After you have done your research, and have chosen a select few vendors to purchase your products from, you will want to know how exactly to maximize your relationship. In this article, we will explore all the areas your vendor should be covering so that you can have a happy and wonderful working relationship. Don't settle for any less than the best!
Salon Sales of a Bygone Era...
It took me about eight months of phone contact with several reputable vendors to decide who I would give the bulk of my business. I went through some rough patches in the beginning – I wanted the same kind of relationship with my lash and brow supplier as the one I had with my original hair product vendor. Now, I know these two entities are not equal.
My hair vendor personally called on me in my salon every two weeks. They always left a glossy brochure with me. The brochure would showcase all the products that were “on sale”, or products with added value. This made things very easy for me. They stop by, show me a few things, I place an order, and we go about our business. Easy peasy!
I loved that! Life was simple back then. Things have changed now, and we don’t have sales reps come to the door, drop off brochures and take our orders for lash and brow products… I’m sure there is a handful of storefronts that sell lash and brow products around here and there. But mostly, we have to rely on online ordering and packages mailed to us with the supplies we have ordered.
We have to depend on the person taking our order to answer our questions on how products perform, their uses, and any tips and tricks they may have about those products. And that’s why it can take some time to find the perfect fit for you and your business.
Seven Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Commit to a Supplier
When you placed a call to the vendor were you actually connected to a representative?
If not, was your call returned in a timely manner?
Was the only option to place an order online with no customer service contact?
Did the vendor have a minimum order amount?
Were shipping charges discussed or were there options?
Do they offer samples or sample sizes for a nominal fee?
Did they actually seem interested in getting your business?
The Importance of Great Customer Service
In the beginning of my lash career, I purchased products from the company I trained with. I would always call them to place an order. My call was always answered and my questions were addressed every time. Over the years, the company changed its business model and things took a turn – and not in a positive direction. They implemented an online ordering system. Their phone contact all but dried up, and trying to get a return call or information was next to impossible.
Not only could I not talk to a person, they implemented a minimum order policy. If you didn’t place a minimum, they tacked on a “service charge”. Now, 11 years ago when I started lashing, I had a full clientele of hair clients. That meant I didn’t need vast amounts of supplies, and was a bit put off by the newly introduced “service charge” for less than minimum orders.
There were only a few lash companies at the time. The other companies would make you purchase a certain amount to stay active in their system, to continue to purchase product with them. So the dilemma back then was a bit different.
Now there are so many vendors. Worldwide vendors are competing for our business. It can be confusing, challenging and time consuming to find your perfect supplier.
Here are the most important considerations for a consumer of professional products:
Can You Communicate with the Vendor and Get Real Product Information?
Is there a human being attached to this business? I mean, can I actually speak to a knowledgeable person? I don’t just mean an order-taker. If I have questions, I want real answers… even if it means they have to call me back.
Find out if the vendor has a technical department, and if they have a lash technician available to answer questions about product performance, trouble shooting, and safety and sanitation concerns. For those of you that would like some more information about sanitation practices, check out Glad Lash founder Esther Bolkin's informative and timely article, here.
Does the Vendor Let You Try Before You Buy?
Samples of products are another great option you may receive from these vendors. It’s hard to fork out hard earned dollars for a product you may or may not like. I have spent quite a bit over the years on such items. These things get stashed in a drawer never to be used again, eventually discarded. This is what I refer to as the 'salon scrapheap', and it does not leave me with very warm and fuzzy feelings for the vendor!
Check with the vendors for sample products at a nominal amount so you have the opportunity to see if they are going to work for you and your business. I would rather find out a product does or does not work before dropping big bucks on these products. So if your vendor offers these, take advantage of this strategy.
Is the Vendor Offering You Great Customer Service?
Do you get the feeling this vendor actually wants your business? When you contact them you want to be greeted by a genuine person, and made to feel your business is important to them. You don’t want to be put on hold for a long period of time waiting to speak to a customer service representative.
Are they suggesting any new products? Do they have a record of your previous orders? Are they concerned about how their products worked for you?
Moving onto a Successful Future with Your Vendor
I can tell you, by my own experiences, I would gladly pay a little more for great customer service and a more personal relationship with my vendor. Anyone who knows my name and has a history of my purchases, anyone who asks what my experience was with these products, actually wants my business, my feedback and my support. This is important to me. It should be important to you as well. Don’t you want to know what new and exciting things are going to be launched by your vendor?
I know things have changed from the days of the storefront sales rep, to the giant online retailer. But, that doesn’t mean we cannot have a more personal relationship with the company who will be supplying our lash and brow supplies. Take some time; seek those vendors who will support you and your business. If you are successful, you help your vendors’ success as well. So let’s go forward and develop great working relationships.
Please let us know how your vendor relationships are working for you, and if you have any other tips or advice to share. We always love to hear from you!
Read Part 8: The Added Benefits of Vendor Loyalty
Maryann has an accomplished, 30+ year background in the beauty industry. As a cosmetologist she opened her first salon in ’83. She has specialized as an educator since 2006. Maryann knows what it takes to create successful salon businesses and is here to share her experience with you.