I recently heard this advice from an experienced business consultant: instead of loving your clients and being tough on your vendors, it’s time to love your vendors and get tough on your clients. His rule-of-thumb is contrary to conventional wisdom; I was intrigued and asked him to elaborate.
It is the conventional wisdom for us to love and cherish every client we have. And why not? They are paying us. Especially in this economy, we have to nurture every client relationship, right? Wrong.
And it’s also the conventional wisdom to be tough with our vendors. And why not? We are paying them. Especially in this economy, we owe our business to the vendors who bend over backwards for us at the lowest price, right? Wrong.
It makes much better business sense to turn this chain of love and discipline the other way around, regardless of the economy.
For our customers: Certainly, it’s critical to offer great customer service. But it’s also important to serve the right customers, set boundaries and have mutual respect. Customers who want more than we can deliver profitably, or distract us from our mission, aren’t worth keeping. And the best clients or customers understand that their vendors have something to offer in terms of guidance and advice. In fact, sometimes the best thing you can do for a customer, “is tell it like it is.”
For our vendors: Certainly we want great value. But a great vendor relationship is golden. Once a vendor understands our standards of quality, our particular needs, and our people, it’s a great value to keep the relationship strong–and pay them on time–just as we tip our favorite waiters well.
Yes, tight budgets–our clients’, and our own–make it tough for B2Bs. Don’t let that be an excuse to mismanage business relationships. It’s time for tough love.