Impactiviti recently interviewed Jennifer Zinn, Director, Worldwide Marketing, Ortho-Clinical Diagnostics. Before taking on this role, Jennifer was Group Director, Worldwide Training (Sales and Marketing) for the OCD commercial organization. Prior roles in Sales, Sales Management, and Training were held by Jennifer at McNeil Specialty Pharma, and Dupont Pharma. Jennifer has a particular interest in building and maintaining productive partnerships with vendor/suppliers, and that is the topic of this Interview.
Q1: From a broad perspective, how do you view building relationships with vendors?
First of all, I banish the use of the “v” word (“vendor”)! It is my philosophy to view suppliers of products and services, not as mere commercial storefronts, but as business partners – people who will work with me to create long-term, win-win solutions to business challenges.
Q2: What qualities do you look for in a vendor/partner?
First and foremost, I am looking for quality of work. Our partners are outstanding at what they do, and often have very unique offerings or skills that rise above the others in the marketplace. I also value a collaborative attitude, which shows itself in a productive approach to issue resolution. There will always be problems that surface in a business relationship or in a specific project; our partners understand that flexibility and reasonableness solve issues far more readily than hard-nosed tactics or avoidance of responsibility.
Obviously, I look for reliability over time – true partnerships are built over the long haul and our best partners come through with consistency. And, I seek to have partners that are willing to both give and receive candid feedback – pats on the back are great when warranted, but we aren’t looking for “sweet talk” when things begin to go south!
Q3: How do you work with your partners – either new or existing – when things don’t go well on a project?
First, you need to set clear expectations up front, and set up an on-going communication system. This will help you avoid 90% of the issues that may arise. When there IS a problem , I just state the issue and the expected solution. You have to trust that the intent of your partner is to deliver a high quality product. If you start from that premise, only good will follow.
Q4: Do you see any dangers in developing long-term partnerships with suppliers?
I have many long-term partners, and I find these relationships to be very valuable. The only “danger” that I see is complacency. It is easy for a supplier to become complacent – to assume that the business belongs to them no matter how they perform – but it is also easy for the client to slip into a type of complacency, valuing the warmth and good will of the partner relationship to the point of turning a blind eye to faults that surface. Both most be avoided.
Q5: How much emphasis do you place on recommendations and referrals in your decision-making process for new suppliers?
I place a tremendous amount of emphasis on referrals – how else would you know that the quality you expect is what you are going to receive? I also practice giving referrals to others who want to know about quality suppliers, which is another benefit to the in-depth knowledge that comes from long-term partnerships.
Browse through some prior Impact Interviews: