Picking the Right Business Partner

By David Stoner, Chief Development Officer

Increasingly, we find ourselves surrounded by online tools, reviews, and marketplaces, which try to advise us as to how to pick a partner or who to purchase from. In some cases, group purchasing organizations guide buyers as to who they recommend. While GPO vetting and online reviews can be helpful, they also tend to be generic, limit your choices and may or may not be applicable to your purchase or decision-making process. If you need a solution or product customized to your business, these tools may leave you back at square one.

Marcel Schwantes, Founder and CHO, Leadership from the Core, recently interviewed Warren Buffet for Inc. magazine regarding the Top Trait to Look for in a Job Candidate. Buffet was quoted as saying the top trait to look for in people is Integrity. I would argue that Integrity is also the single most important trait when choosing a business partner or supplier organization. If you agree, you may be asking yourself, how do I determine if a company has integrity, beyond the obvious, when we have never done business with them. Below are some questions to ask yourself as you evaluate that prospective business relationship or purchase.

  • Who are you dealing with? Does the person bring Integrity to the transaction? Do you know that person from other business dealings with other reputable organizations?
  • How long has the company been in business?
  • How long do employees work for the company you are considering? In other words, do employees stay at this organization. Do they treat their employees well? Companies who treat their employees well, are generally considered to take better care of customers as well.
  • How long have they provided the specific product or service I am considering?
  • Can they provide customer references or testimonials?
  • How long do their customers stay customers?
  • What guarantees will they provide to ensure satisfaction with the product or service?
  • Does the company I am speaking with actually provide the product or service? If they are a distributor or supplier representative, you should determine how they enforce warranties, provide service during/after the sale, as well as if the price they are offering is competitive versus the competition.
  • What if I have a problem? Ask upfront questions about various prospective problems, logistics, delivery, and customer service after the sale.
  • What is their return or refund policy if applicable?
  • Will they share a story about when something went wrong and how they resolved it for the customer?
  • What is the organizations reputation in their industry?

And then of course is your experience dealing with the salesperson or organization in the sales process. Consider the following:

  • Does the salesperson listen?
  • Are they prepared?
  • Did they show up on time to your scheduled appointment? If they were late, did they alert you in advance of your scheduled time?
  • Did they listen to your needs and present a solution for their product or service which actually meet or exceeds your request.
  • Were they consultative? Do they have industry or broad product category knowledge? Did they bring solutions/expertise to the interaction using literature, product experts or some combination thereof?
  • Can I afford to select the best fit or do I have to choose the lowest cost solution? I believe that organizations who want to do business together always resolve price.
  • Were they professionally dressed in person or on your Zoom/Teams Video Call?
  • Did they follow-up after the call or meeting?

In the end, only you can determine the best partner, but using these questions will improve your chances of a successful purchase and relationship with a new organization.