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Getting the most from vendors

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Question: How can I get the most out of my professional services vendor?

Anthony Green, president, Concep: Your Mom told you honesty is the best policy. It turns out that to get the most out of your professional services firm, this life lesson also applies. Help vendors see the big picture—and what's important to the pursestrings holders at your company—and you will get the best out of their services.

Let's say you're a marketer looking to introduce a new initiative, such as e-marketing. Ensure you get support from a big decision-maker at your company and make sure their backing is visible to the whole company.

Then, find a vendor that understands your industry, as you will need them to develop a business case your organization will accept, especially given the current economy.

When you meet with vendors, make sure they understand the company's current concerns. If your initiatives don't address the concerns of the key decision-makers, you are in for a long, slow battle.

Also, ensure vendors convey the ways they can help you address these current industry concerns—be they key client programs, cross-selling, increasing revenue from clients or improving pitch success. For example, if the company's goal is to improve relationships with current customers, don't let the vendor's proposal outline how they can help the firm win new clients. The focus should always be on the topics critical to decision-makers' goals and challenges.

Finally, get the vendor to meet with the head honchos. They understand their own products and services better than most and will deal with questions immediately and accurately. This will save you time having to come back to senior-level executives with answers, as they probably meet infrequently and could quickly lose interest in your ideas.

To conclude, the most critical advice is to be honest. Let the vendor know the time frames and processes you need to adhere to. This will increase the chance of meeting your own marketing goals and satisfying the people you answer to.

Anthony Green is president of Concep (www.concepglobal.com), a b-to-b digital agency.

Originally published Feb. 18, 2010

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