Schmoozing is an art that is necessary to be successful in business. We all know that networking is crucial, but how do you build a relationship with someone you’ve just met? It’s not always easy to transition from work acquaintances to genuine friends, but it can be done if both parties are willing. If you want to strengthen your business relationships and build trust, here are ten tips on how to get close with your vendors.
Scratch their backs.
- Don't just ask for favors. If you're looking to build relationships with your vendors, offer to help them out in return. Offer to help them get new clients or improve their marketing strategy by writing articles about them online. Offer to teach them how to use social media effectively and give advice on improving their website's SEO (search engine optimization). These types of helpful acts are much more effective at building a relationship than asking for something every time you meet up with them!
Introduce them to others in your industry.
If you like someone's work and want to help them out, introduce them to others in your industry. This is a good way to build relationships with vendors who can do something for you and make new contacts that may be able to benefit from the vendor’s services.
- Introduce them to people who might be interested in their services. For example, if someone is a photographer, they could talk about how they can help photographers with their business needs such as marketing or website design.
- Introduce them to people who could be potential clients. It helps if these potential clients are part of your client base so that you always have something going on together when meeting up at events (so it won't just be awkward silence all around). You should also try connecting the two parties right away so there isn't too much time between introductions where it becomes harder for either party to remember why they were introduced in the first place!
- Introduce them to people who could be potential partners/affiliates/partners-in-crime (depending on how much fun anyone has ever had). If one person has connections within an industry, this way another person doesn't have any connections yet but wants some then maybe both parties can benefit from each other being connected through knowing each other -- kind of like having two companies merge into one super company: The SuperCompany!!
Give them business that you can't handle yourself.
As someone who has worked diligently to build relationships with vendors, I can tell you that it really does pay off. You'll get access to better pricing and faster response times. You'll also be able to avoid the headaches that come with managing vendors yourself (e.g., doing their work for them). If you don't want to deal with those responsibilities or don't have time for them, find a vendor who can do them for you and give them some of your business—or even better, give them all of it!
It is possible that your event may not require any services from other companies — but if it does, consider these questions before selecting vendors:
- Do they have experience in similar engagements?
- Are they willing and able to meet deadlines?
- Are they trustworthy enough not to steal my money/food/art supplies/coffee machine?
Let them know how much you appreciate them.
It's a simple gesture, but the act of extending a genuine thank you to your vendors—whether via phone call, handwritten note, or gift card—goes a long way. Event planners often take for granted that vendors understand how much we appreciate their services. We all know how difficult it can be to do good work in this industry, so let your suppliers know how much you appreciate their hard work and expertise.
And if you're not sure what to say? "Thanks" should suffice in most cases!
Lunch or dinner on your dime.
Don't be afraid to spend some money
The best way to get someone to like you is by buying them something. If you're in a relationship, this is where I tell you not to go overboard and buy your event planner a car or anything crazy expensive like that. But it's okay for you to buy them lunch or dinner once in a while, especially on the first few meetings. You'll make an impression by showing that you appreciate their time and expertise, and they'll be more likely to want to work with you again in the future.
- Avoid awkwardness by asking for help when needed
When meeting with vendors during such an important time as planning an event, it's easy for things to go awry if there are any miscommunications or misunderstandings between both parties (which there often are). One of the best ways of dealing with these problems is being open about what exactly needs fixing so everyone involved knows how they can help out—and doesn't feel offended when asked questions or given feedback!
Keep an open line of communication with them.
- Keep them informed on what is going on in your business.
This is probably the most important thing you can do for your vendors. If they don't know what's happening, they won't be able to provide the best service for you and your clients. When you have an upcoming event, give them a heads up about it and let them know how many people are expected to attend. Have a plan for how much food, drinks and other supplies you will need for each item (i.e., one 10×10 tent will serve 100 guests). Let them know if there is going to be any special setup needed or specific equipment required (i.e., outdoor grills).
Respect their time.
- Be on time.
- If you are running late, call ahead. Nothing is worse than being in a meeting when the person who’s supposed to be there finally arrives at the venue.
- Don’t text or email them at the last minute asking for things (i.e., “Hey, I just realized we need more chairs! Can you bring some?”). Email should only be used for confirming details and scheduling times—it shouldn’t be used for anything urgent, especially if it's close to your event date.
- Don't take up too much of their time with questions that can easily be found online or by looking around your venue site (the answer to most questions is "Google it"). A good rule of thumb: if you ask them something they haven't heard before from another client and they don't know the answer offhand, it's fine to give them an hour or so to find out for yourself before following up with them again. After all, this is a business relationship and they're not always going to drop everything just because YOU want something RIGHT NOW?!
Give them a little leeway when it comes to deadlines and being late.
Give them a little leeway when it comes to deadlines and being late. While you’re busy organizing the perfect event, your vendors are working double-time to make sure everything goes smoothly for you. If they happen to be running behind on their end, let them know so that they can work within their own timeline to get back on track as quickly as possible—and don’t forget about the importance of communication!
You should also make sure you are clear about deadlines with your vendors from the start. When planning an event with a vendor who has never worked with your group before (or at least hasn’t worked with them in recent memory), it helps everyone involved if there is a written contract outlining every last detail of what needs to be done by whom and when. This way both parties know exactly what they are getting into before any money changes hands.
Relationships are what makes business work, and they shouldn't be taken for granted
Relationships are what make business work and they shouldn't be taken for granted. Take your time to build them. Treat them with respect, honesty, and the benefit of the doubt no matter if it's a vendor or a customer. Keep in mind that you're not the only one working hard to make sure everything goes well on your event day—your vendors are working hard too!
You can make a difference in the world, one relationship at a time. One of the best places in the U.S. to build relationships with vendors will be at the 10th Anniversary of The Event Planner Expo. You don't want to miss out!