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The Coveted Road Less Traveled: How to Be a Partner Instead of a Vendor

Partner VS Vendor

I fought with myself on the title of this post. It COULD have been “Don’t be a cheapjack,” which is one of the many unflattering nouns that is synonymously associated with the word “vendor” when searched using VisualThesaurus. Webster’s defines cheapjack as a “haggling huckster,” while Oxford characterizes it as “a seller of cheap inferior goods.”

I definitely don’t want to be thought of as a vendor if cheapjack is its etymological twin!

At Bill.com, we've given a lot of thought to how banks and bankers can avoid the pitfall of being perceived as a mere vendor to their small and medium business (SMB) clients. I mean, this is a key to our success, too. We want to be a partner, not a vendor in our own relationships with banks, and the best way to do that is to pay it forward with your own clients, right?

A few themes about the rules on the road to partnership are noteworthy:

  • Listen more and talk less. Understanding an SMB client’s industry, business and financial objectives, their challenges and very unique ways of defining success --- all are imperative.
  • Partner with others to provide what’s needed. Core banking  services, like well designed deposit accounts, or innovative and flexible loan terms and deal structures are important, but extending beyond the familiar sweet spots into new payment products and focusing on ever important digital customer experiences is a great opportunity for differentiation.
  • Go above and beyond the bank’s core offerings to address top-of-mind concerns for SMB customers. If your bank doesn’t sell the solution to today’s problem, use your network to help them find someone who does. They will richly reward you with their loyalty, and you will be their go-to first stop to help solve the problems that inevitably lie ahead.
  • Make it about them, not you. The old way to sell was about analyzing the client’s value to you and to persistently work to drive that number up; the new approach is to have a clear strategy to maximize YOUR value to THEM.
  • Make technology easy to use, and accessible for business owners of all ages and levels of technology experience. It’s very necessary to develop strong client relationships in an increasingly digital world.

We are all mindful of the current chilly climate in the world of bank cross-selling. Turn up the temperature and rise above it. Make sure that your products, or those that you refer, can solve the very real challenges of SMBs. That will set your course to the hallowed higher ground occupied by partners, not vendors.

The concept of leaning into a true partnership and the value realized by your clients and your bank are spelled out in greater detail in our latest industry insights download, "How to stand out as a partner in a world of vendors."

Stay tuned for more thoughts on this important subject. It’s not going away anytime soon.

April 25, 2017
Jan Hoyt
Director, Bank Solutions Specialist at Bill.com
Prior to joining Bill.com to ensure the success of bank partners, Jan worked as a leader in the banking and tech sectors, specializing in digital channels and payments. Jan holds an MS in Information Science from the University of Pittsburgh and a BA from Bowling Green State University.