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Forging Alliances: A Lesson in Vendor Relationships

(November 2008) posted on Mon Nov 24, 2008

The 'best price' is often not worth the cost of a lost relationship.

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By Craig Miller

"Not even close."

I live and die by the spreadsheet, bought my first in 1979. I sat our purchasing whiz down at my desk and opened up an Excel document on my computer. "Let’s start out with what we know. You can see here your vinyl is approximately two-thirds of our total media cost with solvent ink making up the balance. This cell tells us media is about a quarter of our cost of goods sold, with labor and overhead accounting for the rest. Here is my sale’s price based on a projected 20 percent net profit.

"I’ll cut to the chase: saved us exactly $5.63 out of ten large. That’s about a half of one percent. Now I am not saying that saving the company six bucks is bad, but let’s look at the big picture."

The value of vendors
Why is it important to forge relationships with a select few vendors? As print providers, we need to contemplate just what business needs a good vendor partner can fulfill.

* Product knowledge can make a vendor invaluable. After you describe a live project, a competent vendor can recommend the best product-as well as production and installation methods-to help ensure the finished job will be a success. Vendor reps, who know their products better than we do, can be one of our most important industry assets.

* Vendors who are willing to stand behind their product as reliably as we stand behind ours earn trust. If a product fails, we need a vendor who has our back.

* A valuable vendor will question us about our needs and be willing to stock product locally that is in step with our demand. This can significantly reduce wait time for product and eliminate costs for expedited shipping.

* Time is money. It takes time to call multiple vendors for media quotes. It’s valuable to have a vendor we can trust to consistently provide us with competitive prices without the need to shop around.

* Proven vendors are more likely to do whatever is necessary to deliver product on time. It would take an entire column to tell the stories of what our vendors have done to get us product over the years. The vendors you don't want are good at delivering excuses.