Get Instant Access
to This Blueprint

Vendor Management icon

Evaluate Your Vendor Account Team to Optimize Vendor Relations

Understand the value of knowing your account team’s influence in their organization, and yours, to drive results.

  • Understand how important your account is to the vendor and how it is classified.
  • Understand how informed the account team is about your company and your industry.
  • Understand how long the team has been with the vendor. Have they been around long enough to have developed a “brand” or trust within their organization?
  • Understand and manage the relationships and influence the account team has within your organization to maintain control of the relationship.

Our Advice

Critical Insight

Conducting the appropriate due diligence on your vendor’s account team is as important as the due diligence you put into the vendor. Ongoing management of the account team should follow the lifecycle of the vendor relationship.

Impact and Result

Understanding your vendor team’s background, experience, and strategic approach to your account is key to the management of the relationship, the success of the vendor agreement, and, depending on the vendor, the success of your business.


Evaluate Your Vendor Account Team to Optimize Vendor Relations Research & Tools

1. Evaluate Your Vendor Account Team to Optimize Vendor Relations Deck – Understand the value of knowing your account team’s influence in their organization, and yours, to drive results.

Learn how to best qualify that you have the right team for your business needs, using the accompanying tools to measure and monitor success throughout the relationship.

2. Vendor Rules of Engagement Template – Use this template to create a vendor rules of engagement document for inclusion in your company website, RFPs, and contracts.

The Vendor Rules of Engagement template will help you develop your written expectations for the vendor for how they will interact with your business and stakeholders.

3. Evalu-Rate Your Account Team – Use this tool to develop criteria to evaluate your account team and gain feedback from your stakeholders.

Evaluate your vendor account teams using this template to gather stakeholder feedback on vendor performance.


Evaluate Your Vendor Account Team to Optimize Vendor Relations

Understand the value of knowing your account team’s influence in their organization, and yours, to drive results.

Analyst Perspective

Having the wrong account team has consequences for your business.

IT professionals interact with vendor account teams on a regular basis. You may not give it much thought, but do you have a good understanding of your rep’s ability to support/service your account, in the manner you expect, for the best possible outcome? The consequences to your business of an inappropriately assigned and poorly trained account team can have a disastrous impact on your relationship with the vendor, your business, and your budget. Doing the appropriate due diligence with your account team is as important as the due diligence you should put into the vendor. And, of course, ongoing management of the account team relationship is vital. Here we will share how best to qualify that you have the right team for your business needs as well as how to measure and monitor success throughout the relationship.

Photo of Donna Glidden, Research Director, Vendor Management, Info-Tech Research Group.

Donna Glidden
Research Director, Vendor Management
Info-Tech Research Group

Executive Summary

Your Challenge
  • Understand how important your account is to the vendor and how it is classified.
  • Understand how informed the account team is about your company and your industry.
  • Understand how long the team has been with the vendor. Have they been around long enough to have developed a “brand” or trust within their organization?
  • Understand and manage the relationships and influence the account team has within your organization to maintain control of the relationship.
Common Obstacles
  • The vendor account team “came with the deal.”
  • The vendor account team has limited training and experience.
  • The vendor account team has close relationships within your organization outside of Procurement.
  • Managing your organization’s vendors is ad hoc and there is no formalized process for vendors to follow.
  • Your market position with the vendor is not optimal.
Info-Tech’s Approach
  • Establish a repeatable, consistent vendor management process that focuses on the account team to maintain control of the relationship and drive the results you need.
  • Create a questionnaire for gaining stakeholder feedback to evaluate the account team on a regular basis.
  • Consider adding a vendor rules of engagement exhibit to your contracts and RFXs.

Info-Tech Insight

Understanding your vendor team’s background, their experience, and their strategic approach to your account is key to the management of the relationship, the success of the vendor agreement, and, depending on the vendor, the success of your business.

Blueprint benefits

IT Benefits

  • Clear lines of communication
  • Correct focus on the specific needs of IT
  • More accurate project scoping
  • Less time wasted

Mutual IT and
Business Benefits

  • Reduced time to implement
  • Improved alignment between IT & business
  • Improved vendor performance
  • Improved vendor relations

Business Benefits

  • Clear relationship guidelines based on mutual understanding
  • Improved communications between the parties
  • Mutual understanding of roles/goals
  • Measurable relationship criteria

Insight Summary

Overarching insight

Conducting the appropriate due diligence on your vendor’s account team is as important as the due diligence you put into the vendor. Ongoing management of the account team should follow the lifecycle of the vendor relationship.

Introductory/RFP phase
  • Track vendor contacts with your organization.
  • Qualify the account team as you would the vendor:
    • Background
    • Client experience
  • Consider including vendor rules of engagement as part of your RFP process.
  • How does the vendor team classify your potential account?
Contract phase
  • Set expectations with the account team for the ongoing relationship.
  • Include a vendor rules of engagement exhibit in the contract.
  • Depending on your classification of the vendor, establish appropriate account team deliverables, meetings, etc.
Vendor management phase
  • “Evalu-rate” your account team by using a stakeholder questionnaire to gain measurable feedback.
  • Identify the desired improvements in communications and service delivery.
  • Use positive reinforcements that result in positive behavior.
Tactical insight

Don’t forget to look at your organization’s role in how well the account team is able to perform to your expectations.

Tactical insight

Measure to manage – what are the predetermined criteria that you will measure the account team’s success against?

Lack of adequate sales training and experience can have a negative impact on the reps’ ability to support your needs adequately

  • According to Forbes (2012), 55% of salespeople lack basic sales skills.
  • 58% of buyers report that sales reps are unable to answer their questions effectively.
  • According to a recent survey, 84% of all sales training is lost after 90 days. This is due to the lack of information retention among sales personnel.
  • 82% of B2B decision-makers think sales reps are unprepared.
  • At least 50% of prospects are not a good fit for the product or service that vendors are selling (Sales Insights Lab).
  • It takes ten months or more for a new sales rep to be fully productive.

(Source: Spotio)

Info-Tech Insight

Remember to examine the inadequacies of vendor training as part of the root cause of why the account team may lack substance.

Why it matters

1.8 years

is the average tenure for top ten tech companies

2.6 years is the average experience required to hire.

2.4 years is the average account executive tenure.

44% of reps plan to leave their job within two years.

The higher the average contract value, the longer the tenure.

More-experienced account reps tend to stay longer.

(Source: Xactly, 2021)
Image of two lightbulbs labeled 'skill training' with multiple other buzzwords on the glass.

Info-Tech Insight

You are always going to be engaged in training your rep, so be prepared.

Before you get started…

  • Take an inward look at how your company engages with vendors overall:
    • Do you have a standard protocol for how initial vendor inquiries are handled (emails, phone calls, meeting invitations)?
    • Do you have a standard protocol for introductory vendor meetings?
    • Are vendors provided the appropriate level of access to stakeholders/management?
    • Are you prompt in your communications with vendors?
    • What is the quality of the data provided to vendors? Do they need to reach out repeatedly for more/better data?
    • How well are you able to forecast your needs?
    • Is your Accounts Payable team responsive to vendor inquiries?
    • Are Procurement and stakeholders on the same page regarding the handling of vendors?
  • While you may not have a formal vendor management initiative in place, try to understand how important each of your vendors are to your organization, especially before you issue an RFP, so you can set the right expectations with potential vendor teams.
  • Classify vendors as strategic, operational, tactical, or commodity.
    • This will help you focus your time appropriately and establish the right meeting cadence according to the vendor’s place in your business.
    • See Info-Tech’s research on vendor classification.
When you formalize your expectations regarding vendor contact with your organization and create structure around it, vendors will take notice.

Consider a standard intake process for fielding vendor inquiries and responding to requests for meetings to save yourself the headaches that come with trying to keep up with them.

Stakeholder teams, IT, and Procurement need to be on the same page in this regard to avoid missteps in the important introductory phase of dealing with vendors and the resulting confusion on the part of vendor account teams when they get mixed messages and feel “passed around.”

1. Introductory Phase

If vendors know you have no process to track their activities, they’ll call who they want when they want, and the likelihood of them having more information about your business than you about theirs is significant.

Vendor contacts are made in several ways:

  • Cold calls
  • Emails
  • Website
  • Conferences
  • Social introductions

Things to consider:

  • Consider having a link on your company website to your Sourcing & Procurement team, including:
    • An email address for vendor inquiries.
    • Instructions to vendors on how to engage with you and what information they should provide.
    • A link to your Vendor Rules of Engagement.
  • Track vendor inquiries so you have a list of potential respondents to future RFPs.
  • Work with stakeholders and gain their buy-in on how vendor inquiries are to be routed and handled internally.
Not every vendor contact will result in an “engagement” such as invitation to an RFP or a contract for business. As such, we recommend that you set up an intake process to track/manage supplier inquiries so that when you are ready to engage, the vendor teams will be set up to work according to your expectations.

2. RFP/Contract Phase

What are your ongoing expectations for the account team?
  • Understand how your business will be qualified by the vendor. Where you fit in the market space regarding spend, industry, size of your business, etc., determines what account team(s) you will have access to.
  • Add account team–specific questions to your RFP(s) to gain an understanding of their capabilities and experience up front.
  • How have you classified the vendor/solution? Strategic, tactical, operational, or commodity?
    • Depending on the classification/criticality (See Info-Tech’s Vendor Classification Tool) of the vendor, set the appropriate expectation for vendor review meetings, e.g. weekly, monthly, quarterly, annually.
    • Set the expectation that their support of your account will be regularly measured/monitored by your organization.
    • Consider including a set of vendor rules of engagement in your RFPs and contracts so vendors will know up front what your expectations are for how to engage with Procurement and stakeholders.
Stock image of smiling coworkers.

3. Ongoing Vendor Management

Even if you don’t have a vendor management initiative in place, consider these steps to manage both new and legacy vendor relationships:
  • Don’t wait until there is an issue to engage the account team. Develop an open, honest relationship with vendors and get to know their key players.
  • Seek regular feedback from stakeholders on both parties’ performance against the agreement, based on agreed-upon criteria.
  • Measure vendor performance using the Evalu-Rate Your Account Team tool included with this research.
  • Based on vendor criticality, set a regular cadence of vendor meetings to discuss stakeholder feedback, both positive feedback as well as areas needing improvement and next steps, if applicable.
Stock image of smiling coworkers.

Info-Tech Insight

What your account team doesn’t say is equally important as what they do say. For example, an account rep with high influence says, “I can get that for you” vs. “I'll get back to you.” Pay attention to the level of detail in their responses to you – it references how well they are networked within their own organization.

How effective is your rep?

The Poser
  • Talks so much they forget to listen
  • Needs to rely on the “experts”
  • Considers everyone a prospect
Icons relating to the surrounding rep categories. Ideal Team Player
  • Practices active listening
  • Understands the product they are selling
  • Asks great questions
  • Is truthful
  • Approaches sales as a service to others
The Bulldozer
  • Unable to ask the right questions
  • If push comes to shove, they keep pushing until you push back
  • Has a sense of entitlement
  • Lacks genuine social empathy
Skillful Politician
  • Focuses on the product instead of people
  • Goes by gut feel
  • Fears rejection and can’t roll with the punches

Characteristics of account reps

Effective
  • Is truthful
  • Asks great questions
  • Practices active listening
  • Is likeable and trustworthy
  • Exhibits emotional intelligence
  • Is relatable and knowledgeable
  • Has excellent interpersonal skills
  • Has a commitment to personal growth
  • Approaches sales as a service to others
  • Understands the product they are selling
  • Builds authentic connections with clients
  • Is optimistic and has energy, drive, and confidence
  • Makes an emotional connection to whatever they are selling
  • Has the ability to put themselves in the position of the client
  • Builds trust by asking the right questions; listens and provides appropriate solutions without overpromising and underdelivering
Ineffective
  • Goes by gut feel
  • Has a sense of entitlement
  • Lacks genuine social empathy.
  • Considers everyone a prospect
  • Is unable to ask the right questions.
  • Is not really into sales – it’s “just a job”
  • Focuses on the product instead of people
  • Loves to talk so much they forget to listen
  • Fears rejection and can’t roll with the punches
  • If push comes to shove, they keep pushing until you push back
  • Is clueless about their product and needs to rely on the “experts”

How to support an effective rep

  • Consider being a reference account.
  • Say thank you as a simple way to boost morale and encourage continued positive behavior.
  • If you can, provide opportunities to increase business with the vendor – that is the ultimate thanks.
  • Continue to support open, honest communication between the vendor and your team.
  • Letters or emails of recognition to the vendor team’s management have the potential to boost the rep’s image within their own organization and shine a spotlight on your organization as a good customer.
  • Supplier awards for exemplary service and support may be awarded as part of a more formal vendor management initiative.
  • Refer to the characteristics of an effective rep – which ones best represent your account team?
A little recognition goes a long way in reinforcing a positive vendor relationship.

Info-Tech Insight

Don’t forget to put the relationship in vendor relationship management – give a simple “Thank you for your support” to the account team from executive management.

How to support an ineffective rep

An ineffective rep can take your time and attention away from more important activities.
  • Understand what role, if any, you and/or your stakeholders may play in the rep’s lack of performance by determining the root cause:
    • Unrealistic expectations
    • Unclear and incomplete instructions
    • Lack of follow through by your stakeholders to provide necessary information
    • Disconnects between Sourcing/Procurement/IT that lead to poor communication with the vendor team (lack of vendor management)
  • Schedule more frequent meetings with the team to address the issues and measure progress.
  • Be open to listening to your rep(s) and ask them what they need from you in order to be effective in supporting your account.
  • Be sure to document in writing each instance where the rep has underperformed and include the vendor team’s leadership on all communications and meetings.
  • Refer to the characteristics of an ineffective rep – which ones best describe your ineffective vendor rep?
“Addressing poor performance is an important aspect of supplier management, but prevention is even more so.” (Logistics Bureau)

Introductory questions to ask vendor reps

  • What is the vendor team’s background, particularly in the industry they are representing? How did they get to where they are?
    • Have they been around long enough to have developed credibility throughout their organization?
    • Do they have client references they are willing to share?
  • How long have they been in this position with the vendor?
    • Remember, the average rep has less than 24 months of experience.
    • If they lack depth of experience, are they trainable?
  • How long have they been in the industry?
    • Longevity and experience matters.
  • What is their best customer experience?
    • What are they most proud of from an account rep perspective?
  • What is their most challenging customer experience?
    • What is their biggest weakness?
  • How are their relationships with their delivery and support teams?
    • Can they get the job done for you by effectively working their internal relationships?
  • What are their goals with this account?
    • Besides selling a lot.
  • What relationships do they have within your organization?
    • Are they better situated within your organization than you are?
Qualify the account team as you would the vendor – get to know their background and history.

Vendor rules of engagement

Articulate your vendor expectations in writing

Clearly document your expectations via formal rules of engagement for vendor teams in order to outline how they are expected to interact with your business and stakeholders. This can have a positive impact on your vendor and stakeholder relationships and enable you to gain control of:

  • Onsite visits and meetings.
  • Submission of proposals, quotes, contracts.
  • Communication between vendors, stakeholders and Procurement.
  • Expectations for ongoing relationship management.

Include the rules in your RFXs and contracts to formalize your expectations.

See the Vendor Rules of Engagement template included with this research.

Download the Vendor Rules of Engagement template

Sample of the Vendor Rules of Engagement template.

Evalu-rate your vendor account team

Measure stakeholder feedback to ensure your account team is on target to meet your needs. Sample of the Evalu-Rate Your Account Team tool.

Download the Evalu-Rate Your Account Team tool

  • Use a measurable, repeatable process for evaluations.
  • Include feedback from key stakeholders engaged in the relationship.
  • Keep the feedback fact based and have backup.

Final thoughts: Do’s and don’ts

DO

  • Be friendly, approachable.
  • Manage the process by which vendors contact your organization – take control!
  • Understand your market position when sourcing goods/services to establish how much leverage you have with vendors.
  • Set vendor meetings according to their criticality to your business.
  • Evaluate your account teams to understand their strengths/weaknesses.
  • Gain stakeholder buy-in to your vendor processes.

DON'T

  • Don’t be “friends.”
  • Don’t criticize in public.
  • Don’t needlessly escalate.
  • Don’t let the process of vendors communicating with your stakeholders “just happen.”
  • Don’t accept poor performance or attitude.

Summary of Accomplishment

Problem Solved

Upon completion of this blueprint, Guided Implementation, or workshop, your team should have a comprehensive, well-defined, end-to-end approach to evaluating and managing your account team. Leveraging Info-Tech’s industry-proven tools and templates provides your organization with an effective approach to establishing, maintaining, and evaluating your vendor account team; improving your vendor and stakeholder communications; and maintaining control of the client/vendor relationship.

Additionally, your team will have a foundation to execute your vendor management principles. These principles will assist your organization in ensuring you receive the perceived value from the vendor as a result of your vendor account team evaluation process.

If you would like additional support, have our analysts guide you through other phases as part of an Info-Tech workshop.

Contact your account representative for more information.

workshops@infotech.com 1-888-670-8889

Bibliography

“14 Essential Qualities of a Good Salesperson.” Forbes, 5 Oct. 2021. Accessed 11 March 2022.

“149 Eye-Opening Sales Stats to Consider.” Spotio, 30 Oct. 2018. Accessed 11 March 2022.

“35 Sales Representative Interview Questions and Answers.” Indeed, 29 Oct. 2021. Accessed 8 March 2022.

“8 Intelligent Questions for Evaluating Your Sales Reps Performance” Inc., 16 Aug. 2016. Accessed 9 March 2022.

Altschuler, Max. “Reality Check: You’re Probably A Bad Salesperson If You Possess Any Of These 11 Qualities.” Sales Hacker, 9 Jan. 2018. Accessed 4 May 2022.

Bertuzzi, Matt. “Account Executive Data Points in the SaaS Marketplace.” Treeline, April 12, 2017. Accessed 9 March 2022. “Appreciation Letter to Vendor – Example, Sample & Writing Tips.” Letters.org, 10 Jan. 2020. Web.

D’Entremont, Lauren. “Are Your Sales Reps Sabotaging Your Customer Success Without Realizing It?” Proposify, 4 Dec. 2018. Accessed 7 March 2022.

Freedman, Max. “14 Important Traits of Successful Salespeople.” Business News Daily, 14 April 2022. Accessed 10 April 2022.

Hansen, Drew. “6 Tips For Hiring Your Next Sales All-Star.” Forbes, 16 Oct. 2012. Web.

Hulland, Ryan. “Getting Along with Your Vendors.” MonMan, 12 March 2014. Accessed 9 March 2022.

Lawrence, Jess. “Talking to Vendors: 10 quick tips for getting it right.” Turbine, 30 Oct. 2018. Accessed 11 March 2022.

Lucero, Karrie. “Sales Turnover Statistics You Need To Know.” Xactly, 24 Aug. 2021. Accessed 9 March 2022.

Noyes, Jesse. “4 Qualities to Look For in Your Supplier Sales Representative.” QSR, Nov. 2017. Accessed 9 March 2022.

O’Byrne, Rob. “How To Address Chronic Poor Supplier Performance.” Logistics Bureau, 26 July 2016. Accessed 4 May 2022.

O'Brien, Jonathan. Supplier Relationship Management: Unlocking the Hidden Value in Your Supply Base. Kogan Page, 2014.

Short, Alex. “Three Things You Should Consider to Become A Customer of Choice.” Vizibl, 29 Oct. 2021. Web.

Wayshak, Marc. “18 New Sales Statistics for 2022 from Our Groundbreaking Study!” Sales Insights Lab, 28 March 2022. Web.

“What Does a Good Customer Experience Look Like In Technology?” Virtual Systems, 23 June 2021. Accessed 10 March 2022.

About Info-Tech

Info-Tech Research Group is the world’s fastest-growing information technology research and advisory company, proudly serving over 30,000 IT professionals.

We produce unbiased and highly relevant research to help CIOs and IT leaders make strategic, timely, and well-informed decisions. We partner closely with IT teams to provide everything they need, from actionable tools to analyst guidance, ensuring they deliver measurable results for their organizations.

What Is a Blueprint?

A blueprint is designed to be a roadmap, containing a methodology and the tools and templates you need to solve your IT problems.

Each blueprint can be accompanied by a Guided Implementation that provides you access to our world-class analysts to help you get through the project.

Talk to an Analyst

Our analyst calls are focused on helping our members use the research we produce, and our experts will guide you to successful project completion.

Book an Analyst Call on This Topic

You can start as early as tomorrow morning. Our analysts will explain the process during your first call.

Get Advice From a Subject Matter Expert

Each call will focus on explaining the material and helping you to plan your project, interpret and analyze the results of each project step, and set the direction for your next project step.

Unlock Sample Research

Authors

Donna Glidden

Steven Jeffery

Visit our COVID-19 Resource Center and our Cost Management Center
Over 100 analysts waiting to take your call right now: 1-519-432-3550 x2019