As a higher education professional, you may work with a variety of vendors, from those who provide essential supplies and services to those who offer more specialized products and services. When I think about my time as an earlier career housing professional, I recall very clearly being told by higher-ups not to tease or engage the vendors at conferences since I was not what was deemed a decision maker. Having worked at both public and private schools and large and small schools,, I can also share that all approaches to vendor relationships are not created equal. With all of this in mind, I wanted to share a few of my rules of engagement that I have developed in my own work with vendors in higher education:
- Have a clear understanding of your needs. Before you start working with a vendor, it is important to have a clear understanding of your institution’s needs. What are your goals for working with a vendor? What specific products or services do you need? Once you have a good understanding of your needs, you can start to look for vendors who can meet those needs.
- Do your research. Once you have identified a few potential vendors, it is important to do your research. Read online reviews, talk to other higher education professionals who have worked with the vendors, and contact the vendors directly to learn more about their products and services.
- Get quotes from multiple vendors. Once you have narrowed down your choices, it is important to get quotes from multiple vendors. This will help you to ensure that you are getting the best possible price for the products or services you need.
- Negotiate your contract. Once you have chosen a vendor, it is important to carefully negotiate your contract. Make sure that the contract clearly outlines the products or services that will be provided, the price, the timeline, and any other important terms and conditions.
- Communicate regularly with your vendor. Once you have signed a contract with a vendor, it is important to communicate with them regularly. This will help to ensure that they are meeting your expectations and that you are getting the most out of your relationship.
Here are some additional tips that may be helpful for higher education professionals working with vendors:
- Build relationships with your vendors. Get to know the people you are working with and develop a rapport with them. This will make it easier to communicate with them and resolve any issues that may arise.
- Be clear about your expectations. Make sure that your vendors know exactly what you expect from them, both in terms of the products or services they are providing and the level of customer service you expect.
- Be responsive to your vendors’ needs. If your vendors have any questions or concerns, be sure to respond to them promptly. This will show them that you value their business and that you are committed to working with them to achieve success.
- Be willing to provide feedback. Once your vendors have completed a project or provided a service, be sure to provide them with feedback. This will help them to improve their performance and to better meet your needs in the future.
By following these tips, you can develop strong relationships with your vendors and ensure that you are getting the best possible value for your department and institution.