When our company had just a handful of employees, it constantly felt like we needed to double our human resources to accomplish all our goals. Now, Amerisleep employs dozens of customer service representatives, designers, marketers, and operations specialists across several states, and, yet, we're still eager to recruit more talent to work with us. Even when we reach the milestone of housing 100 employees, I suspect we'll want 100 more by that point.
This is a common dilemma for entrepreneurs. As you scale sales, your human resource needs grow too. Of course, recruiting and retaining skilled team members is hard. To supplement the traditional hiring process, we've always partnered with different vendors ranging from technology platforms to public relations specialists to provide us with immediate solutions that have helped us sustain our growth.
Below are four lessons we've learned that have helped us develop collaborative and successful vendor partnerships.
1. Select vendors for short-term needs and long-term growth.
Before making a final decision to partner with a vendor, consider your short-term needs as well as your long-term growth projections.
For instance, you may have found a software solution that works well for your small business now, but how will it change in a year or two when you need 100 licenses instead of the five you're currently using? Will the added volume significantly change how your software vendor implements the solution and trains your employees, and will it have a drastic impact on your overall fees?
Apply this same thought process to anything from sourcing company uniforms to maintaining a retail store point-of-sales system and you can see what a headache it could become if you have to upend many of your vendor relationships each time your headcount or sales multiply. It's better to approach your vendors with your growth plans in the beginning so that you can better gauge how well they'll be able to support your business in the future.
2. Pay attention to the humans behind the company rather than the advertising.
If you find yourself clicking on an advertisement that leads you to a potential vendor's door, use the opportunity to learn more about their solutions but don't let yourself get swayed by compelling ads and robust case studies.
Focus on the people you interact with throughout the sales process and the account managers who will be responsible for onboarding your business, implementing the solution and providing ongoing support throughout the engagement. Dig deep to see how well they understand your company's current and upcoming needs. Ultimately, you want to partner with people you personally trust, who you know will also go to great lengths to ensure your brand's ongoing success.
3. Insist on doing business with vendors who demonstrate a commitment to providing outstanding support.
The sales process and the product or service itself is obviously crucial when choosing your vendors, but they only make up part of the equation. Ongoing support should be one of your top concerns as you enter into new supplier relationships.
Most sales reps will gloss over the amount of resources your team will need to use throughout the onboarding process. So, it's up to you to find out what your experience will be like as a user. Ask about common issues customers face during throughout the engagement, what the solution usually is and how long it takes to resolve those problems. Speak directly with the customer support team to get additional detail. Check customer references too and ask other entrepreneurs in your network about their personal experiences with the vendors you're considering.
4. Use data to measure ROI.
Every vendor solution should aim to increase sales, reduce costs or improve efficiency. At the end of each campaign, project or milestone with your different partners, try to quantify the impact they've had on your business.
This helps you to justify your spend and allows you to objectively decide whether or not to continue the engagement or search for a new vendor to service your needs. Trust what your analysis tells you and insist on getting the ROI you deserve.