When speaking of partnerships, a famous African proverb comes to mind. It reads thus: “if you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.” This adage sums up the essence of collaboration and relationship-building.
About 59% of companies outsource specific tasks to cut costs and focus on core projects. Although the numbers depict an abundance of opportunities for vendors, most neglect the role of strategic relationships.
Many B2B vendors rush to land the next big client instead of trying to retain existing ones. That’s why so much revenue is burned on marketing and customer acquisition— funds that could be channeled into other projects.
However, you must eliminate the short-term mindset and start playing the long game if you must build a credible legacy in your industry.
That’s what vendor-client relationships are all about. It involves visualizing what could be if a particular client stuck with you, and taking all the necessary steps to keep them.
This article dissects;
- the importance of partnerships
- and strategies business owners can follow to build successful vendor-client relationships over time.
What is a vendor-client relationship?
A vendor is a provider of specialist services, while a client is one that pays for those services.
Therefore, a vendor-client relationship is the sum of all interactions between a buyer and seller throughout the customer’s journey.
Most vendor-client relationships are purely transactional. Campaign. Pitch. Gather leads. Close sale. End of story.
However, successful ones, which are longer lasting, require an evolution of the vendor from just a “supplier” to a partner.
No doubt this evolution, like all others, occurs over a stretch of time, and is fueled by mutual trust and clear communication.
The success of this business partnership requires a collaborative effort from you and the client.
But because you are the vendor, you are responsible for keeping the vendor-client relationship alive.
The Impact of Successful Partnerships to Business Success
Why should vendors even focus on becoming partners? Is a vendor-client relationship really necessary?
Let’s talk about how cultivating a partnership with your clients can impact business for good.
Reduce business costs significantly
It’s 6 to 7 times more expensive to acquire one customer than to retain one. After generating and nurturing leads, they may end up partnering with other vendors.
However, prioritizing client relationships takes most of the focus away from always seeking new customers. It forces you to invest in existing ones.
This way, you can cut customer acquisition costs and repurpose capital for other projects.
According to Signpost, 65% of new business opportunities come from referrals. And referred clients tend to stick with vendors for longer; they have a 37% higher retention rate.
Look at it this way: only clients who have had an exceptional experience with you over time will recommend you to their network.
If you invest in building customer relationships as a professional or team leader, they’ll become your biggest marketers.
Hubspot reported that a 5% increase in the customer retention rate could improve company revenue by at least 25%.
This increase in revenue is primarily driven by customer loyalty and referrals.
Clients who regard you as a partner are more likely to stay loyal to your brand. This means recurring transactions and contracts whenever they need your expertise.
Again, referrals bring you more clients; and new clients equal revenue.
Best practices for successful partnerships and vendor-client relationships
When it comes to building successful partnerships, I did not magically create any new hacks. The six practices I outline in this section are techniques that customer-centric companies have used to attract and keep customers over the years.
Let’s discuss each one in detail.
Communication is the foundation of every successful partnership. That much is true.
In this context however, it’s not so much “what you say” as “how you say it.”
As a vendor, your communication strategy is what leads the prospective client to trust your expertise in the first place.
Serving a B2B clientele means they are equally knowledgeable about the ins and outs of running a business. Like you, they want to cut costs and multiply revenue. Therefore, your marketing strategy should show them how partnering with your company will multiply their business efforts and income.
Position your service as an investment instead of an expense. In other words, sell the solution, not the service.
I first stumbled on this term on CIO. It’s all about compromise from both parties, especially the vendor.
At first, a client’s terms may not fit your typical price range or business model. But bending the rules a little to accommodate their needs can be rewarding in the long run. It assures them of your empathy and credibility as a partner.
If you work around their terms, chances are they’ll want to collaborate on future projects.
Deliver exceptional results
It’s easy to make crazy big promises to clients— dream big after all, right?
But when you overpromise and under-deliver, you’ll end up with:
- dissatisfied clients
- a tainted reputation
- loss of market share
- and a decline in revenue, amongst others.
Instead, set realistic goals in conjunction with the client. Then, do everything to complete the project in record time and within the agreed scope.
SnapSurvey attributed feedback as a tool for continued learning. I couldn’t agree more.
Doing the job and disappearing doesn’t cut it anymore. You should go the extra-mile by requesting feedback.
Client feedback allows you to find loopholes in your work and improve on subsequent projects.
Here are some questions you can ask in your feedback form:
- Did our service (or product) meet your expectations?
- How did your users interact with the upgraded features? (or whatever service you rendered)
- What can we do to improve the product/service quality?
- Would you work with us again?
Real partners are invested in their client’s success. That’s what sets you apart from the competition.
Stay in touch
You must have heard the popular saying “out of sight, out of mind” more than once. The relationship you want to create with your clients requires the exact opposite.
How does your business stay top-of-mind whenever clients require additional services within your expertise?
Schedule routine check-ins. You can contact your clients via emails, phone calls, or whatever channel they’re comfortable with.
These check-ins should not be few and far between, nor should they be so frequent that the client gets irritated. For B2B and SaaS vendors, I suggest following up with clients every three months at least.
Invest in a CRM
Humans are prone to mistakes. You may forget to send a follow-up email, omit a client’s name in outreach, send the wrong message to the wrong client and much more.
These are errors that could cause a strain on vendor-client relationships.
But with a CRM, you can:
- turn leads into paying clients,
- track customers’ feedback,
- automate personalized messages,
- and simplify collaboration within your team.
Overall, a CRM allows you to meet your clients where they are. From that vantage point, you can understand their needs better and improve your service accordingly.
First impressions always have and will always matter in business. Your first interaction with a client sets the tone for the rest of their relationship with your business.
Kick off the relationship by showing clients how you can solve their business problems. Maintain the connection through feedback collection and routine outreaches.
Whether you run an agency or work solo, customer-centricity is the only way to meet clients’ expectations and remain in their good books for a long time.