Whether you run a middle-market company or a small business, you probably work with vendors from time to time. Perhaps it’s a vendor business that sells equipment such as computer hardware or trucks, or one that provides business services such as consulting or marketing. Having a good relationship with vendors can be integral to your company’s success. It can also save your company time and money. To make sure you choose the best vendors for your company’s needs, use the five steps in this Balboa Capital blog post.

Research your options.

A good customer-vendor relationship can help both parties achieve success. So, just what does it take to create a mutually strong business relationship? For starters, you need to make sure it’s a good fit… for both parties. Take the time to research your vendor options online, and don’t forget to ask your peers for recommendations. When looking at equipment vendors, check to see if they have the latest makes and models of what you are interested in. In addition, find out if they offer convenient purchasing options in-house. Many equipment vendors offer private label financing as a value-added service. As for service vendors, look for those with experience, results, and reasonable pricing. Industry experience is a plus, too.

Contact your potential vendors.

Once your initial research phase is complete, it’s time to reach out to the vendors on your shortlist. Contact them via phone or email to let them know you are interested in their business, and explain what your specific needs are. Vendor representatives who take the time to answer your questions, and whose companies fit the criteria you are looking for, should be invited to for a one-on-one meeting. Select up to three of your favorite vendors and have them visit your office – at different times, of course – so they can present their offerings, value propositions, prices, etc. This is an excellent way to find the best fit for your business.

Make the right decision.

After meeting with prospective vendors, it’s time to make a decision. This is something you should take very seriously, as the vendors you work with will play a key role in your company’s growth and profits. If you make an ill-informed decision without reviewing your notes, you might have to change vendors again. This can lead to wasted time, as you will need to go through the entire research and discovery process again. Choosing the wrong vendor can also lead to additional costs down the road. For example, a product vendor who over-promises and under-delivers can result in missed sales opportunities and upset customers if you can’t fulfill their orders in a timely manner. Working with the right vendors can help you keep your best customers and build your brand.

Set realistic expectations.

Once you have decided on a vendor, set your expectations from the get-go so that everyone is on the same page. Establish mutually agreed upon goals regarding pricing, shipping, and delivery, and anything else you see fit. And should anything change, ask your vendor to inform ahead of time so there is no confusion. Ask them to contact you via email or phone.

Maintain accessibility.

Lastly, you and your vendors need to make yourselves accessible during business hours. You’re both busy building your businesses, which means time is valuable. Keep phone calls and e-mails on topic, and be proactive should any unexpected problems occur. Open, honest communication goes a long way in any business relationship, especially one between you and your vendors. It can help build the loyalty you need to keep your best vendors for the long term.