Having been in the sample world for over 20 years, I’ve seen the gambit of healthy to very unhealthy relationships between sample companies. It’s certainly a tough balancing act. At the same time, we’re fierce competitors as well as indispensable partners who need each other. Essentially, we’re frenemies! Through this time, I’ve had the pleasure of working with many of the same vendors since the beginning of my career and I’ve seen healthy relationships benefit both sides significantly. Here are my 10 absolutely must have best practices for making your enemies your frenemies and keeping them that way!
- Common Sense! We all should’ve learned long ago. For example, you should always be respectful of others time. Don’t send too many bids and be sure the bids you send are relevant to that partner.
- Send bids with complete specs! If there isn’t enough information in your bid for your team to bid a project, how do you expect your partners to bid it? (I know we’ve all been guilty of this before). Sending these types of requests will create a bunch of back and forth, wasted time on both sides and will cause frustration to grow which won’t be good for the partnership. So always look over your request to be sure you have everything they need to give you an accurate bid.
- Be on time to any scheduled meetings! I know it sounds easy but I also know it’s not always easy. With all the devices and gadgets we have these days, just make it happen. This is an excellent way to be respectful of their time.
- Always get back to your partners and answer their questions promptly! They took time to reach out so you should take time to respond back. This assumes that the questions coming in are reasonable as well.
- Be sure both companies are making money! The partnership won’t survive if only one company is making money. Give and take is the rule here so both partners need to “give” sometimes and both should be able to “take” sometimes. For example, buy and sell sample to each other. That’s an easy one. Just do it.
- Be reasonable – both of you! You shouldn’t ask your partners to decrease their CPI to $1 when they are asking for $15. It also means the partner shouldn’t be asking for $15 when it’s truly $1. I know this is an extreme example, however, I’ve seen this happen too many times.
- Keep an eye on win rate! For any of the partners with low win rates, do what you can to increase it. Have discussions around it so they know you care about it.
- When possible, set an allocation for each partner! If you’re using multiple vendors on a project, keep in mind that not everyone can get set-up and sending sample as fast as others. Make sure you’re not letting your sample rabbit get in there and gobble up all of the cabbage before your other partners have a chance. This holds true especially when working with vendors with no project minimum fees. We need to reward those companies that don’t have them by making sure they are making money on those projects – and obviously making money on much larger projects as well.
- Make sure you have “peace keepers”! Make sure that you have a representative from each company actively communicating and maintaining the relationship through good times and bad. If possible, have lunch or updates to catch up – get to know each other. During these meetings, you should review how things are going between each company and work on any issues that need to be resolved. Having meetings outside of project work builds trust which is needed for a good, solid partnership.
- And if you do have issues, be professional! Not too many things in life are black in white. There is no difference here. So, gather all the facts (don’t cut corners on this task) and deal with the information at hand. Consistency is the key – if the situation happens over and over, there is a real issue.
Call me an idealist – but those are the rules that I try to follow in my job every day!
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