Creating strong, lasting relationships with your trading partners

Root-and-branch reform of bank culture remains a work in progress

When trading partners hear or see your company’s name, do you think they grin or cringe?

You know in the business world, impressions matter. Plus, every time your company has issues or cuts ties with a customer or supplier, there’s a cost associated. You lose precious labor hours, discount opportunities, maybe even top-notch pricing arrangements.

That makes long-lasting, well cultivated business relationships the goal.

2 strategies that set you apart

For vendors and other trading partners, much of your company’s reputation comes down to their interactions with A/P and A/R. Check out two tactics your finance teams can use to spur more positive relationships:

1. Package information nicely.

Want to start off on the right foot? Having your finance team provide an organized, concise info packet, whether paper or online, for new trading partners is a great way to get them to instinctively regard you in a positive light.

This packet should include the all the essentials – a welcome letter, registration forms and any tax forms (with return-by dates to spur action).

But you should also use this packet to set clear expectations, including:

  • payment terms (e.g., invoices paid within X days, discounts terms, partial payment terms, late fees/penalties)
  • instructions on how and where invoices/payments should be sent
  • proper channels for queries/issues
  • relevant web links (e.g., online FAQ page, vendor portal), and
  • any other policies/practices that may be unique to your company.

Most companies are good at starting off on the right foot. But staying on the right foot is where some may drop the ball.

Over time, as trading partners’ terms or your company’s processes change, it’s beneficial to issue updated packets. If you provide information upfront, there’s no room for others to later argue they weren’t aware of a certain practice.

2. Focus on your team’s soft skills.

Finance staffers are known for being great with numbers. They can create a spreadsheet or calculate any tax rate with ease. But because your staffers work with people outside your four walls, there’s an added customer service role. They must also be able to communicate effectively, problem solve and remain calm in stressful situations.

You know not everyone automatically has those soft skills, so it’s important to train your staff regularly. Start by talking with your A/P and A/R supervisors, then have them take the lead with their own staff.

In training, staffers can discuss common issues that arise and how to best approach them. You could even advise acting out real-life scenarios to see how staffers handle them, or creating phone/email scripts to make sure issues are addressed eloquently.

Of course, this consideration for soft skills should extend past just your current workforce to your future workforce. Talk to HR about including some of those soft skills when posting job descriptions and looking for potential finance candidates. And during the interview process, keep those soft skills in mind. Look for people who will not only keep your invoice and payment processes on track, but will keep your trading partners happy, too.