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Three Keys to Building Effective Vendor Relationships

Strong vendor relationships are mutually beneficial and deliver value to the lab

Scott D. Hanton, PhD

Scott Hanton is the editorial director of Lab Manager. He spent 30 years as a research chemist, lab manager, and business leader at Air Products and Intertek. He earned...

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Most labs contain a wide variety of equipment and instruments made by different vendors and manufacturers. There is great benefit to building positive and effective relationships with these organizations and individuals. These organizations contain significant expertise and knowledge about both the tools they build and the technical applications they support. These relationships can provide wide-ranging help around purchasing decisions, repair and maintenance issues, best utilizing the functions of the tool, and developing new methods using the tools.

#1 – Develop clear communication paths

Be intentional to meet the key contributors from the vendor. Explore each of the main functions of sales, service, and applications. Try to get to know someone in each area. Ask questions to gain a clear understanding of what they know, how they interact with each other, and how they can help your lab. Some vendors like to designate a specific liaison between them and the lab. This person can be a key hub for information flow between the vendor and the lab. If you don’t feel like the vendor is listening to you or answering your questions, you would be well served to build a relationship with another vendor.

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#2 – Get support from their experts

Vendors develop significant knowledge around their products, how they work, and how they can be used. They have expertise in both their equipment and many different application areas. A strong relationship with their technical experts can provide support around troubleshooting, understanding all of the different functions of the equipment and developing new methods or applications. Being able to reach out to an individual at the vendor can help get questions and problems resolved more quickly. If you can’t get access to the technical experts at the vendor, it might be time to consider working with someone else.

#3 – Understand how they can support your lab

Many vendors do more than build and sell equipment. Often, repair and maintenance are important offerings that can provide choices for how your lab can keep the equipment operating properly. They also are a source of parts and updates that can enable your lab to take care of servicing your own equipment. In addition, vendors work with many different customers, and they learn about different aspects of the science from their interactions. Contacts at the vendor can be good sources of ideas, tips, and tutorials for your lab to make progress on your science. If there aren’t effective options, or if the options are too expensive, you probably want to find other choices for future equipment purchases.

The right vendors can be an important source of information, guidance, service, and ideas. Building these partnerships is mutually beneficial. You can use the value of the partnership as an indicator of which vendors have earned more of your business, and which have not really generated sufficient value.