5k…it might be $6k all in, but we’re willing to make that investment if we think what they showed us will work.
4. They bring me solutions not problems.
These two vendors rarely make a problem of theirs one of mine. They are courteous of my time and come to me with things that matter for me, not them. They aren’t pushovers and they aren’t sycophants. They just know that we’ve got business to do, and that’s fine by me.
I think sometimes we assume that strong business relationships mean that we have to have some sort of personal friendship. I don’t mind being cordial, but I don’t need more friends. What I really, really am looking for is someone who I can trust, who has my back and who will deliver.