Leadership Flaws: Letting Vendors Control You

Post written by

Johanna Wise

Are you a professional in career transition? As CEO of Connect•Work•Thrive, I can help you Find Work You Love™.

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I’m ending my relationship with a smart, capable and talented vendor. In many ways, I love working with her. I would love to continue working with her. I’ve even recommended her to colleagues, which I now regret. The problem? She unfairly and inflexibly tries to control our relationship. 

Have you ever had a vendor behave like this? Perhaps they insist that:

• Communication must exclusively use their desired medium.

• You fit their schedule and time zone.

• They can only respond once or twice per week, and only at times convenient to them.

If you’re the person paying, why should you be the only flexible one in the relationship? Of course, I believe a good leader should exhibit flexibility. There are also situations, however, where they should hold firm and refuse to be mistreated — by refusing to be pressured into commitments, for example.

Once I noticed I was being controlled, I started seeing it all over, including:

• A virtual assistant who was only willing to chat at 6 a.m. my time and who refused to answer questions outside of our scheduled weekly call. When I had a brief question 15 minutes later, she made me wait six days and 23 hours (until the next week’s call) for a response.

• A customer relationship management specialist who proclaimed, “My calendar is only for inbound marketing, not for current customers.”

• A digital marketer who kept her schedule hidden and then disappeared at random times.

If you’re being unfairly and inflexibly controlled, what can you do?

1. Understand This Methodology

I believe that controlling customer interactions has evolved out of corporate sales funnel management strategies and that it revolves around the ethos, “Spend as much time as possible filling your sales funnel.”

In a big company, salespeople don’t usually need to worry about current customers — a separate team handles those relationships. Individual vendors and sole proprietors, however, may need to perform both tasks. For them, that ethos often has a hidden second half: “Your time must come from somewhere, so current clients can wait.”

These vendors are unknowingly shooting themselves in the foot. Why?

• Winning a new customer can cost five times more than keeping a current one.

• Around 80% of a company’s sales come from just 20% of its customers.

2. Embrace Effective Communication

Effective communication requires a meeting of minds. If your minds don’t meet, you don’t have communication.

Screaming into the void does not count as a deal. Similarly, emails and text messages are one-way streets. Until you receive agreement — even a simple thumbs-up or “yep” — you don’t have communication. If one party presents two options that don’t work for their partner, those aren’t really options.

Make sure you have a meeting of minds (or know that you don’t) before somebody drops the ball. Because even if they dropped the ball onto your desk, what if it rolls off and falls on the floor before you retrieve it?

Put effective communication into practice by:

• Receiving confirmation before acting — don’t just assume you’re on the same page.

• Stating what works for you. It’s easy to get pressured into adhering to someone else’s timeline. If you state your needs, you’re more likely to find an overlapping option that works for both of you.

• Directly rejecting options that don’t work for you. Perhaps you want to be nice. Perhaps you want to preserve the relationship. But how many 6 a.m. meetings are you willing to tolerate before you say, “It’s just too early”?

3. Refuse To Be Mistreated

Being unfairly controlled by vendors reminds me of a pet peeve that I'm sure many can relate to: people who return a borrowed item in a manner that's convenient only to them. After I lent you my work ID to use the restroom, did you just drop it on my desk? What if I don’t expect it there? What if you confused my desk with someone else’s? What if I can’t retrieve it because I need my ID to access my desk? Why not ask where I want it, or at the very least, tell me where it is? 

With a vendor, refusing to be mistreated could mean:

• Setting a schedule for the vendor to fit.

• Requesting a deadline that will solve your problem.

• Telling the vendor, “I don’t like what you did.”

It’s amazing how clear, proactive communication often solves many of these problems before they even arise. 

A healthy relationship requires two satisfied people. You don’t have to operate within the bounds of a relationship dictated by someone else. If you’re the person paying, I don't think you should be the only party adjusting. If you’re the person lending, you shouldn’t end up scrambling. 

Set your own boundaries, say what works for you and refuse to be mistreated. You’ll likely be shocked by how positively those around you respond. With the vendor who mistreated me, I may have lost her work by changing the structure of our relationship, but I’ve certainly gained her respect and my sanity.

Forbes Coaches Council is an invitation-only community for leading business and career coaches. Do I qualify?
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Getty
I’m ending my relationship with a smart, capable and talented vendor. In many ways, I love working with her. I would love to continue working with her. I’ve even recommended her to colleagues, which I now regret. The problem? She unfairly and inflexibly tries to control our relationship. 

Have you ever had a vendor behave like this? Perhaps they insist that:

• Communication must exclusively use their desired medium.

• You fit their schedule and time zone.

• They can only respond once or twice per week, and only at times convenient to them.

If you’re the person paying, why should you be the only flexible one in the relationship? Of course, I believe a good leader should exhibit flexibility. There are also situations, however, where they should hold firm and refuse to be mistreated — by refusing to be pressured into commitments, for example.

Once I noticed I was being controlled, I started seeing it all over, including:

• A virtual assistant who was only willing to chat at 6 a.m. my time and who refused to answer questions outside of our scheduled weekly call. When I had a brief question 15 minutes later, she made me wait six days and 23 hours (until the next week’s call) for a response.

• A customer relationship management specialist who proclaimed, “My calendar is only for inbound marketing, not for current customers.”

• A digital marketer who kept her schedule hidden and then disappeared at random times.

If you’re being unfairly and inflexibly controlled, what can you do?

1. Understand This Methodology

I believe that controlling customer interactions has evolved out of corporate sales funnel management strategies and that it revolves around the ethos, “Spend as much time as possible filling your sales funnel.”

In a big company, salespeople don’t usually need to worry about current customers — a separate team handles those relationships. Individual vendors and sole proprietors, however, may need to perform both tasks. For them, that ethos often has a hidden second half: “Your time must come from somewhere, so current clients can wait.”

These vendors are unknowingly shooting themselves in the foot. Why?

• Winning a new customer can cost five times more than keeping a current one.

• Around 80% of a company’s sales come from just 20% of its customers.

2. Embrace Effective Communication

Effective communication requires a meeting of minds. If your minds don’t meet, you don’t have communication.

Screaming into the void does not count as a deal. Similarly, emails and text messages are one-way streets. Until you receive agreement — even a simple thumbs-up or “yep” — you don’t have communication. If one party presents two options that don’t work for their partner, those aren’t really options.

Make sure you have a meeting of minds (or know that you don’t) before somebody drops the ball. Because even if they dropped the ball onto your desk, what if it rolls off and falls on the floor before you retrieve it?

Put effective communication into practice by:

• Receiving confirmation before acting — don’t just assume you’re on the same page.

• Stating what works for you. It’s easy to get pressured into adhering to someone else’s timeline. If you state your needs, you’re more likely to find an overlapping option that works for both of you.

• Directly rejecting options that don’t work for you. Perhaps you want to be nice. Perhaps you want to preserve the relationship. But how many 6 a.m. meetings are you willing to tolerate before you say, “It’s just too early”?

3. Refuse To Be Mistreated

Being unfairly controlled by vendors reminds me of a pet peeve that I'm sure many can relate to: people who return a borrowed item in a manner that's convenient only to them. After I lent you my work ID to use the restroom, did you just drop it on my desk? What if I don’t expect it there? What if you confused my desk with someone else’s? What if I can’t retrieve it because I need my ID to access my desk? Why not ask where I want it, or at the very least, tell me where it is? 

With a vendor, refusing to be mistreated could mean:

• Setting a schedule for the vendor to fit.

• Requesting a deadline that will solve your problem.

• Telling the vendor, “I don’t like what you did.”

It’s amazing how clear, proactive communication often solves many of these problems before they even arise. 

A healthy relationship requires two satisfied people. You don’t have to operate within the bounds of a relationship dictated by someone else. If you’re the person paying, I don't think you should be the only party adjusting. If you’re the person lending, you shouldn’t end up scrambling. 

Set your own boundaries, say what works for you and refuse to be mistreated. You’ll likely be shocked by how positively those around you respond. With the vendor who mistreated me, I may have lost her work by changing the structure of our relationship, but I’ve certainly gained her respect and my sanity.

Forbes Coaches Council is an invitation-only community for leading business and career coaches. Do I qualify?

Are you a professional in career transition? As CEO of Connect•Work•Thrive, I can help you Find Work You Love™.