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Six Tips on Managing Your Software Vendor Relationship

In today’s world, we rely heavily on software vendors to provide us with special expertise, products, and services to deliver value for a project or a business. Acquiring valuable software can yield immediate visible benefits, but it’s the vendor relationship management process that makes sure those benefits are there for the long run.

Here are a few tips that will help you improve vendor relationships organically as you work together:

  1. Establish an executive sponsor

Show the vendor that you’re treating the relationship seriously. Appoint an executive sponsor for each strategic vendor. This sponsor should talk to an executive contact at the vendor, including attending major meetings.

  1. Get to know your vendor

Find out more about the people you work with, their challenges, and what you can do to help them.

When you have problems with your vendor, remember that the people you deal with probably aren’t directly responsible for the vendor’s poor performance. Don’t back down, but don’t take your frustrations out on them. Always treat your contacts with respect.

  1. Share bad news early

Don’t surprise the vendor with a slew of problems and bad news. Communicate regularly and keep the vendor up to date with problems you’re having. Give them time to take corrective actions and follow up.

  1. Discover and share in a collaborative way

Work through the review as a collaborative process. Don’t treat the performance review as a time to shame the vendor for underperformance; use it as an opportunity to work together to fix problems.

Use the vendor to provide another opinion on your issues and opportunities; they could provide insight.

  1. Solicit vendor feedback

Treat key vendors like they are a group of your top employees – you want to check in on them and get their feedback.

Make the evaluation go both ways. Ask the vendor about your own performance as a customer and ask specific questions to help improve the relationship.

Conduct a vendor satisfaction survey (paper/electronic) or ask related questions during another review.

  1. Don’t immediately run to the contract

The contract should be used, in general, as a last resort. It’s there to protect you but enforcing the contract too strictly and frequently can damage a potentially strong relationship.

Remember, these relationships require intentional effort to grow and maintain and they go both ways: you rely on your vendor, but your vendor also relies on you. Besides, you’re more likely to get better service if you’ve developed a personal relationship with your sales rep.

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