Spot the Difference: 5 Ways to Know if You’re Working with a Vendor vs. a Partner

Taylor Smith   February 27, 2018  
Partner or vendor – In the realm of business-to-business relationships, we hear the two terms used interchangeably as if they are synonymous. The truth is that these concepts actually stand for two very different types of service levels. So what really differentiates a partner from a vendor?
1. Vendors Sell You The Dream, Partners Understand Your Reality

We all know what the perfect scenario looks like: a seamlessly-developed product is purchased and deployed, it works from Day 1, and everyone starts using it 100% of the time.

Vendors sell you this operational utopia – partners understand the critical, far less flashy foundation that must be laid to ensure long-term success. In a healthy partnership, your specific needs and challenges become part of the strategy, giving you transparency during each stage of the process.

2. Vendors Push Products, Partners Solve Problems

Do you ever feel like your solutions suddenly turn into costly upgrades during each step of development? That’s when you know you are working with a vendor and not a partner.  

Partners work to accommodate trends, yes. But they’re equally focused on proactively predicting how your needs - and their product - will need to evolve as the industry shifts. They understand that customer feedback, both positive and negative, is critical for building a solution that will grow with a business and it’s ever-changing needs.

3. Vendors Customize Their Product, Partners Customize Your Workflow

Customization has become a buzzword for vendors – they use it as a sales booster to make you feel like you are getting a bespoke solution. But in theory, you’re looking outside your business to find an expert, not a yes-man – right?

Your current methods aren’t as efficient as you’d like them to be, and vendors know exactly how to spin that into a sale by offering extensive customizations and promoting their solution as “flexible.” But just because a product can do something, doesn’t mean it should. A partner will be invested in helping you grow the right way, while a vendor will knock on your door with another custom pitch once they smell smoke.

4. Vendors Are Driven By The Deal, Partners Are Driven By The Relationship

Vendors are master deal brokers driven by short-term goals. A partnership is a relationship that leads to lasting growth and development.

Partners offer open conversation, disagreement, and, most importantly, their time. They’re comfortable with a little bit of friction because they know it’s often necessary to pinpoint problems and transform them into opportunities. A partner will work actively to do more than just check boxes.

5. Vendors Tapdance Around Their Failures, Partners Learn From Them

Vendors, by nature, fear accountability – they don’t want to take ownership of their mistakes and would rather just move on to new opportunities rather than spend the time and money to make things right.

Partners will not only claim their mistakes, but try to learn as much from them as possible. They won’t sweep oversights under the rug in hopes of hiding them from you or deny a mistake was even made in the first place.