The following was originially posted on Tim Sander's blog, Sanders Says.
If you hire service vendors or partners, being a great client is money-in-the-bank. Why? There is a psychological law that comes into play here, I call it the Secret for business relationships: The Law of Reciprocity.
Simply put, people will reciprocate when they are treated well. This is not just golden rule talk, it is based on a mountain of research into our society's norm of reciprocity. In most cases, though, we focus efforts on treating customers or clients well so they'll reciprocate by being loyal and sampling product extensions. My point is that you should flip this around and think about the service providers you rely on to make your business sing.
If you maximize your service provider's engagement with your business needs, good things come from it. Your expectations are met and often exceeded. You have a smooth experience. You get more than you paid for. Traditionally, we don't trust service providers like employees, and we attempt to manage our service partners through intimidation instead of love. In my experience, when you are your service providers best client, they are your best service provider too.
This isn't easy. Often, we are so focused on customer service, there is little bandwidth for service provider service. Fortunately, being your service partners top client isn't always about how much you pay them. In many cases, the biggest check writer in your life is your biggest pain in the ass. You can't wait to get ahead, so you can fire them.
Here are some ways to become a top client:
1. Support your service provider's profitability. Don't nickel and dime them on fees or expenses. If possible, pay their rate card price, telling them that you want them to be profitable.
2. Give great feedback on advice on how they can be more successful. Share books you've just read and learned from. Give the owner/execs feedback on waste that could be eliminated, driving profits. Coach them to build a better business model.
3. Network your service providers with new partners. Facilitate networking events, like Cisco does, to glue service partners together without any expectations.
4. Be reasonable when things go wrong. Never be quick triggered and never send nasty gram emails. Pick up the phone so they can tell by the tone of your voice that you are a partner and not a dictator.
5. Refer new clients to them. Always be on the lookout for qualified prospects for your provider that you can brag to.
6. Be stimulating, interesting and intellectually fun to work with. Give them stretch assignments that allow them to try new things.
7. Celebrate their success milestones and be lavish with praise whenever expectations are met or exceeded.
8. Encourage your service providers to fire unreasonable clients, using yourself as an example of a good client. Tell their execs that their employees shouldn't put up with these demon clients and challenge them to fire one bad client a year to strengthen the morale at work.
Remember, you get what you pay for IF you are also good to work for. You know this from your employee relations work, so apply it to vendor relations to get multiplied value.
Tim Sanders is a green business expert and a former chief solutions officer for Yahoo!. For information on how to bring him to your next event, visit www.premierespeakers.com/tim_sanders