How Designers Maintain Good Relationships with Vendors
Vendors form the backbone of your business. So maintaining good working relationships with your suppliers, trades people, manufacturers, and showrooms is key to keeping your projects on track and clients happy. Follow these 8 essential tenets to maximize the profitability and efficiency of your design business.
Cultivate Friendly Relationships
Good relationships don’t just happen overnight. Build relationships with your vendors by taking the time to get to know them on a friendly level as well as professionally.
When working with a new vendor, ask some simple questions like how long they’ve been with the company, what neighborhood they live in, and about their family. When you see longtime design partners, don’t forget to ask how they’re doing, what’s new with the company, or how their weekend was before you get down to business. Regardless of how long you’ve been working with someone, starting a conversation with a smile, a hello, and a little chitchat is valuable for maintaining a good rapport.
It’s also helpful to remember that your vendors will likely have friends, neighbors, and other homeowners asking them for interior designer recommendations, and they’ll refer them to designers they have a connection to and genuinely like working with. Taking the time to cultivate a good relationship will help ensure that it’s your name they give to potential clients.
Trust Their Expertise
No one knows a vendor’s products as well as they do. Take advantage of that intimate knowledge by asking them questions and listening to their advice about how their products best perform, how they wear, etc.
Be a Good Communicator
Like all relationships professional and personal, communication is key. Be in frequent contact with your design colleagues before, during and after projects, and as soon as problems come up and get resolved.
It’s also good to be in touch during your downtime to ask about new products that may be available, and to share photos of successful projects you’ve partnered with them on so they can see the finished results.
Pay your invoices on time. You don’t want to fall behind on your accounts and put your vendors in a position where they have to spend time chasing your payment down.
And when you borrow product samples, be sure to return them as soon as you’re able.
Keep Rush Requests to a Minimum
It’s normal to ask for rush orders and last-minute quotes from time to time. But when rush requests become the norm, it affects vendors’ views as you as a professional, and they’ll be less likely to drop everything to help you.
Work ahead of time whenever possible to ensure that rush requests are the exception, not the rule.
When problems arise with a vendor’s work or products, let them know about the issue in a neutral way that doesn’t assign blame, then work together to find a solution.
Follow the Golden Rule
Treat others as you want to be treated. Keep this guiding principle in mind when vendors ask for favors. Having reciprocity in your professional relationships means that when it’s your turn to ask for a favor, your vendor will have your back.
Show Your Appreciation
It’s easy to quickly slip into business mode with vendors. But don’t forget to say thank you — especially when they go the extra mile to help you out.
Let your vendors know how much you think of their products. And when you get rave reviews from your clients, pass on the good word. Everyone likes hearing when people appreciate their good work.