Whenever you meet with an existing or prospective supplier, you are probably used to walking into the meeting and being asked a lot of questions. But do you walk in with questions to ask them? We want to look at the questions beyond capabilities and certifications and manufacturing standards and get into more conceptual stuff. Because these are the kinds of questions that get to the heart of who a company is, what they believe in, and what you can expect from them in the long haul. Here are just a few questions we wish more people asked us, and we hope you are asking your vendors.
- What have you done for us lately? It’s a Janet Jackson song, but it really does get to the heart of how each side views the relationship. The benefit to the vendor of having the privilege of serving you is a profitable equitable engagement (we hope) but what’s in it for you? Do you feel heard? Do you feel that the vendor communicates how important your business is to them? The last thing you want to feel when you are investing significant resources and trust in another company is that they do not value you. It’s worth asking.
- What is the next big trend coming regarding the service(s) that you provide for us? It is not unreasonable to expect that your vendor has plans and goals for the future. Do they share those with you? Do they ask for your input regarding their plans and capital expenditures in the future? If they are a true partner, they should keep your needs and goals in mind as they plan for THEIR future.
- What should we be doing that we are not? This is such a valuable open-ended question and could go in any one of a bunch of different directions. It could deal with file preparation, how you use photography, or even considering adding colors or printing on the inside of the box. A valued vendor should have lots of input and ideas about how to take your relationship and your projects to the next level.
- Where are we in your range of customers? This question is all about where you stand compared to other customers. And it is not unreasonable to want to know it. And if you want to know it, you should ask it. Are you in their top 10, or are you near the bottom? Do you feel treated accordingly?
- How can you help us solve our problems? Truly consultative partner level vendors are famous for asking these questions at the beginning of an engagement, but how many of your vendors continue to focus on how to help you solve your problems? The last thing you want is to feel like you got wooed and paid a lot of attention in the beginning, and after that initial honeymoon phase, you feel forgotten. Your status with them should continue to remain a point of major focus for them.
If you are not conducting regular account reviews with key suppliers, maybe now is the time to start. It is a great way to share information, learn something new, and get answers to your questions. What questions would you add to our list?