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A supplier relationship begins with a goal: You want to sell X on destination Y. Finding a supplier to help you meet your goal is step 1 in building a strong tie; strengthening those ties is an ongoing practice.

“Think of your supplier as your teammate,” said NACTA President Ann Chamberlin, formerly a district sales manager for Holland America Line. “They’re there to help you build your business.”

Consider these tips.

Find Common Ground

Sometimes choosing the right supplier—or whether to continue investing in a relationship—is difficult. Mutual benefit is important. Suppliers make the best decisions for their business, as should advisors. If a supplier won’t help you achieve your sales goal, ask why. Is it unrealistic? Do you seek too many concessions? Is the supplier too busy to help? You may need to walk away from negotiating and find a supplier who’ll support you.

Know Your “Ask”

Don’t waste your supplier’s time. Know what you want. Have ideas and suggestions on getting there. Be clear and concise. Is your request realistic? Point out how the supplier could benefit from assisting you.


In person, by phone or by e-mail, advisors and suppliers should keep each other informed.

Be fully focused and engaged. When meeting to develop your business plan, don’t expect a free lunch. Suggest a quiet location that lets you easily hold a business discussion. Time is valuable. The fewer interruptions, the better.

Use the phone when possible. Business development managers often drive from location to location. Take advantage of their drive time to get across your ideas and opinions. A call might better express your enthusiasm and confidence. Offer to follow up with an e-mail summarizing what you’ve agreed to implement.

Make your e-mails professional and succinct: State your need clearly. Focus on the positive. Always thank the supplier for support.

Follow Up

After each meeting and conversation, offer a personal touch. Send a note card—as easy as three sentences: It was great talking with you. Thanks for your support. I look forward to working with you.

When a project goes well, recognize the efforts: Send an e-mail, copying her boss. Everyone likes recognition for great work.

Stay Educated

Familiarize yourself with the supplier’s products, services and new developments. Understand the internal business structure. Knowing a basic outline of how your supplier operates will impress them and help you better navigate their structure to assist with your clients’ needs, whether customer support, inside sales assistance or reservation help.

By Cassie Westrate