I read the other day that the best place to get a referral or a testimonial is from your partners, the people who you work with. Your customers are the very people to ask for referrals. They are, after all, the ones who have the most vested interest in helping you succeed. They also want to build up your goodwill, and the best way to do that is to tell people what a good company you are. Of course, they want you to succeed in your business because it contributes to their success as well.
“Of course,” I thought, “that makes absolute sense.” It is a true reflection of a good customer-vendor partnership. If we truly care about our supplier partners, we are going to help them to succeed. We are going to do whatever we can to help them get more business, and they will do the same for us as well.
That’s because partnership is a two-way street; we all look out for each other. Customer/partners want to make sure that their vendor/partners succeed and grow in their own business and vice versa.
It is obvious that your vendors will do whatever they can to help you succeed and that includes recommending your company to potential customers. But for you as the customer to recommend your supplier to other companies, especially your competitors, is not always so easy.
Most of the time when I urge my salespeople to ask their customers for recommendations, referrals, or even success stories, they get a look on their face like a kid being asked to take a spoonful of castor oil. They will immediately come up with a variety of excuses for why their customers will not want to give them a recommendation. Why even try? In many cases, sadly, they are correct. Companies, especially the corporate giants, hate giving recommendations.
Why is that? Why aren’t we going out of our way to give testimonials of our good vendor/partners? Actually, the bigger question is why don’t we, as customers, want to go out of our way to help our partners succeed? Commonsense thinking would tell us we should be doing the exact opposite.
I know that sometimes, when the supplier has not been doing a great job, it would be disingenuous to give them a recommendation, and that is entirely logical. But if you have worked very hard to make your suppliers into partners, and done everything possible to follow the partnership guidelines in my previous columns, then you should have no good reason not to help your partners grow their business. Proudly refer them to other potential customers—even your competitors.
In the end, providing your good vendors with a recommendation or referral is part of a good partnership. A partnership where you want to help your partner to succeed, grow, be profitable, and be around to serve you for a long time to come.
Here are five ways you can help your vendor/partners grow their business:
- Sit down and ask your suppliers how you can help them increase their sales and grow their business. Have a candid heart-to-heart talk about their goals and how you can help them achieve those goals.
- Offer some helpful advice. Give them some ideas on how you’re growing your business. List some of the things that have worked for you and help them find ways that this will work for them.
- Let them know what you are willing to do to help them. Offer to write a testimonial or better yet a success story. Tell them that you would be willing to be part of their advertising campaign. Allow them to use your endorsement in their brochure and other sales literature.
- Ask them about their own target accounts. What companies are they looking to do business with? Offer some advice on how you can help them win the ones that you personally know by reaching out to these companies personally. Then tell them to have other target accounts call you for a personal testimonial.
- Offer them advice on what companies like yours want from their vendors. Explain to them what is important when it comes to their products and services. Advise them on how to stand out as a supplier to companies like yours. Let them ask you questions about what you like about their products and services. Go the extra mile and offer to speak to their salespeople as well. There is nothing more valuable than a customer/partner putting her arm around a supplier helping that supplier grow his business.
There will never be a better customer/supplier partnership than one that is based on a true respect for one another. Cooperative respect and a sincere interest in the success of both partners. That is true partnership.