One very important key to the growth of your Amazon business is in the hands of your vendor manager. This is especially true if you do not have Strategic Vendor Services. To progress, you need to develop a good working relationship with your vendor manager. In this post we are going to share some tips with you on just how to do that. First, it is crucial to understand what vendor managers do on a daily basis, and how much of it they have on their plates. Then you can approach them with a better perspective and apply a few strategies to get the ball rolling.
What Vendor Managers Do
The first step to understanding how best to deal with your vendor manager is knowing where they are coming from. Vendor managers are extremely busy people who worked hard to get where they are and even harder to stay there. Vendor managers work very long hours, juggle multiple tasks on tens of thousands of accounts, and struggle with extremely tight deadlines. Hands down, vendor managers have the toughest job of the three retail teams.
Vendor managers are responsible for managing all aspects of the categories that they are assigned to. They answer for sales, profits and losses, marketing, promotions, negotiations with vendors, and customer experience. Vendor managers work with one foot in day-to-day operations and the other in long-term strategic planning. They are often dealing with several departments at once, including buying, marketing, site merchandising, finance, retail systems and public relations. Amazon is nothing if not results-oriented, and vendor managers are expected to perform at a high level at every turn.
A primary focus of vendor managers is developing strategies for negotiating with vendors and building long-term relationships with strategic partners. Vendor managers must show constant improvements to hit sales and margin targets. As a vendor, you must get on this page to warrant the attention of your vendor manager.
Lastly, Amazon runs an MBA rotation program that takes fresh graduates and puts them in a rotation. If you have been a vendor for some time, you will have experienced having a vendor manager for a few months to a year, and then having a new one come in and try to pick up where the previous one left off. These new MBAs are being pulled from one team to the next every 18 months – vendor managers, buying and inventory, and marketing and merchandising. Some will work out better than others, and you will simply have to roll with it. Try to be understanding when a new vendor manager is assigned to you. They might not get it perfectly right in the beginning, but your patience will pay off as you build a good relationship with them from the outset.
Building the Relationship
As a vendor, you are likely focused on several aspects of growing your Amazon business. You might be looking for category guidance, wanting to negotiate better terms for your vendor agreement, or trying to get in on bulk buys or large merchandising campaigns. Whether it is a simple matter or a huge move, you need to have a solid partnership with your vendor manager. Strengthening this link is vital to your success, and here’s how you can achieve just that.
If you are having a bunch of smaller issues, don’t go straight to your vendor manager with them. Try as much as possible to handle these issues through Vendor Central support. Remember, your vendor manager is very busy, and will not take kindly to being bombarded with these small matters. Getting things done though Vendor Central can be frustrating, but you want to keep as much of that as you can away from your vendor manager. They will be in a much better mood when you do contact them, and be ready to help you with the bigger issues. This way, when you do need them to step in if you are getting nowhere with support, they will know that you are honestly having trouble and will be more willing to get things going.
You might be tempted to explain everything that you have in mind in one long, albeit carefully crafted, email. This is not a good way to communicate with your vendor manager. Vendor managers typically have to get through hundreds of emails every day, so prioritizing is essential to their survival. Long emails are hard to digest. Sorting through them to be able to prioritize the items in there that need immediate attention is exceedingly tedious. Keep your messages short and sweet to help your vendor manager to get it processed and forwarded faster to the appropriate team. If you need several things acted upon, send them separately. Even ten separate messages with clear subject lines are better than one if the items in them are divided logically. And don’t forget that vendor managers are people, too. They have their own quirks when it comes to how they process, so it doesn’t hurt to ask them what works best. And always remember to thank them even before they have processed your request.
Spend on Marketing
You may not have been prepared to release funds just yet. Your vendor manager is, however, looking at the numbers. To put it simply, your vendor manager is interested in how profitable your ASINs are. A good way to start a conversation with your vendor manager is to go straight to the numbers. Ask their advice on where to invest. This is a concise move in line with their goals that proves that you are serious about growing your business in partnership with them as category experts. Be ready to bring out a few thousand dollars for a campaign and watch your vendor manager’s interest grow. Then you can negotiate the packages to, for instance, include one ASIN at a discount instead of the standard multiple ASINs.
Vendor managers are always looking for vendors who can add value to Amazon. They want to see growth in the category that they manage, which means products that expand the available selection. If you haven’t updated your selection recently, now is the best time to do so. Look at what you have and what you can add to it that will improve your category. Check your items and make sure that they are all properly listed and not marked as Off Season or Obsolete, for example. Look also at what other brands and fresh items you can make available to Amazon retail. Then set up a meeting with your vendor manager to talk about developing virtual bundles.
Meet and Greet
We live in a virtual world, but there really is no substitute for human contact. If you can squeeze it into your schedule, join a Seattle category summit every now and again. These meet-ups tend to get the creative juices flowing, so you might also get some good ideas from them on how to refocus your efforts. Not only will you learn a lot, but you will also get a chance to talk to your Amazon team at a personal level. Getting to know a little more about them and even just being able to give them a real smile and a handshake can go a long way. They will appreciate the effort and remember you, and this will always be good when those new programs and campaign opportunities come around.