1. Channel vendors through a strategy management office or vendor management office so they don’t flood staff with information, invitations and questions.
2. Divide vendors into categories according to level of strategic importance to help determine how much time to devote to each relationship. Meet with first- and second-tier vendors regularly.
3. Assign managers to steward relationships with third-tier vendors to keep those relationships alive.
4. Share as much information about your strategy, business model, processes, goals and technology projects as you can with your most important vendors.
5. Celebrate successes together with dinners or lunches to reinforce the idea that your business relationship is a partnership. Alternate who pays for them.
6. Give vendors access to your facility. This shows trust.
7. Recognize vendors for jobs well done with formal annual supplier quality awards.
8. Visit your most strategic vendors’ facilities regularly to check out their bleeding-edge technologies.