Vendor relationship managers work with large companies that rely on outside contractors to deliver their goods and services. In this role, it’s your job to make sure your vendors have all the tools they need to increase their profits, because the more of your goods and services they sell, the more money you and your company make. Unlike a purchasing manager, who works with vendors who want to make her happy, a vendor relationship manager has to make the vendors happy.
One of your main responsibilities is to ensure your vendors understand and follow the terms of the contracts your company has made with them. You may well be the person responsible for negotiating the contract in the first place. You’ll have to audit vendors to make sure they are fulfilling their part of the deal and that they are delivering the level of service and product quality to customers that you’ve agreed on. When dealing with contracts, you must have an in-depth understanding of the terminology used in your industry and how it applies to vendors. Additionally, you must be prepared to deal with circumstances not covered in writing.
You may have to be the bad guy, holding vendors to the fire when it comes to their contract obligations, but you must be able to do that while simultaneously building trusting and cooperative relationships. After all, these vendors are the bread and butter of your company. They need an advocate in the corporate headquarters as well and will look to you to speak on their behalf, solve problems as they arise and get them all the tools and inventory they need to do the best work they can.
Part of your job is to make sure vendors stick within budgets and perform adequately. You have to understand the vendor costs versus your company costs and how to best translate those numbers into profits for everyone. You’ll have detailed reports to complete regularly based on the numbers given to you by the vendors and your own internal financial reports. Keeping tabs on vendor performance is an important part of the job.
In addition to working out issues surrounding contracts and finances, as the vendor relationship manager, you’ll oversee a host of differing personalities that each come with their own set of expectations. Building relationships requires you to collaborate with outside and internal forces that sometimes want different things. When you need to confront vendors because they’re slack or making mistakes, you must do so in a positive manner, bringing solutions to the table. You’ll provide training when necessary to solve recurrent issues. A vendor relationship manager who takes the initiative to be proactive and prevent problems spends less time on this job responsibility.
Linda Ray is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years reporting experience. She's covered business for newspapers and magazines, including the "Greenville News," "Success Magazine" and "American City Business Journals." Ray holds a journalism degree and teaches writing, career development and an FDIC course called "Money Smart."