Alex Meade, our VP of Sales and Marketing at Beacons Point was able to interview Ashley Lawson, our Vendor Manager. Ashley provides insight into why vendor management is necessary and how she does her job so well.
Episode Show Notes:
We sat down with Ashley Lawson, our Client Success Manager, and Sabina Hahn, our Client Strategist, who both have a hand in vendor management and outsourcing, to see if they have any tricks of the trade to share with us. Vendor management can be a tedious task initially, but if you document your processes and note the best practices that have yielded a great return, you can smooth out this daunting process over time. Vendor management involves vendors, from sourcing them to managing the quality of their work to paying them. While this is not an easy job, it can be rewarding. You can free up time and energy within your company to start working on projects that you didn’t think you would have time for.
Ashley Lawson, Beacons Point Client Success Manager
Ashley is the Client Success Manager at Beacons Point. She is passionate about helping her clients develop brand awareness, drive leads, and close deals. More often than not, you can find Ashley’s paw-sonal assistant, Zoey, by her side.
Connect with Ashley on Linkedin
Sabina Hahn Beacons Point Content Strategist
Sabina discovered her keenness for strategic and creative storytelling in college while working on campaigns for brands such as CHOC Hospital and Wienerschnitzel. As a Content Strategist at Beacons Point, Sabina works with the BP team to create engaging content that helps her clients reach their prospective customers and hit their goals.
Connect with Sabina on Linkedin
Alex Meade, Beacons Point, VP of Sales & Marketing
Alex is the VP of Sales & Marketing at Beacons Point, a leader of HubSpot User Groups, the host of the B2B Growth Marketer Podcast, and a collector of Kurt Vonnegut books and San Diego craft beer.
Subscribe to The B2B Growth Marketer Podcast on Apple, Spotify, or wherever you listen.
00:02:54 – Overview of vendor management
00:05:40 – Challenges involved with vendor management
00:09:52 – Experience with a vendor who was not a good fit
00:11:09 – Helpful skills for someone who manages vendors
00:15:51 – Framework developed and problem-solving
00:19:59 – Discussion of the vetting process
00:25:03 – What will cause a vendor to not be hired
00:27:40 – How lessons learned with vendor management are applied when dealing with clients
00:34:01 – Tips for vendor managers
Alex Meade [00:00:04] Welcome to the B2B Growth Marketer Podcast. I’m your host, Alex Meade. Today I will be joined by Ashley Lawson and Sabina Hahn, both of Beacons Point team. Work on our client work but have always worked on this vendor management, outsourcing management. Ashley also works as our client success manager, as well. What we’re talking about today is this process that you have to build, and manage, and run your vendors. Now, it’s not lost on us that we are a marketing agency, and to our clients, we are a vendor to them. That is something that we very much consciously think of when we are working with them. How do we continue to improve that? We as an agency, as a company, also have other vendors. We have some that help us with writing, some that help us with getting things transcribed. We have people that help us with all sorts of things that either we need a little more help with or is maybe not our specialty, things that we need help for internally for ourselves or for some clients in some cases. We wanted to open up the hood a little bit and share some insight of how we go about it—the frameworks, the templates, the things that we have done to make this process smooth and easy, because if anybody’s managed vendors in more of a service-based, not necessarily contract, working in manufacturing where you’ve got bids out and you’ve got a contract, but more you’re hiring freelancers, you’re hiring people off of Upwork, you’re dealing with agencies, or vendors, or companies. How do you manage this process, and how do you work with them on an ongoing basis and such? We have a great conversation. We talk about everything from how to vet vendors, what are the most important things to think of, what are some tips if this is new for you. Just as a reminder, what we’re doing now with our podcast is we’re trying to find ways to help you in your job be better. We know many marketers, many salespeople wear many hats in companies, and managing vendors is one of them. So, we wanted to provide some insight and tips of how to better do that process. Enjoy. Welcome to the B2B Growth Marketer Podcast.I’m your host, Alex Meade, and today I have a co-host, Sabina Hahn. Welcome.
Sabina Hahn [00:02:27] Thank you for having me. Thanks for letting me come back. I didn’t mess it up enough the first time, so I figured I’d try again.
Alex Meade [00:02:32] We only had to cut a few times. I would say that’s a success. Today we are talking all about vendor management and working with outsourced vendors. We brought in Ashley Lawson from the Beacons Point team, our client success manager. Ashley, welcome.
Ashley Lawson [00:02:51] Thank you. Excited to be here.
Alex Meade [00:02:54] As we’ve been talking about the podcast and we’ve been talking about updated topics, I think this is something that’s overlooked. So many companies out there, so many marketing teams, sales teams, even if they’re working with an agency, they’re also working with other vendors and even working with an agency as a vendor. I don’t think this topic is discussed enough because a lot goes into managing and working with vendors and outsource partners. I think this is going to be a fun conversation. I’m going to start with you, Ashley, because you manage this for us here at Beacons Point. Can you give us what is an overview of what goes into vendor management and some of the things that are involved in it?
Ashley Lawson [00:03:42] Sure. I actually inherited vendor management from Sabina who was our vendor manager before. Basically, it requires anything that we can outsource, we do try to outsource that to make sure that all of the things that need our attention are given the attention, and we’re not using time that we could be spending creating in-depth strategies or optimizing by doing tasks that we can outsource to others. We have vendors for design, and then we also have vendors for doing some blog writing, and we have vendors for doing any eBooks or guides, just doing the execution of the writing after we give them the outlines. We have some transcribers. If we do like we’re doing here, any audio shoots or podcasting, we have someone to go and edit the transcript, since AI is just not really there yet. We have a human touch to go and make sure that those transcripts are usable. I think those are the main ones that we have right now. It’s just, as the project manager, being able to go and tap in a vendor when that time comes in the process so that we can go in and make sure the vendors are also keeping on those same timelines that we like to stick to, and making sure the quality is there, as well as making sure we’re communicating with them and giving them what they need. That’s an overview of how we use vendors at Beacons Point and what the management of that looks like.
Alex Meade [00:05:40] Here’s a question that I think I have an answer for myself. I’ve done vendor management for Beacons Point in the earlier days when we were all hands-on for everything. I know both of you have done this. I feel like vendor management is not the most fun job and can be rather… Trying to be nice about this. It can be a real pain. There can be things that are fun about it. Maybe most of it isn’t fun about it. Why is that? Why does vendor management feel like such a challenge or something that we have to do? What are some of the challenges you guys have found?
Ashley Lawson [00:06:21] I think anytime you’re managing people, you’re going to have that obstacle. Managers of teams, vendor management, project management. Anytime that you have to be the bad guy and make sure that whatever people are delivering to you is on time and done well, there’s always going to be that level of hey, this isn’t meeting our expectations, or any kind of miscommunications that can happen, timelines. I think part of that is knowing that people are on the other side of it. It’s not just their vendor. It’s someone probably sitting in their home doing freelance work, working from home just like I am, and they’re like, “Shoot, my kid is sick,” or, “I can’t get this back to you on time.” I think things where maybe the information we gave them wasn’t enough for them to be able to produce what we were looking for. I think there can be miscommunications on either side, and a lot of the problems come from just whatever the result of that miscommunication could look like—late timelines, not up to snuff work, stuff like that. That just goes for managing people in general. That can just happen. Anytime you have to manage a lot of people, there’s always going to be rough spots. Sabina, do you have anything that you would like to add to that? That’s my take on that.
Sabina Hahn [00:08:12] I think you’re right about all of those things, that it just comes to interpersonal communication, and not speaking to the people directly, and just communicating through email or different platforms. Written word, you have to be really clear about what you are looking for, and make sure that they’re on the same page as you are. If there’s any miscommunications early on, I think that just sets the stage for the rest of the engagement. Then also, I know just for us, we have a very long process, and we have quality standards that I would say are relatively high, at least mine. I’m so type-A. The standards that I have for outsourced stuff for internal things that we create, it can be a lot for someone who’s not in the process day in and day out to understand what those markers are that we’re looking for. I think just being able to very clearly communicate what we’re looking for, what our process is, and how they fit into the grand scheme of things is really important, and then just what you’re alluding to, that mutual respect. I’m a person; you’re a person. We’re both trying to feed ourselves and pay bills. Let’s make this work. It doesn’t have to be painful, but it can be painful. I have some stories of just things that go sideways. How did we get here? How did this happen?
Alex Meade [00:09:52] Well, we have some time. What are those stories? Give me one. Give me a situation.
Sabina Hahn [00:09:55] We had a transcriber. I think it might have been a cultural difference, just where he was located in the world. I think they had different standards for communication. I would send him one message, and then I would get 6 to 10 messages in response over the course of two hours if I didn’t get back to him. It was just like live-tweeting. “Where is this? What do you think? What’s happening? Tell me what’s going on.” I was like, “Listen, man, I have a job to do outside of this. I will get back to you when I get back to you. Thank you so much for what you’re doing. I appreciate it, but we need to pump the brakes a little bit.” Then when I went to cancel that contract, because it just wasn’t working anymore for a couple different reasons, he came back two weeks later and was like, “Hey, are you sure?” I was like, “Yes, I’m very sure. Thank you so much. Please don’t contact me again.” Just things like that where it’s not necessarily anyone’s fault; it’s just different ways of communicating. It was interesting, for sure.
Alex Meade [00:11:09] It seems like the overarching theme is communication. I think if you manage a team that’s in your own company, you’ve already established forms of communication, you’ve worked with them, you’ve built some sort of rapport. Even though it is a challenge of managing people, you know when they’re able to talk, best ways to do it, best ways to communicate things. With vendors, I feel like you’re doing it with different types of people, different personalities. You’re trying to get them to follow your method while also matching what’s best to get that done. What are some of the skills or behavioral tactics that someone who manages vendors should have? What are some good skills that somebody who manages vendors should have?
Ashley Lawson [00:12:07] I think, again, communication piece, patience. Again, you’re going to need to… Like Sabina was saying, there’s times where I go and send a task to someone, and I’m not going to be able to come back to that task for a couple of days. For them it’s like, “Hey, I sent you this. Are we good?” It’s like, “I haven’t had time to get back to you. I’m sorry.” There’s things where you have to be able to keep on it. They are this other half of, like you’re saying, your team that just has no context into what your day looks like versus people on your team. You guys can see my Google Calendar. You guys can see my Asana. You can see me on Slack. You can see all of that. A vendor doesn’t, just one line of communication you have with them and messages on Upwork or something. It’s like, “Hello?” It’s like shouting into the void and the same thing back. I don’t know what else they have going on. I’m like, “Hey, did you get those revisions yet?” and they’re like, “I have to take my kids to school.” It’s the patience and how we talked about setting expectations at the beginning of this is how often we’re going to talk to each other. I’m not going to get back to you in the same day. We’re going to take a couple days to look at revisions. I think the expectation-setting at the beginning is really important. Just those interpersonal skills that Sabina was saying earlier.
Sabina Hahn [00:13:55] For sure. I think empathy is also huge because you don’t have insight into people’s days. Being able to give the benefit of the doubt, have some empathy. If I was in their shoes, I imagine they’re managing a bunch of different clients, as well. If there are timeline issues, or something needs to be sorted out, or conversation needs to be had, I think it’s that empathetic approach. Instead of just being like, “Well, this is wrong, and we can’t work with you anymore,” it’s like, “Okay, well, they’re human, so they’re going to make mistakes. Now we need to give them the opportunity to write this.” It’s that empathy; it’s the patience. I think critical thinking is a huge part of vendor management because you have to be able to problem-solve on the spot. If something’s not working, you need to be able to make educated quick decisions without a lot of oversight from somebody else, I would say. When I first started with the vendor management, we didn’t necessarily have a framework in place. I was just messing around to see what worked, what didn’t work. I made a ton of mistakes along the way. Obviously, I’d check in with leadership like, “Hey, what do you think of this? Hey, what do you think of that?” The more you get into the process, I think the more you’re able to make educated decisions based on your experience, but then also the rapport you have with whichever vendor it is. It’s patience, empathy, critical thinking, communication, attention to detail, reviewing things. Gosh, what else? It’s all the interpersonal, almost soft skills that you can’t necessarily teach somebody. Those are all really critical.
Alex Meade [00:15:51] Well, you touched on our framework. I think this is going to… Think about our framework for both of you in this next question. We’ve talked about some of the challenges. How do we solve for those? What did we do here at Beacons Point to say we’re having a hard time keeping track of people we’ve communicated with, how do we give feedback, what is our process for that, what is the information we gather upfront? Maybe talk about our framework and answer that as how have we solved some of those problems.
Ashley Lawson [00:16:25] I think, like Sabina said, she’s the one that’s put the framework together through trial and error. Inheriting the framework from her, I also inherited all of the problem-solving she did ahead of time. For me, I’m just like, “Oh, there’s…” I swear down to how you would type the message out to someone. Sabina has put it together. Alex, also make sure to share some of those things with the people who are listening, as well, some of the templates we have. I think there’s a vendor database, first of all, where it’s a list. We have it set up an Asana, but this could be an Excel sheet, easily, for someone who doesn’t have the software. A sheet that describes what vendors we use, what we use them for. Are they writers? Are they designers? Do they do transcripts? And then on a scale of one to five, how good they are. If we’re working with a specific industry, they’re a great tech writer, or they’re a great legal writer, or something like that. Having different writers for different specialties, especially for us as an agency, that’s important. If you’re just getting vendors for your specific company, making sure whoever you’re picking is someone who has knowledge about the subject that you’re specifically looking for. We have their industry specialty. We have their costs. That’s also another important one. That one is a non-negotiable on ours when we post jobs. This is how much we’re charging, and if that’s a problem, scoot on to the next one. We get so many people applying for our job posts that we have the ability to be picky, especially on Upwork. There’s—oh, my gosh—so many people you can choose from. We make sure they have a high job success rate, good ratings, good reviews. Sabina, if I’m missing anything from the vendor database, jump in. Mostly their specialty, how good they are, price…
Sabina Hahn [00:18:48] How you contact them. Any interpersonal notes. If someone’s super particular about payment schedule, they want to be paid within four days of returning something. Notes like that, where if you were to pass it on, like I passed it to Ashley, this is all the things that I’ve learned working with this specific person, so you don’t have to relearn them. Things like that just so you can remind yourself, “Okay, this is how this person likes to operate. I can maximize my success if I do X, Y, and Z.” I think it’s also important to note in this we’re mostly talking here about marketing vendors. I know vendor management in manufacturing is so much more intense than what we’re talking about here. This is more of that interpersonal management thing, whereas I think when it comes to manufacturing, it’s contracts, and supply chain, and all of these really intense things that we, thankfully, don’t have to deal with.
Alex Meade [00:19:59] This is freelance, or services, or things like that. I’ll add that to the intro of the podcast. Duly noted there. We’ve talked about what goes into it, some of the skills you need to have for that. I think choosing the right vendors is pretty crucial to this process. What are some of the things we do to vet vendors or contractors, at least here at Beacons Point?
Ashley Lawson [00:20:37] I’m going through that right now. We’re always trying to have as many writers at our disposal as possible, since we pump out so much content on a regular basis. If we only have a couple of writers and they’re all working on something already or they’re not available, we want to be able to make sure that a lack of vendors is never slowing us down in terms of timeline. We’re always in the process of looking for writers, specifically. We’ve been able to find a couple of platforms that optimize the process. We found a writer platform where you can just submit your work. Someone does the gathering of writers for you, and then you tell them, “These writers have been great. Let’s keep using these,” versus, “These ones maybe have not hit the mark. So, let’s not use them.” We have a couple of writing resources like that that we’ve gone through. Some of them we haven’t been successful with. We’ll talk about that later—when to stop trying to use one vendor. Same thing for design. We’ve also found platforms where you can just submit it. Someone on the other side is managing it, and you can come back when it’s done. Those kinds of vendors have been really helpful, finding a platform that does what you’re paying for versus having to go and manage the whole process yourself like Upwork. We do have both. Those ones that are just submit and walk away are incredibly easy and very hard to walk away from. Those are usually my go-to’s, but we also try to have a whole host of people on Upwork or Fiverr. I don’t remember the original question, Alex.
Sabina Hahn [00:22:39] In terms of vetting people, there’s less vetting on those platforms that Ashley is talking about. I think the most vetting there is like, “This is what we’re looking for,” and then connecting with the people on the management side of those platforms, and just giving them a running list of people that we prefer. But when it comes to more individual relationships, things like Upwork, or people that you use via email, and things like that, personal connections, I think the vetting process starts before you even talk to the writers, or designers, or whoever this person is. It starts with that expectation-setting aspect we were talking about. We have documents that outline our entire process and our expectations for the vendor. This is what we’re looking for. This is how you fit in. These are what you can expect in terms of workload, how many pieces you’re going to get a month. This is the price point. This is when you’re going to get paid. These are the words we use internally, so you’re on the same page as us, all of these things. It starts with that expectation-setting. It can be a document that has your process and all of your details. You can send it to someone when you’re talking to them and say, “Hey, this is how we operate as an agency or a company. Can you fit within these constraints or these requirements?” It starts there. Beyond that, it’s looking at things like samples, ratings from other people and other agencies. Were they good at communication? How was the timeline? How was the quality? Crowdsourcing that review to make sure that they’re not showing critical issues before you even talk to them. Then another thing I like to look at is if you give them specific directions in your proposal or in an email you send to them, do they follow your directions? Do they ignore you? Are they like, “Let’s discuss after you hire me”? No, we’re not going to do that. It’s not going to happen.
Ashley Lawson [00:24:46] It’s like when you hire anyone to work with. Do they perform in the interview? Do they have the soft skills like we’re talking about that you’re looking for? Does their work live up to the expectations? Stuff like that.
Alex Meade [00:25:03] Let’s rapid-fire all of the red flags that will keep you from hiring somebody, hiring a vendor, a service, anybody.
Sabina Hahn [00:25:12] Grammar mistakes in their cover letter, number one, especially if it’s a writer.
Alex Meade [00:25:17] Grammar and spelling.
Ashley Lawson [00:25:21] I was looking at someone a couple of days ago and I saw one misspelled word. We’re looking for writers. Keep that in mind. Maybe if they’re applying for an engineering position or something… If I’m finding errors in your proposal to write for me, no. Sorry.
Alex Meade [00:25:42] You’re also just giving yourself… Then I have to check everything you submit with a fine-tooth comb, which you do, but you expect it to at least have good spelling and grammar.
Ashley Lawson [00:25:53] I would say also… Like I said, we have the ability to be picky which I recommend people should be picky. If their reviews are bad or even have some really not good couple of bad reviews or a really low, if you’re looking at Upwork, job success rate or something like that, no. There’s tons of people that have a 100% job success rate and great reviews. Why would I ever choose someone with bad reviews?
Sabina Hahn [00:26:26] Communication and vibe check, which sounds so millennial, Gen Z to say. If the feeling is off in your first interaction with them, listen to your gut. I’ve made the mistake… Obviously, trial and error. That’s how we got here. I’ve made the mistake of looking at someone’s profile and it’s like, “Okay, you check all the boxes.” Then you have a conversation with them, and you’re like, “Oh, that? I don’t like how they handled this situation,” or, “I don’t like how they answered this question,” or they misunderstood something that was very clearly stated. Then listen to that, because this is the first interaction, and if that’s the foot you start on…
Ashley Lawson [00:27:10] This is supposed to be people being the best versions of themselves, it’s the first impression. It’s like dating.
Sabina Hahn [00:27:14] It’s the first date. If they’re already throwing red flags the first time, that’s going to set the stage for the rest of your relationship. Listen to your gut.
Alex Meade [00:27:28] Fifteen messages in thirty minutes. You’re not going to get hired by Sabina.
Sabina Hahn [00:27:35] Yeah. Like I said, I’m type-A.
Alex Meade [00:27:40] I want to flip this around a little bit. Ashley, you handle vendor management, and you handle client management, account management for our clients. How much of what you learn or experience with our vendor management do you translate to talking with our clients, because our clients, we are the vendor that they’re managing? How much do we think about that, the things that we go through, and what we don’t like working with our clients?
Ashley Lawson [00:28:14] Obviously, how we’re saying we’re picky, our standards are high, you obviously would expect us to be mirroring that right back. I think a lot of it is completely mirrored, even starting at the beginning, expectation-setting. As soon as we get a new client, we explain our process with the vendor. Explain our process to them. Here’s how we do things. It’s a little bit on both sides because for our clients we’re also like, “This is how we do things.” Maybe we’re nutjobs about our process, but it works. But for vendors, for clients, new people we hire, we’re like, “Here’s our insane 40-step process. If you’re not interested, sorry.” I think it’s at the beginning expectation-setting. “Here’s what we’re expecting out of this relationship. This is what we’re looking for you to do.” On both sides, client and vendor, making sure that all is set up at the beginning. Those pre-onboarding docs we talked about, where I think Sabina has a writer onboarding template of some sort that we’ll also send them. Same thing for clients. We have like, “Here’s what you can expect from us in the first 100 days of working with us.” We have docs on both sides. Obviously, budget. Some of this happens before it gets to me in the sales process. Obviously, our clients know how much it costs to work with us. Same thing with vendors. “This is how much we’ll pay you to do this work.” Making sure everyone knows upfront what the costs are. Then I think, also, the deadline-setting, like we talked about, our process. Our process is going to take from this long to this long to produce a high-quality video, or a high-quality guide, or blog, or whatever it looks like. Our vendor fits into that process right at the beginning, where once our strategist just gives the direction and what that will look like, the writer writes it, and then the strategist will have revisions. They can expect to write the revisions. Whatever they’re getting from us to write the piece, they can expect the revisions back. That’s part of the process. Same thing with the clients. They know that they have an opportunity once the piece is done to go and do revisions. I think everyone being in line with what the expectations are, the expectation-setting, the rules of the platform a little bit. Our clients know when we onboard them, we use Asana, we use Google Calendar. “Here’s all the tools we’re going to use. Here’s how you communicate with us.” Same thing with our vendors. If we’re connected with them on Upwork, Upwork has, not strict rules, but rules in place that if you follow these rules and you get screwed, there’s someone there in the background to help you with that. But if you just start going and emailing your Upwork person on your email if they tell you not to, and something happens, that’s on you. Making sure everyone knows rules are in place, what platforms we use, constant communication, and making sure that I have regular scheduled meetings with all of my clients, making sure I’m checking in and talking with the vendors. Gosh, my list is getting long. I do a lot of work.
Alex Meade [00:32:19] Well, it seems like some core values. Maybe not values. I don’t know. Things that seem to cross working with vendors, working with clients. I think just business, in general, is being able to set the expectations early.
Ashley Lawson [00:32:37] Expectations, open communications, documenting everything. This isn’t so much on the vendor side—it may be less strict—KPI and goal-setting. What can our clients expect from us after three months of working with us or whatever? We don’t set goals with vendors, but the goals for them are more like, “Can you write this piece with only a couple of revisions?” You can’t hit those KPIs that we’re setting in our upfront of like, “If this is going to take you 3, 4, 5 plus revisions, that’s not going to work for us.” Things like that where there’s performance standards that we’re trying to meet. Same thing with clients. If they find that we’re not meeting their expectations, they have the right to go and explore other options. I think everyone knowing that there’s these sort of expectations, I’ve said expectations a thousand times. Quality, timeline, things like that—if those aren’t being met, anyone has the ability to be like, “This isn’t what you promised. So, we’re going to go explore other options.” I think…
Sabina Hahn [00:33:53] At-will employment. Either side can terminate at any time if they want to.
Alex Meade [00:34:01] We’re getting towards the end here. I have one last question. Maybe you guys go back and forth. Sabina, you give the first one, then Ashley and Sabina until we don’t have anymore. To the marketer, to the client manager, to whoever is in charge of working with vendors in more of a marketing sales role, what tips do you have or advice if they are just absolutely struggling to get a good grasp, or they’re just now getting this put on their plate? What tips do you have?
Sabina Hahn [00:34:39] Number one, be patient with yourself. You will make mistakes. I hate making mistakes. It is one of my pet peeves, but it’s just part of life. You have to go through it to get to the end. Just be patient with yourself. The patience that you extend to other people, extend it to yourself, because things will happen. We’re all human. Say, “Sorry.” Apologize for what you did; apologize to yourself; and move on, because it’s going to happen.
Alex Meade [00:35:08] All right. Patience and be kind to yourself. Ashley
Ashley Lawson [00:35:13] I would say for someone who’s just starting out is looking for what platforms are going to work for you. Like I said, there’s platforms where a lot of the management is done for you. That comes with whatever—writers or designers those people have at-will. Using review sites. Go check G2 or any other technology review platforms. Go see what people like. Upwork is a big one. Fiverr is a big one. Going and looking at those sites, checking reviews. You don’t have to go and reinvent the wheel. There’s tons of people who are doing this already. Seeing what other people have done. Like Sabina was saying, people have made mistakes. Go look at what other people have done first before you have to go make your own mistakes, which you will. Going and looking at what other people have done first as examples I think is helpful.
Alex Meade [00:36:21] All right. You heard it first. You got another one, Sabina?
Sabina Hahn [00:36:23] Oh, I have so many. We could go on for days, but I think one of them is overcommunicate. I think sometimes we have a tendency to assume everyone knows what we know or what we’re expecting. If you’re giving directions to somebody who’s never spent a day in your process or even knows you that well, over-communicate what you’re looking for. If you’re giving them a blog outline, like, “This is what we’re looking for. I’m going to tell you in painstaking detail what we want.” If you do that in the beginning… Obviously, you can taper down, and they’ll just know what’s going on. That continued vendor relationship is super important. You have a track record; you have a history; they know what you’re looking for. But in that beginning stage, overcommunicate. Tell them everything, and then they will tell you, “Okay, I probably don’t need this information, but appreciate it.” Just give them everything so they have all the tools in their toolbox to be successful.
Ashley Lawson [00:37:28] Because you do find sometimes when you over-communicate…
Sabina Hahn [00:37:30] They don’t know what they don’t know.
Ashley Lawson [00:37:33] …it’s not even enough. If you get to the point where you feel like you are spoon-feeding information and someone’s still not getting it, you know that you did everything you could to communicate what you’re looking for. I think something else that we didn’t cover in-depth but is important is if the relationship isn’t working for you; it’s not serving your needs; you’ve tried, you’ve tried, and tried to make it work, and it’s just not it, move on. That’s another thing with the tip of diversifying your vendors. Like you said before, making sure you have a giant pool of people to pick from so you don’t have to be stuck with someone who’s not doing the work that you’re looking for. You have other people that you know are going to be good and be able to move on to the next person. Then you have someone that you can work with until you replenish that person. I would say making sure you’re giving them the feedback of, “Hey, this isn’t what I’m looking for. I need this to be higher quality.” If you’re doing the revisions where you’re telling them what you’re looking for, if they’re consistently not hitting the deadlines that you guys have clearly set out in the beginning of I need a one-week turnaround, and you’ve said that and you’ve said that again, and they’re not hitting those deadlines, that’s a problem. Communication. They’re ghosting you. If there’s things that you’re like, “This isn’t working,” move on, because that’s going to be a waste of your time. There’s literally—oh, my gosh—probably millions of people—maybe not millions—thousands of freelancers that are waiting to take someone else’s spot. Looking for those high-quality people, making sure communication is clear and consistent, expectations are set, making sure they’re working to fit within whatever you guys have going on. Like you said, at the very beginning vendor management can be a pain, but if it’s at least with people that you’ve worked with before and know are going to be good, it’s less of a pain than it could be. If you’re like, “God, I hate this management; it sucks,” maybe take another look at what vendors are using and see if it can make your life easier. It should be yes. Yeah, you have to manage people, but it shouldn’t be the worst part of your day, because that’s not a good thing.
Alex Meade [00:40:11] Life’s short. Don’t work with vendors that you don’t get along with, that don’t communicate well, and just aren’t good at their job.
Ashley Lawson [00:40:22] That’s your tagline, Alex. That’s the bit that you use for this podcast.
Alex Meade [00:40:26] All right, I’ll note that. Thirty-eight minutes. Got it.
Sabina Hahn [00:40:28] I do have one more because I think it’s important. Obviously, if you make a mistake, own up to it, be kind to yourself, all of these things. But also, if you do have that gut instinct or you’ve made a decision, don’t be afraid to be firm. Obviously, be kind, be respectful, act like a person. Don’t pretend that they have no feelings on the other end of the computer, but be firm with the decision that you’ve made. I can guarantee that there are five reasons why you made the choice that you made, and you don’t need to be pushed around by people. I only say this because I have been pushed around. I don’t know if it’s because I’m a young blonde chick on Upwork that people are like, “Okay, maybe I can make her change her mind. Maybe I can assert some kind of dominance.” I don’t play that way, and you shouldn’t, either. If you say no, go with it. You don’t owe people anything other than respect and kindness to a point. If they cross the line, you have the ability to say, “Good. Thank you. I don’t need that in my life, and my company doesn’t need that. Thank you. No, thank you.” I feel like we’ve made vendor management seem a little scary, but at the end of the day, if you work with people who have goals that align with yours, and you’re both respectful, and you communicate well, and you work to have an actual relationship and care about them to an extent, care about them as a person. We have someone that I was sad to pass on to Ashley, because it’s like, “I’m going to miss chatting with her in between giving her assignments.” As long as you have all of these things in place, and you just do your best, and admit your faults, and keep moving and growing, vendor management doesn’t have to be a nightmare. That’s what I will leave you with in terms of if you’re just starting or if it’s really difficult. You have the ability to make it less difficult.
Alex Meade [00:42:49] That vendor who underestimated you probably regrets that.
Sabina Hahn [00:42:52] Yeah, I blocked him, I think. He stopped contacting me, so I’m assuming that I blocked him.
Ashley Lawson [00:43:01] Biggest contradiction in this podcast – be kind, also, I blocked him.
Sabina Hahn [00:43:09] He had multiple chances.
Alex Meade [00:43:10] I think you guys gave… I think you’ve given some great examples, some great tips, some great things to think about to implement, to keep an eye out for, some red flags. I think vendor management is always an ongoing thing people are going to be dealing with. Finding ways for it to work for you. The tips and communication tips I think are going to be super helpful. Ashley, thank you for joining as a guest.
Sabina Hahn [00:43:43] I mostly was just answering questions.
Alex Meade [00:43:44] Sabina, thank you for joining us.
Sabina Hahn [00:43:46] Next time I’ll be…
Alex Meade [00:43:48] You’ll be a co-guest, co-hosty guest. New word.
Sabina Hahn [00:43:55] There you go.
Alex Meade [00:43:56] All right. Well, thank you, guys. That was today’s show. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. We had some great information. Sabina and Ashley were open and honest about the process and some of the key things. It’s not a surprise, but in most cases in marketing and in sales it is setting expectations about the process about what’s coming, giving people the right information to be prepared, and communicating. It comes down to those simple things with how you market, how you manage sales, and how you manage vendors, among other things. Thanks for listening. Be sure to check back. We have some great content coming your way. Be sure to follow us on Apple, on Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts. Thanks.