In the market research industry, clients and suppliers have a symbiotic relationship that requires trust, mutual respect, clear communication and strong leadership. But building healthy relationships between clients and suppliers requires hard work – just like any important relationship – and all too often the challenges of daily work overtake this essential component of our business interactions.
What can we do in our current roles to foster strong research relationships?
There are several characteristics that always seem to be present in strong relationships. Maintaining a focus on these areas will nurture a longer-term partnership.
Work as Partners
For example, when the Client and Supplier are highly collaborative, and can discuss together how to solve problems, a project realizes better results. By contrast, when clients view suppliers not as consultants but as order-takers, or when suppliers focus on selling products not solving problems, the working relationship suffers. A collaborative tone comes with practice, and both sides of the table have to work together to achieve it.
Respect the Relationship
Respect is also a crucial aspect of the client/supplier relationship. Clients and suppliers don’t have to like each other – although that does make everything easier – but you can’t not like each other. Ideally, the person you’re working with is someone you’d enjoy having a beer with. But respect must be built on trust, confidence and a solid belief in the efficacy of the advice and recommendations that make up the working relationship. If the social/interpersonal relationship isn’t as easy, “connecting” based on the establishment of “value” in the strength of the business aspects of the work will help to support a strong relationship.
Clients and suppliers both need to approach their relationships as partners who are working together toward the same goal.
– Be clear on the business context and actual decision you are trying to inform, don’t just focus on a specific problem and lose sight of the “bigger picture.” – Treat research services as a collaborative partnership, rather than a commodity. – Avoid too many handoffs as a project goes through the research process so that efficiencies are maximized, confusion is minimized, and accountability is ensured. – Be patient – clients have many priorities that compete for their time, and suppliers can’t respond to every request as an emergency. – Add value to build trust – monitor industry trends, share experiences, anticipate challenges, respond to requests in a timely manner.
In the client/supplier duality, “their” success is “our” success so a strong working relationship is mutually beneficial. Building a solid relationship that is collaborative, and includes regular communication and reciprocity of respect and trust, takes effort but will ensure a more rewarding experience for both sides.