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Rethinking the Client-Vendor Relationship

by: SilverTech


In this episode of the Lead to Loyal™ podcast, we discuss the difference between a vendor and a partner, why clients should be seeking out partners, and how Hoveround and SilverTech benefited from a true, client/partner relationship.

Joining the podcast this week are SilverTech Account Manager, Griffin LaFleur, and Project Manager, Carol Morse.

Listen above or continue reading for some of the podcast highlights.

Let’s discuss your roles at SilverTech. Griffin, as an account manager, at what point in a project do you engage with clients?

Griffin LaFleur – Really, my engagement with a client never ends throughout the entire process of working with SilverTech. I’ll meet clients at a trade show, networking event, referrals from other clients, or even something as impersonal as a cold call…my role is to build the relationship [from there] and understand what types of pain points they have and what they’re looking to do with their digital experience and talk about how SilverTech can come into the mix.

Carol, you are a certified Project Management Professional (PMP)®. What is the role of a project manager and how does the certification affect your approach?

Carol Morse – My role is to work in collaboration with Griffin. So, after he establishes that initial relationship with a new client and a project has been identified…I get brought into the mix. I pull together the appropriate team to meet the needs of that project and then start to develop the relationship even further. We work together to [identify not just what the client needs] from this project, but the client’s overall business goals. Then, we can establish other opportunities while ensuring that we are always working towards meeting the client’s needs.

As a certified PMP, what I bring to the table is the ability to connect with clients who also have project managers on their side. As we speak the same language and work from the same approach, it elevates the relationship and leads to a more collaborative project.

Let’s define vendor, partner, customer, and client.

  • Vendor: someone who promotes or exchanges goods or services for money.
  • Partner: one who participates in a relationship in which each member has equal status.
    Now consider these…
  • Customer: one that buys goods or services.
  • Client: one that depends on the protection of another.

I think there are some interesting distinctions to discuss.

Griffin – I think in every relationship…the goal…is to get to that partnership level, but I don’t think any relationship starts as a true partnership. So, often times we’re viewed as a vendor when we are first brought on board. Looking at the definition, “vendor: someone who promotes or exchanges goods or services for money.” That’s the nature of the professional services business, and it’s how a lot of clients will [initially] view us. As Carol mentioned, as she deepens the relationship and looks to establish trust at different points of the project, the goal is to grow from the client/vendor relationship to a partnership – where both sides are of equal status and benefit from the work that each do.

Carol – Business relationship development is no different than how any personal relationship develops. When you meet, you have a certain level of trust and understanding of each other. Then, as you get to know each other better, you get to deepen the relationship. It does evolve. I’ve noticed – particularly working with Griffin – that there’s a point that you can identify where it switched – where you go from getting to know each other and figuring things out to really collaborating. It’s not a push/pull relationship anymore; it’s a collaborative relationship. These are the most successful projects.

Griffin – Even though it’s subtle and it’s not talked about – no one says, “hey, now we’re really partners” – the project starts to take a really big shift from getting to know each other and your goals to really executing and achieving those goals.

Carol – Where I see the switch actually happen – until you get to when you are really connected to them as people, it’s a lot of tasks and task management. But, when you start to know people and what their pain points are, what their day is like, whether or not they have children, what the weather is like there, what’s going on in their business, someone left the team…they’ve just launched a project – that’s when you see that switch to partnership. So, when things come up and life happens, you work together.

[After the switch] When we’re in meetings and I see our team smiling and high-fiving, I think, “we’ve got this!” This is fun, this isn’t work, this is working together.

Griffin – [Client vs. vendor] When we identify an opportunity for growth and expansion of the business as we are working toward a partnership, those on the client/vendor side of things will think, “hey, they’re just looking for more money.” But, partners will see that we are equally involved in the success of this project. It’s about how can we continue to achieve success.

Carol – They know their business best, we know digital best. So, let’s put those two things together.

We become part of their team, and they become part of ours.

Griffin – Yes, a true extension of your team is how I like to pose the vision of the relationship someone has with SilverTech. They’ll ask, “what is it like to work with you?” As an extension of their team, we’re going to meetings as representatives of their company. It becomes a team approach, no matter where you are in the country.

Carol – Speaking of face-to-face, because we do work with so many clients that aren’t within driving distance, we try really hard to create an in-person atmosphere. We use Google Hangouts, Skype. When you can see someone and connect with them personally…it makes a big difference.

Griffin – Every client is extremely important to us. Every partnership is extremely important to us. How can we learn more about them to ensure that the work that we are doing – they are proud of it, we’re proud of it, and we’re all rowing in the same direction.