If you’re starting a business that requires support or are building an entity that’s grown to require additional staff, choosing the right providers can have a significant effect on your bottom line. Good marketing strategies leverage your time most effectively, which means sooner or later, other vendors should become a part of your business success.
With today’s virtual access, options are more numerous. So can be the challenges.
Delegating can be a great boon to your business, provided you pick the right people. It’s liberating to bring others in that have deeper knowledge in areas where you lack, can provide services more cost effectively, offer products that are unusual and appealing to your customers or serve as a support team during busy or difficult times.
As you consider adding members to the lineup for client support, think about what they need to know to be effective. Last week, this post touched on small business vendors, but I thought readers might appreciate specific selection suggestions. Here are nine tips to help improve the chance of a successful fit to create happy clients:
- Seek referrals from trusted sources. These need not be people in your industry, but should be individuals who have seen success, have a similar issue they’ve resolved and understand the project concerns well enough to determine what constitutes good performance.
- Never test a new vendor on a client. Hire them for a small project for your business first to ensure they know what they’re doing.
- Ask industry specific questions. Just because someone claims to be a knowledgeable professional, doesn’t mean they are. Ask a lot of questions designed to determine if they really know their craft.
- There’s just no replacement for a face-to-face. While that’s not always possible (I have two independent contractors and a partner I’ve never met as part of my support team), tools like Skype, Google Hangouts and other free conferencing resources make it easy to connect with anyone via video throughout most of the world. Strive to have a brief live video conversation with someone as part of the interview process. It’s not just the added benefit of interpreting body language, facial expressions and intonation, starting a relationship with a visual meeting tends to build a stronger connection.
- If you tend to use vendors as part of your client service, take the time to understand the entire process and technical issues associated with delivering an excellent result. This doesn’t mean you need to know how to do it, but you should know how it works. For example, if a graphic designer is delivering work to be printed or uploaded, know which types of files are acceptable and how any special information needs to be indicated.
- Accept blame even when someone else made the mistakes. While most don’t, you should. If you’re managing a project or bringing a vendor in as part of the support team for a client, standing behind their work as you do yours is the right thing to do. Providing guarantees and honoring them will also pay dividends in the future – even if it costs you some money today. Good will is priceless.
- Seek out people who are strong where you are weak. While it’s tempting to shore up your business with a team that thinks just like you do, getting others involved who will think in different directions or ask probing questions can really enhance what you deliver to clients. Plus, it can provide super learning opportunities for you.
- Insist on team players. Building a business requires communication and cooperation. Vendors who are territorial, unwilling to communicate, unresponsive or difficult aren’t worth the costs. Seek out those who demonstrate a willingness to share and collaborate and they’ll elevate the entire team.
- Talk to current and former clients of a vendor you’re considering. Most are happy to provide this. You can also cull names and contact information from their website from featured work or testimonials.
Adding the right vendor to the mix can make your day – and your year. The wrong one can cost you dearly. This doesn’t just apply to revenue (although can play a big role), but also productivity, stress, referrals, client satisfaction and team morale.
While the above list may seem like a time consuming activity, imagine how much time you’ll spend undoing the damage caused by a bad provider. Even seasoned business owners pay for haste in the vetting process. It really hurts when this also involves calming disgruntled clients. I’m still paying for a hire mistake I made last year in time and money.
Cost is more than what’s quoted up front. Marketing strategies aren’t just about promotion. People can be more critical in the long-term.