Making the most of vendor relationships

I’ve always been the kind of person who prefers independence while browsing a store. If a salesperson asks me if they can help me with anything, I generally mumble some version of “Just looking, thanks,” and try to move on as quickly as possible.

I’ve clearly brought some of my personal habits into my professional life when it comes to sales and vendors. I’ve always tried to figure out what I want quickly from online reviews, professional journals, or past experience, make a purchase without advice, and move on. But, I’m learning that there are definite reasons to establish a mutually beneficial relationship with the vendors I’ve chosen to use in my library.

When a vendor reached out to me earlier this year wanting to help make a customized book purchasing list for the library, I was just too busy not to give it a try.  I was looking to add more high-interest, low reading level books to add to the collection and knew it would be a week or two until I could start a good list myself with the other responsibilities on my plate at the time. The recommendations were great! I didn’t purchase them all because they weren’t all a perfect fit and I added a few others before making a final purchase, but it was just the help I needed to be able to get the books into the library a little faster. As a solo librarian, I’m learning that vendor relationships can help me get a little bit more done if I can build them and use them effectively, and it’s changing my approach.

A few quick tips for making relationships with vendors better meet your needs: 

  • Reach out to your vendors to get information about new products and targeted recommendation lists that will meet your needs. The more you reach out, the happier you will be with vendor recommendations and special offers because they will be more tailored to your library’s needs.
  • Many vendors offer free or low-cost webinars, book lists, or book talks that can help with your ordering or your work with teens. Check them out!
  • Accept invitations to special events or roundtables when you can. Sometimes, these events can be a venue for you to offer feedback about the kinds of services or improvements that would better meet the needs of organizations like yours.
  • Get to know new vendors when you attend conferences and consider setting up meetings with your sales reps from current vendors if they will be attending.
  • Keep vendor account information and contacts in a centralized location to make phone and email communication easier.
  • Be clear when products and services are not going to meet your needs and be clear about your budget for a particular order, service, or solution. For me, this has been just as important as starting to reach out because I’m still not keen on high-pressure pitches especially if it’s clear that the product won’t work for the library.

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