Partner vs Vendor: Who’s Looking Out for Your Investment?
Part Four Of a Five-Part Series
We’ve been talking about the benefits of working with a partner versus a vendor for the past few months. Since then, we’ve discussed how a partner aligns their goals to your business’s needs, understands your industry, and invests time and trust in a way only a partner can. Here’s one other way a partner relationship beats working with a vendor, they’ll make sure you’re making the right investment. For instance, a few years ago I was working with a customer who wanted to add next-generation firewall services to their network. After investing months in the project, developing the design, documentation, and negotiating the best price from the manufacturer, the order was placed and engineers were due onsite within days. Everyone was excited; it was going to be a major improvement to their network. At the last-minute, word came down from the manufacturer, unofficially thru back-channels, that the product we had ordered was going to be discontinued in the next six months. What were we to do? What would a regular ole’ vendor do? I can tell you what a partner would do. They would put their customer’s needs first. So that’s what we did. We notified our customer, canceled the order, had our engineers stand down, and began to find the right solution once again. The replacement product had already been released, so once we verified it was stable, we redesigned the project from scratch, rewrote the documentation, and renegotiated with the manufacturer. Within a few weeks engineers were onsite and it went off without a hitch. From that experience, several benefits came to light.
THE RIGHT FIT
The first benefit, which may not have been immediately obvious, came from our deep and longstanding relationship with the manufacturer. The back-channel I referenced was a direct result of that relationship. A partner develops trust with the brands they represent and often have employees whose sole purpose is to interface with the manufacturer, stay up-to-date on what’s officially (and unofficially) happening, and maintain a tight relationship so they can make the absolute best choices for you. Proposing anything other than the “right” solution does the customer and the customer-partner relationship a disservice. Nurturing a strong relationship with manufacturers, and sharing the fruits of that relationship, is key to ensuring you invest in the right solutions for your company.
Another benefit of the experience above came from true concern for the customer’s financial and operational welfare. It would have been easy to close the sale, claim ignorance, and then sell the newer firewall a year later. It certainly would have earned us more money, but that isn’t a partner’s goal. A partner knows that doing the right thing for the customer, even if it introduces challenges, ensures you both win. A partner will tell you if a product isn’t ready for prime time, if a product is about to be discontinued/replaced, or if you should wait to upgrade an existing system because the new version is unstable. Simply put, a partner protects your financial and operational well-being by putting your needs first. A vendor puts his own needs first.
Suppose the experience above had been different. What if there was no replacement product on the market yet and it was either install the one being discontinued or do nothing? What would a partner do? A partner knows that sometimes the best thing to do is nothing, even if it means they don’t get the sale. A partner’s priority isn’t getting the sale; it is ensuring your success. A partner will honestly tell you when they can’t help you and they may even refer you to a trusted third-party who can.
Partners understand that budgets are limited, resources are constrained, and that everyone is being asked to do more with less. Whether money or time, you’re making an investment. Rather than exploit those resources, a partner will help you protect them. Would your 1-800-vendor do this?
This is the fourth in a five-part series dedicated to helping companies identify true Partners and understand the advantages of working with them. Keep an eye out for the next post to understand the types of returns you can count on by working with a committed partner. If you missed the first post in this series, you can read it here.
Interested in learning more about how IE partners with their customers? Contact us.