7 Secrets to Have a Good Commercial Relationship
by Michela Saponaro, Key Account Manager & Business Development at Take Off
Create a good partnership with our partners is always the key to do great business but how many times you have listened someone told us: “If the supplier can’t stand you means that you did a good job” or “Do not answer immediately to the supplier e-mail, he must understand we are the opportunity”. How much these sentences are true? We must start from the assumption that each company knows how much is important its interface: the collaborators. They must have all conditions to convince. Often I’ve seen a company asking its collaborators to convey an uncomfortable message that could crack the partnership.
I reveal a secret for you: People 1st!
You will build your castle on sands without an effective and propositive team that aims at searching bilateral winner solutions for your business and your castle will be destroyed by the first company that will propose a bit more convincing business. Even if, as I explained, a pungent negotiation oriented to “the best price” could allow you to achieve the expected results, remember that people win. If I take for granted that certainly, your company is giving all instruments to the collaborators to work at best conditions, I want to propose a shortlist of activities to start your partnership and negotiation.
1) Who I should contact?
Nobody wants to lose time. You must be sure to contact the correct company for your business and to be sure to speak with the correct person. Each company has its logics and often just a simple call could be essential. Try to understand who’s in charge of the activity that you want to propose. The owner? The Head of Warehouse? Sales Manager? A time ago I called a Call Center and I heard children’s noise in the background and I asked: “What’s happening?”…This girl started to tell me about her job, her kids and her actual company situation. We closed the call laughing and, just at the end, I obtained the right person’s name to be contacted. Other people need to know you. Persons need to understand, feel involved and therefore important.
2) Email: Formal as needed
Present yourself professionally. Few words and a PDF. Could be enough to write: who you are, the business of your company, the proposed activity and the potential. Leave the door open to the questions and needs of the company that you contacted. Start from the assumption that even if your offer seems very interesting you don’t know who there’s on the other part, which priorities this person has and if there is a team that accepts to follow your activity. Do not show your cards too soon.
3) Update? When and How
I prefer the option “heavyweight”. I think that this could be a winning approach but you must do it in a gentle way, smiling. The answer should be: “You’re busy for sure”, “Yes, I understand. It’s a strategic period for the next season”, “I’m sure that you cannot manage all priorities, probably you can suggest me one of your trusted delegates”. Let the partner feels safe from any claims. I repeat: you don’t know the life of another person and, nowadays, the job represents often the largest part of our life. Obtain a timing: “Can I call you next Monday? Is it better next month?”. You will discover for examples that in 2 weeks your partner will spend his holidays, you could ask “Where?” and start to create a relationship. Respect the promised timing, to obtain the same behaviour off the record.
4) Products and prices
At this moment, for the first time, you are getting into the company. Be careful. You don’t know how hard was the product’s production, you don’t know the problems that they have had for the negotiation of raw materials, you don’t know which is the structure of the company yet. You must have the respect of products, always. Show interest when you obtain information. In this part, it should be necessary to organize a meeting to watch products, understand their history (products and company too), visit the warehouse and all business departments to know the company’s potential. I don’t recommend the negotiation of prices during the meeting. Prices negotiation is a thorny issue and starting by asking the most aggressive prices undermines the relationship. How can we get around it? If you’re working well on communication you know which levers can be used: The Company wants to push the notoriety of the Brand? We can propose marketing levers or the diffusion of products in virgin countries; The Company has issues on margins? Postpone the conversation at the end of year wishing a better moment; The Company has problems on stock merchandise and must find new spaces for the new collection? You can propose an agile and fast service on your charge. If you will not find a breeding ground please wait some days to speak again and leave the door opened to thought. You will have held time and you will not risk losing a good contact.
5) Pending activities show a negative part of you
The relationship between partners is not so different from the relationship between lovers. Never leave an email in pending for more than 2 days, never leave an open-ended question, never be evasive. You can’t afford it at this point. You can answer stalling but give an answer. The waiting can reward you but it must be limited or will be confused with disorganisation and lack of decision-making. All of them must be feel special in their own way.
6) Post activity
It’s the most important part of the relationship and a lot of people underestimates it.
Taking for granted that you built a good relationship and know well the business of your partner, you must give a follow-up, always. How did you sell the products? Well? Good job, reschedule. Not so well? Explain the reasons, share your ideas with your partner and rethink according to new guidelines. You must make the partner feel involved. Obviously, each activity has its logics and you could discover that you did wrong evaluations or that you did not apply correctly all instruments to push the results on top. You must be self-critical in a clear way. This way to do will consolidate your credibility, transmitting your professionalism and will give you an extra weapon to better negotiate the next time.
7) Do not forget!
You’re unique like your company. Citing the incipit of this article: people are the true value. Between the activities remember to contact your partner, he cannot forget you and, if you’re lucky, he will think about you as an opportunity and he will contact you when you’ll least expect it to propose you an offer well-fitting for you. In this case, you’ll have gained your main objective.
Have a good job!