For me, vendor relationships are as important as customer and trade partner relationships. Just as with the latter groups, strong partnerships with our vendors can have a variety of benefits. Everything from being taken care of when there is an out-of-warranty product failure for an important client, to needing something overnighted, or getting an early sneak peak at a new product either from a rep or as a beta tester.
Establishing these relationships takes time and effort. I meet with the reps from my vendor partners on a regular basis to go over our business together, new products, my experiences in the field, and to just catch up. We’ll often grab lunch or a coffee while they are in town and I will very frequently bring them on job sites to check out the work we do.
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But my efforts do not start and end with the reps. I make every effort possible to get to know others inside the business. I will often speak with product managers, as well as marketing and PR people, to discuss the products and how we are using them in the field. We’ll talk about use-case scenarios and how to position the products to dealers in marketing and other dealer communications. I have spent a lot of time talking to product managers and product engineers. We will discuss features and improvements, how we are using the product as intended (and sometimes not as intended — in new and innovative ways). I always provide constructive feedback and any negative feedback is coupled with ways to improve, not just negativity.
The upside of these deep partnerships became evident two weeks ago at CEDIA Expo in Denver. I had an appointment to go through the SnapAV booth. To my surprise, I was also joined by PR and the head of product management, in addition to my inside sales rep. I got the opportunity to be very hands-on with the products, and to talk to the designers, engineers, and product managers who brought the products to life. It was an amazing experience, and made our walkthrough of the booth such a rewarding experience. We spoke in depth with an Araknis product manager about the new WAPs on display, about improvements we saw for the GUI and some new product ideas we would love to see. We talked to the product manager for Strong about the new wall-mount rack they were showing and some great ways to use that in the field. I think that rack was possibly my favorite thing I saw at CEDIA, and I can’t wait to put that to use.
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The point is that if you put in the time and effort to develop personal bonds throughout the business with your key partners, the benefits can come back to you in many ways. I know it is hard and takes a lot of time and effort. I know most of us spend the majority of our time in the field. But taking a few minutes for a phone call or an hour to meet for a coffee or lunch, goes such a long way to building trust and rapport. It is worth the investment.
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