Although CRM systems are designed to help manage customer relationships, a good CRM system can help with your vendors as well.
Good vendor relationships are vital to any business. Your CRM system can help you build and maintain these relationships as well as taking care of your customers.
Many CRM systems contain modules for managing vendors using similar tools to the ones used for managing customers. This works because the jobs are similar in many ways. However, they are not exactly the same and managing vendors with CRM requires a somewhat different approach.
The first step in selecting a vendor is to do research, just as potential customers research your company. Use the internet and social media to learn what you can about the vendor, including its reputation. Ask yourself if this is a company you want to do business with.
Use your CRM system to keep track of possible vendors, their offerings, and their prices. You can get most of the information before contacting the company.
Pay particular attention to comments from third parties about the vendor and its products. The relatively unbiased opinions can be a big help in deciding if the company is someone you want to trust.
You can use the CRM system to help winnow down your vendors to one or two in each category. This simplifies dealing with vendors and lets you concentrate your business.
Set up a scorecard system for vendors and potential vendors like the one you use to rate customers. The score should include things like price, meeting delivery schedules and other matters. A scorecard will allow you to judge your vendors more objectively and help you decide who you want to do business with.
Keep a file on your CRM system for each vendor just as you do for each customer. In addition to basic information about the vendor, keeps a record of all interactions including phone calls, agreements, delivery dates, etc.
It's especially important to keep track of delivery details, including dates promised, dates delivered, short orders, etc. This is a key metric of vendor performance.
Also, include information about the vendor and the people you deal with there. You can use this to help build relationships with the vendor.
If possible, don't be satisfied with a single contact at each vendor. Have alternate contacts so you won't be left high and dry if your regular contact is unavailable for some reason.
Every so often, use the information in your CRM system to evaluation your vendor list and see how they are performing. You may want to drop or add vendors depending on how they are doing. By keeping tabs on vendors this way you can minimize nasty surprises.
Using the features of your CRM system to organize vendor information makes it easy to monitor your vendors in the same way you keep track of your customers. Done right, this shouldn't take much work.