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Develop Your Vendor Relationships

For SMBs that want to take their business to the next level, you need help from your vendor partners. Unless you have this help, your business might not reach its potential. We all know vendor partnerships are key to strategic growth and longevity. Therefore, we need to become actively involved in that partnership.

Why do we need strong vendor relationships?

Having a strong partnership with your vendor is vital to continued business growth. It will mean your clients receive better service and will provide PR opportunities that raise your business profile.

Without a strong relationship, your business can stall. It might lack the resources or momentum to get to the next level. Securing and continuing to build a great relationship is critical to growth. Vendor management is one of the most underappreciated, yet critical functions you are responsible for. Luckily, this is something that can be easily addressed. So, how do you get that secure relationship where you become the vendor’s favorite partner? Let’s find out!

Make the vendor the center of your growth strategy

If you give your vendor relationship the central place in your growth strategy, you’re headed in the right direction. To be successful and grow, you need your vendor to think of you as a partner and not just a customer. A key approach is building up the relationship you have with your vendor account manager. Needless to say, this a very important step, so don’t let the relationship dry up.

Oftentimes SMBs will avoid emails or telephone calls from accounts managers as they see them as irritating. They’re trying to avoid sales pitches trying to get more money. But, if you take the opposite line of attack, you might see things change in your favor. For example, don’t wait for a sales call from your vendor, call them yourself and ask how you can become their favorite partner. With this approach, you show the vendor that you’re willing to make this a two-way relationship that can help them as well as you.

Take a forward approach

Being forward in this way can be quite surprising for vendors. They mainly spend their time dealing with SMBs that ask for discounts or favors. What’s more, they don’t often have them asking to help them.

In this regard, it’s good to have a bit of inside knowledge of how vendor account managers are measured in terms of performance. It might come as a surprise to learn that it’s not only their sales volume that is considered. Additionally, vendor account managers are measured on the sales pipeline visibility and how many new SMB partnerships they get.

Furthermore, it’s a good idea to open up communications lines with vendor account managers so they see the sales opportunities that arise. This will also mean that the vendor account managers can report sales pipelines accurately to their management.

Making direct introductions

Remember we said this is a two-way relationship – help your vendors by making introductions directly. Talk to your peers about the work you do with your vendor partners. Tell them what you enjoy about working with the vendor and how your business has grown thanks to the good relationship.

These activities might seem unusual as recommendations usually go the other way. After all, not many are doing it, which is why you can become your vendor partner’s favorite client quickly.

Does this yield results?

With this sort of helpful attitude, you will notice your partnerships flourish. You build trust. This trust will result in quicker resolutions to technical and supply issues more quickly – a bonus for your clients.

There really isn’t a downside to building a strong relationship with your vendor. Correspondingly, your relationship will become a real partnership with mutual commitment leading to success for both.

Final thoughts

If you want to move your business to the next level, approaching your vendor relationship in a different way can help to achieve growth. Without such a relationship, your growth could hit a wall that you might struggle to get beyond. If you have questions or need help managing your vendors, please contact us to discuss how we can help in this area.

Are you getting ‘nickel-and-dimed’ by your vendors? This is a great phrase that you’ll hear concerning charges for extra services within a larger service or purchase. According to Grammarist.com, the phrase ‘nickel-and-dimed’ has been around since the 19th century. Originally, it meant small amounts of money. It wasn’t until the 20th century that this phrase became a verb and an adjective for descriptive purposes. It’s a relevant phrase when it comes to the SMB-vendor relationship. Being ‘nickel-and-dimed’ means you’re spending more on extra services than you agreed to. The phrase makes you consider the impact unknown costs can have on a business and its profit margin. 

As a business owner, you need to decide what level of IT support is right for you. Small businesses frequently operate under the “break-fix” model. Break-fix is exactly what it sounds like: you run your business normally until something breaks, then you pay someone to fix it. Managed Service Providers, like us, offer a monthly service agreement to handle all of your IT support. But remember, not all managed services are created equally – don’t get nickelanddimed! 

Break-Fix Model 

While the break-fix model appears the simplest out of the gate, it ends up costing more than you think. The ‘breaks’ cost you more because you’re stuck with unexpected hardware and software costs, and the ‘fixes’ cost you a lot more due to downtime, outages, and lost potential revenue. At some point, you’ll get tired of your CFO running into your office with a stack of bills from all of last month’s fixes. 

 

Working with Vendors 

Finding a vendor that works well for your business is essential. SMBs often seek out vendors that offer full solutions. These deals are usually better for the client as well as their revenue and profitability. 

Choosing a vendor that offers a complete solution means you won’t get ‘nickel-and-dimed.’ When a vendor gives you the option to pick your solutions it often sounds too good to be true. However, this way often makes things more complicated for both you and your client. It also makes it hard to predict revenue and costs going forward. 

SMBs need efficiency 

Efficiency is paramount for SMBs and this translates to your customers too. When vendors offer features individually, the SMB purchases separate parts as individual products. With a turnkey solution, they have one single comprehensive package. Otherwise, you’re spending money on features that you thought were included. Unbundling your service might also mean ending up working with multiple vendors. What you need is a single vendor; a one-stop-shop for all of the features you need. Bear in mind that this vendor also needs to be able to adapt to you in the future too. 

What SMBs need their Vendors to know 

SMBs need a vendor that recognizes their role in supporting your business. We buy, employ and use their technology to run our businesses. SMBs should expect their vendors to listen to them and help them build their business. If you suspect you’re being nickel-and-dimed, then this isn’t a partnership worth pursuing. Don’t stick with it because it might seem like an easy option or because it’s hard to find a vendor that checks all of the boxes. You can maximize profitability and ROI with a vendor that works for you and works with you. 

Future-proofing 

When new features become available, they should not be a separate offer or a stand-alone service. SMBs need to ensure the vendor they work with can future-proof their plan to add any new features onto their existing offering. 

With a complete, fixed-price solution, vendors will earn your business each month and will then continue to improve their solutions without having to ask for extra money. A good vendor will focus on lowering the costs and not try to upsell new opportunities as they arise. 

Final thoughts – don’t be nickel-and-dimed 

You need a solution that will meet your needs straight out of the box. It should be a ready-to-go turnkey solution that will make you satisfied in the knowledge that you have all you need to be able to solve any business problem – all while paying a reasonable sum. You also need your vendor to incorporate new additions into your product as they arrive without it costing you more. It’s vital not to settle when you’re looking for a vendor. If the vendor doesn’t look out for your and your customers’ interests, can you call them a partner? 

If you are having issues with your vendors, please contact us at any time. We want to be sure you’re getting what you’re paying for. 

When a Business relationship with vendors is good, it can form a strong and strategic partnership that strengthens and develops your business.

Many businesses don’t have the capability or skills that are needed to build marketing and sales in their business plans. Vendors can support businesses in this area. Vendors have the resources to tap into their expertise and provide guidance on how your business can promote your services. A vendor can give advice on which marketing goals should be a priority.

Establishing solid relationships with your vendors is crucial to staying competitive. This is true in both customer service and business growth. Take care of them and they will take care of you.

Two-sided relationships 

The relationship isn’t a one-sided one. Both you and the Vendor need to engage with one another to establish in-depth growth and development plans. Hold one another accountable. Vendors can also help businesses execute strategic plans by providing services that may be out of reach. These could be marketing resources or technical recommendations. Vendor partnerships with strong foundations also lead to efficiency in operations. Having a good vendor allows you to reduce the number of resources required with simpler, automated processes. As you can tell, this is good for your bottom line.

A positive vendor lifts you up 

Vendors have lots of expertise and valuable advice to share with you. Whether they’re forthcoming or not depends on the relationship you have with them. Just like any working relationship, a relationship between a business and a vendor is not just transactional. The traditional format of the vendor-buyer relationship is no longer enough to stay competitive. You both need to go much deeper than that. To have a vendor that lifts you up requires you to establish a two-way relationship and dialogue. Strive to help each other.

Both parties have key responsibilities. Vendors should listen to their clients to discover what services, support, and products they truly want. You, on the other hand, should engage proactively with the Vendor to gain access to price promotions, bundles, and Marketing tools. This will help you provide better services to your clients and stand above your competition.

How can you get more out of your Vendor? 

Often, small businesses don’t have enough budget or time to plan and carry out marketing programs on a big scale. Vendors can plug this gap. You can ask vendors how they invest in making their client network a success. Another question to ask is, do they create activities for lead generation? To help support the vendors become actively involved in their promotions.

You need to work to make the most out of your vendor partnership. When dealing with a Vendor, articulate your needs clearly. In turn, your Vendor has to make it easy for you to have access to the materials and resources you need to sell your services. There is no place for being timid here. Ask the Vendor how they can help you and what the available support is. Examples of this might include payment plans with added flexibility or discounts to help with your cash flow.

Build your relationship 

Often, business owners are quick to criticize a vendor for not providing or offering the support that was expected. We must remember that this is a reciprocal partnership and a two-way street. The relationship needs to work for both parties. Sometimes, owners find that their Vendor isn’t creating the positive effect on their business that they would like. For this to happen, you must engage fully with the Vendor to set achievable, common goals. Spending time to establish the right partner is an investment SMBs often can’t afford to miss. Having a trusted partnership with a vendor impacts your company’s success.

Collaborate with technology 

Simply listing each other’s company on your website is not a collaboration. For the relationship to go deeper, it should involve the integration of technology. An intertwined technological relationship will open up ways to create more innovative services. Your vendors have a larger budget for research and development than you do. Being collaborative as a technology partner is an important consideration that many businesses can benefit from.

What if your Vendor is negative to your day-to-day operations? 

Strive to build and maintain good relationships with vendors. Remember, vendors also have to play a positive role in the relationship. Some vendors aren’t good for your business and it’s important to work with the ones that are. As MSPinsights.com describes, sometimes vendors alienate themselves by offering “channel” products that mean they have direct contact with your clients. You might even find vendors that offer competing products to the end clients or require them to sign contracts. This kind of ‘offer’ often suggests that these vendors are not interested in treating your business as a legitimate partner.

Final thoughts 

For best results, you need to become your Vendor’s favorite partner. Essentially, you’ve got to find someone who wants to build a partnership that works two ways. If you need a little help managing your vendors, remember that we can do that for you. Contact us and we’d be happy to get the ball rolling.

This is the final blog post in our series of four on the topic of remote and hybrid working. In it, we’ll summarize what we’ve talked about in the previous three blogs and finish with a quiz so you can see how much you’ve taken in. 

The start of the Covid-19 crisis seems like it happened a long time ago. But these past 12 months or so have caused the biggest shift in working practices in modern times. Before 2020, few companies were offering their employees the chance to work from home. You’d see the occasional ‘hot desk’ company or the workers who logged onto coffee shop Wi-Fi for a change of scenery. Ultimately, though, remote working wasn’t common practice.  

A few stats 

COVID-19 changed the way we do business. Social distancing caused us to modify the way we interact. Owners are deciding how things will look in a post-pandemic world. Some business owners seem to have a “trust” issue with employees they cannot keep an eye on. Many workers and businesses don’t see a complete return to office working anytime soon. 

Pre-pandemic, less than 20% of employees across the country worked from home. 

Currently, up to 70% of employees work from home at least one day a week. And that number is expected to grow. 

Surprisingly, almost 50% of businesses in the U.S. do not allow their employees to work remotely. There are many reasons for this, but the number one reason is usually this: productivity. 

However, the statistics show a completely different story. Several studies came to the same conclusion; remote workers have less unproductive time, work more hours per week, and are up to 47% more productive than the workforce in the office. 

Moving forward, we see more of a hybrid model taking place. Many businesses were able to downsize their office space, so they can’t bring everyone back. And, the fact is, the employees are getting used to the new arrangement. At least 50% of remote employees wish to remain remote, even after the pandemic has run its course. 

The benefits of remote work

Forced to adopt the practice of remote working, many businesses call it a success. What started as a challenge has turned out to be a benefit. Most businesses are planning to keep their employees remote at least on a part-time basis.  

This means companies have had to improve the performance of their networksTheir IT infrastructure has changed to be more efficient. MSPs have certainly played a role in this and have had a big part in improving the IT systems for businesses around the world. 

Small and large companies have turned to MSPs to help them with their IT needs during the pandemic. These MSPs can access the latest technology and offer 24-7 support, Around-the-clock support isn’t possible with in-house IT teams who work 9-to-5. 

Remote working risks revealed 

Of course, with such changes, companies have experienced the downsides to remote working too. With remote workers, there’s often a higher risk of cyberattacks or security breaches. MSPs have helped in this regard too. They monitor for threats, back up data, and give peace of mind that they’re always on the lookout for threats. 

After the Pandemic 

Many companies have enjoyed the new way of working more than they anticipated in the first place. With the experience and confidence in remote working, it is thought that many companies will strive to keep at least some aspect of remote working going forward. And it will remain even once the pandemic has ceased.  

Hybrid working means different things for different companies but essentially, employees have more freedom as to their working pattern. They might be required to work in-house for one or two days a week and be at home the rest of the time, for example. There are lots of ways in which hybrid working might work but it is likely to mean that there isn’t as much need for office space in the future. With hybrid working being highly likely, we expect to see an increase in Managed IT services too. 

MSPs and the hybrid workforce 

Many companies had to adapt during the pandemic, but so did MSPs. It could be said that their challenge was greater in some ways, given that they had to learn and adapt quickly so that they could help their clients more efficiently. 

MSPs were able to help companies be available for their clients with great success and have shown how they are key partners in a company’s functionality. That’s not to say that MSPs have taken over and there is no need for in-house IT teams, quite the opposite. MSPs’ work complements that of existing in-house teams.  

Conclusion – remote work in today’s world, is it for you? If you have any questions about supporting a hybrid workforce please contact us. As a Managed Service Provider, we can help you find the perfect solution. Remember: we’re your business growth partner, so take advantage of our knowledge. 

 

In our last blog, we mentioned how companies have adapted their workflow amid the pandemic. We now expect that this new hybrid practice, where employees mix home working with office working, is here to stay. To put a figure on it, the Institute of Directors carried out a study, which showed that 74% of companies are going to offer support to employees who work remotely after the pandemic. Of course, this is good news for many but it is also a challenge for those in IT. 

When the majority of employees only visit the office a couple of times a week, it becomes important to have a smooth-running IT infrastructure. There are many challenges to overcome, including data security, reduced visibility, and home Wi-Fi connection issues. To work effectively and keep businesses moving forward, hybrid working needs IT support. 

COVID-19 Challenges 

The global health crisis of 2020 created many challenges for most companies. It was aopportunity for us to enhance, shift, and adapt to our new reality. Managed Service Providers quickly learned how to help businesses stay available for their clients as well as their employees at home. However, many companies still used static and inflexible network designs. This meant they had to make big changes to be able to support their remote workforce. Poor bandwidth was the first big hurdle. Security issues and increased cloud traffic meant many companies had to turn to IT professionals to help them adapt. 

MSPs as key partners 

Managed Service Providers have worked tirelessly to help solve the new problems arising from the increase in remote working. What makes MSPs effective in their role as a key partner is their relationship with the network operators. This means they can find the best available services for their clients to help them solve their problems. MSPs also help remote workers with phones, software, data storage, and security. 

An MSP complements any existing in-house team. They can monitor network security and server performance and prevent potentially costly outages by increasing security. Essentially, a good MSP minimizes disruption to key functions in a business. 

Another thing that MSPs can offer is mobility support. This means they can arrange plans and devices for remote workers to help them be just as effective at home as they were on site. Setting up phones, tablets, and webcams will ensure your team never loses connection with you. 

Cloud Technology 

With remote working at an all-time high, cloud technology has been essential. Forbes believes that almost half of the data in the world will be cloud-based in 2025. MSPs can help businesses migrate their IT infrastructure to a cloud-based system. This means employees can continue being just as productive wherever they are working. This ease of accessibility needs to be secure, and MSPs are there to help. 

Automation 

Automation can help the hybrid workforce by removing a lot of the friction they encounter. For example, repetitive processes – e.g. data entry – can be an automated task. That means employees can focus on other, more complex tasks. They become more productive as a result, which means the business can grow. 

It is also possible to automate other things, such as diagnostic tools. With automated diagnostics, employees can troubleshoot, identify and fix small issues on their own, remotely. This reduces pressure on other team members and saves the company time. 

Automation also helps improve visibility in the organization. It means that interactions, progress and updates are kept in check for all to see. This is vital to preserving transparency when hybrid working is involved. 

 

Final thoughts – helping companies adapt to their new ‘hybrid’ way of working 

The hybrid workplace is going to be around for a long time. Perhaps forever. MSPs can help companies embrace the changes that the pandemic forced upon them. They can help businesses maintain their continuity and provide them with the support they need for their future growth. Simply put, an MSP can help companies reap the rewards of a solid IT support base. 

If you have any issues or questions concerning your network infrastructure, or about creating a hybrid workplace, please let us know. As your MSP, we are here to help you with everything technology related. Contact us to discuss your needs!