The most important areas to focus on when choosing external partners are as follows:
1) Technical Excellence
External partners need to be recognized for their technical excellence, as you will not necessarily see much evidence firsthand if they are working directly for your client, unless they have provided services to you in the past.
Technical excellence is all well and good, but you also need to be confident that the external suppliers you recommend will deliver on time, to specification and within budget.
3) Value for money
External suppliers should be realistic about fee levels. You’ve worked hard to establish your own reputation with your client as delivering excellent value for money and it’s important that the suppliers you recommend do the same.
A good third-party supplier will not only develop a good relationship with your client, they should be prepared to feed back to you anything you are entitled to know regarding the client and what is going on in his/her business.
5) Respect for your brand
External partners should evidence that they understand what your brand stands for, and the values and principles which are important to you and your business. They must remember at all times that the client relationship is yours not theirs.
It goes without saying that there are certain qualities that you’ll be looking for in an external partner, which are the same as those you would wish for in a business partner or anyone you work with in business for that matter. The following five criteria fall into that category.
6) Integrity and trustworthiness
Given that you will not be present during the dealings the supplier has with your client directly, you need to be confident that they will act with the same level of integrity that any member of your in-house team would demonstrate.
7) Established track record
While this may sound like stating the obvious, it’s essential the suppliers you recommend should have a solid reputation in their field. You cannot afford to risk an unknown quantity.
8) Communication skills
The suppliers you recommend need to be experts in their field, however, this needs to be complimented with great communication skills, which will ensure a positive customer experience for your client – the two don’t always go hand in hand!
Does the way in which your supplier presents themselves on paper (or online) match what you get in person? There is a direct correlation between a company’s authenticity and its reputation.
10) Client focussed
It’s essential that your client has a good experience when working with a supplier that you’ve recommended. Can you rely on them to remain customer-focussed without you feeling you need to oversee or monitor the relationship?
As with the selection of business partners, I would recommend scoring prospective suppliers out of 10 in each of the categories above – it may help you make the best decision if you’re unsure of the company’s overall suitability. I would suggest 70% as an acceptable “qualifying score”, with no individual aspect scoring below five. Equally, you are free to adapt the criteria to suit your personal preference.
You could also adopt a similar approach when identifying external service providers for yourself, eg. lawyer, accountant, insurance broker, HR consultant, IT experts, social media expert, web design/hosting, PR professional and so on – they all have an impact on your brand to varying degrees, so you need to choose wisely.