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Partner vs. Vendor

By Blaine W. Smith

We all struggle with the types of people and companies that we want to work with. Do you prefer to work with partners or vendors? You might be asking “What type of question is that?†Well, I want to work with firms that want to build business relationships, that have an invested interest in my success as well as their own firm’s success, and that have mutual goals.

Partners and vendors have very different outlooks on obtaining business. The most common questions I hear about this are:

  1. What is the difference between a vendor and a partner?
  2. Where is the disconnect between the two?

Whether you need project solutions or simply technology staff, the difference between a partner and a vendor will potentially cost you time, money and excessive effort. Do you want to sift through the unqualified to get to the qualified or do you want a firm that understands your business and the marketplace well enough to provide you right solution, right away?

What is a vendor?
First and foremost, a vendor provides a commoditized product with no additional value. They are mostly interested in making the next sale. A vendor is typically going to be very price-centric, generic in their offerings, commoditized in it’s services, and not as authentic in their business relationships. They’re looking to move from one business to the next, not giving much opportunity or want for further relationships. This type of relationship causes customers to put their guard up because they know that they are simply a transaction. Unfortunately, this diminishes any chance of a relationship being built or it makes it more difficult to achieve.

What is a partner?
First, a partner will want to understand your business. They are going to understand everything from the economics of your business to the goals and targets for your business. A partner will research what influences success and non-success. They will try to figure out how and what goes on in their customer’s business.

A true business partner does not push their product or business if they know it will not provide value. If they can’t provide the product or service you need, they will tell you upfront and help you find the right partner to achieve what is necessary. Their overall goal is to properly align the services and products they have to achieve mutual success for themselves and their business partners and customers.

Partners want to understand the business or the projects their customers are working on and how it impacts their business. They want to use their time wisely and efficiently. A vendor shows up to a first-time sales meeting or presentation and goes through all of their 50 slides in the presentation deck. A business partner talks about the three that fit with the client’s needs and skips over the other 47 slides. They did the research and asked the questions, and then tailored the information they thought was appropriate and applicable. They then get right to the point of how they can solve their customers issues. This is done in every conversation. If it is a genuine business partner, then every interaction, conversation, email, etc. is qualifying the information that will serve the client properly so that time is not wasted and only what is of value is implemented.

The disconnect between vendor and partner
Simply, the disconnect comes from poor leadership and management. Leadership that drives their company by the bottom dollar and doesn’t build trusted relationships ultimately separates vendors and partners. Centurion Consulting Group’s whole point of existence is trusted service delivery. We want to build valued relationships in order to be trusted by our clients and fellow business partners. We offer our services and products to deliver the needed outcome for our customers. Don’t get me wrong, profit is important, and we need to make a living. However, a profit-centric mindset is led by bad leadership, which leads to bad habits, and bad habits create vendor-like behaviors.

A partner brings a handshake that says, “I’m committed to your best interest and my best interest, and we need to mutually succeed togetherâ€. A partner revolves around customer care; whereas, a vendor is solely interested in making the next sale.

About Centurion Consulting Group
Centurion Consulting Group, LLC, a Woman-Owned Small Business headquartered in Herndon, VA conveniently located near Washington D.C., is a national IT Services consulting firm servicing the public and private sector by delivering relevant solutions for our client’s complex business and technology challenges. Our leadership team has over 40 years of combined experience, to include almost 10 years of direct business partnership, to the IT staffing, federal contracting, and professional services industries. Centurion’s leaders have the demonstrated experience over the past three decades in partnering with over 10,000 consultants and hundreds of clients – from Fortune 100 to Inc. 5000 firms – in multiple industries to include banking, education, federal, financial, healthcare, hospitality, insurance, non-profit, state and local, technology, and telecommunications. www.centurioncg.com

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