Electrical distributors have a difficult job if you think about it.

Each location stocks thousands of product groups and hundreds of thousands of individual SKUs and needs specialists for every product type.

Electrical distributors have a lot to keep track of, from lighting and switch gears to solar panels and transformers. To help them fill knowledge gaps and ensure finished products are available, distributors work with sales representatives, manufacturers, and logistical partners.

Jack of All Trades, Master of One

It’s safe to say that no one knows everything there is to know about the electrical industry.

National Electrical Code (NEC) rules constantly evolve, new products come onto the market, and trends change like in any other industry. That’s why electrical distributors rely on experts to answer questions and help avoid potential blind spot issues that could potentially impact business.

While it’s possible to hire employees with extensive experience and knowledge, it isn’t always feasible. Luckily, creating supplier relationships with your vendors and manufacturers can help you naturally build an incredible network of product experts. Depending on how your vendors interact, short-term transactions can blossom into long-term, true partnerships based on trust.

Not every vendor or manufacturer will drop everything to ensure you have all the information you need to feel comfortable making a decision. Some partnerships might be a one-way street, maintaining a strictly transactional relationship. That’s fine, but conversations with those vendors typically go in one of a few directions:

They give you a no-bid quote. This quote suggests the vendor or manufacturer can’t supply the items you requested.

You hear nothing at all. Whether they don’t have the product in stock, don’t want to make it, or didn’t get your message, you’re getting ghosted.

They help you. In this case, the vendor will tell YOU what the solution is – take it or leave it. You don’t get any say or involvement, making it a very one-sided conversation.

Companies don’t exist if they don’t make money, so the above responses make sense. However, they also don’t do much to create a long-term vendor relationship that allows the distributor and manufacturer to succeed.

A vendor or manufacturing partner responds to quote requests promptly and will help you find what you’re looking for, even if they don’t make or sell it.

Vendor vs. Partner: What’s the Difference?

What elevates a person from an acquaintance to a friend? Rapport.

When you look at vendors versus partners, the titles are sometimes used interchangeably, despite subtle and significant differences separating the two.

Vendors have a job – to make money.

When you work with a vendor, the relationship is almost purely transactional. They have a product or service you need and are willing to provide it for a price. This relationship is usually driven by product availability, supply chain constraints, lead times, and cost. Familiarity and relationships are generally not highly influential factors.

Vendors usually offer surface-level relationships with defined boundaries. If you need product X, they can produce your products and get you on your way. If you need product X and they sell product Y, they can’t help you. Whether or not you get more assistance after that is a bit murky.

Long story short: if you’re not there to buy, come back when you are.

Manufacturing partners are vendors that build relationships.

True to their name, partners are driven by the ability to supply products and services while being as helpful as possible. The end goal isn’t only to make money; it’s to create opportunities where both sides win.

Partners take the time to listen to your needs, understand what your end goal is, and work with you to solve it. They get what your pain points are and actively do what they can to address them.

Long story short; vendors deliver a monologue, while partners actively engage in dialogue.

Their dedication to sustainable long-term success and relationship building goes deeper than offering high-quality products and customized manufacturing services. A vendor partner works with electrical distributors to address their needs, even if they can’t fulfill them themselves. When they can’t help with a specific product, a vendor partner will often say things like:

“Have you tried…” 

“The part you’re looking for is…” 

“I found a spec sheet from…” 

“If you have any other questions, here is my contact information.” 

Vendor partner relationships are built on establishing mutual loyalty between the manufacturer and distributor based on a track record of honesty, helpfulness, and shared goals. In this type of partnership, distributors can rely on trusted manufacturing experts who have a personal stake in seeing their customers succeed.

Kris-Tech as a Vendor Partner

We live the Kris-Tech Way every day, but what does that mean?

Winning together. It’s nice to win, but there doesn’t need to be a loser. Part of winning together is ensuring customers get what they need, even if it isn’t from us.

Leading by example. Every day is an opportunity to be the gold standard in our industry.

Commitment to excellence. We work tirelessly to solve problems and are driven to follow through on what we say we’re going to do. If things go wrong, we don’t cover our eyes and ears. We roll up our sleeves and get to work trying to troubleshoot issues and prevent them from happening again.

Learning and growing. The world is constantly changing and evolving, and it’s our job to stay on top of it. For Kris-Tech, it means producing and sharing educational content, attending events, and working with industry professionals to stay on the cutting edge.

Building trusted relationships. Nothing else matters if our distributors and other partners don’t trust us. We take the time to get to know our customers. It also means identifying potential problems when we see them and doing our best to prevent them from becoming pitfalls.

The Kris-Tech Way is so much more than a workplace mantra. It’s a way of life our team lives by in and out of work. It’s our culture in practice and action.

Next time you look for a vendor to work with, keep an eye out for tell-tale signs of a partner. Are they helpful? Do they care about more than making a sale? Is the partnership beneficial for both sides?

If not, keep looking until you find one.

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