When I was a young pup working for my father, with regard to the work I was doing, he used to say “remember, Robbie, you sleep in the bed you make.” And when I went into the Army, my platoon Sargent use to shout, “Brown do a good job; you will reap what you sow!”

In both cases, the message was the same: watch what you are doing and where you are walking because you are responsible for your own actions.

As a former retailer and having attended hundreds of trade shows and seen the interaction between thousands of reps and their customers, I can attest to the ill treatment often exchanged between dealer and rep. Considering the fact that both the vendors and retailers “stand in the same bathtub”, I find that the lack of professional service from some reps and lack of civility from some dealers makes little sense.

There is a high price to pay for treating a vendor rep . . . or a rep treating the retailer . . . as a second-class citizen! Such professional indiscretions, inclusive of poor communication, do nothing to foster sales and profits.

If the retailer treats a vendor or his rep with disrespect, they will likely miss out on advantageous purchases the vendor may offer. Moreover, that rookie rep that you ignored may one day be the sales manager of a hot new line that the retailer may desperately want. The sales manager will remember his ill treatment. “You sleep in the bed you make”.

Vendors and their representatives should do more than simply ask the retailer to buy their line. There are plenty of vendors and products to purchase; the smart vendor strives to be a standout in terms of service, communication, pricing, promotion, delivery and programs that are tailored to help the individual retailer.

In order to build a “quid pro quo” relationship, the dealer should begin by making the rep a friend. Business built on friendship is more enduring and profitable. Be willing to negotiate hard on everything but do so with a sense of fairness and shared gain. If asking for concessions, co-op, free goods, stock rotation or participation in a promotion, clearly justify and explain how the vendor will benefit as well.

Be honest in communicating your needs and point of view but also appreciate the vendor’s perspective. This demonstrates your respect for the mutual relationship. If the dealer approaches all subjects and demands only from his benefit alone, the vendor and rep will usually hold back where they can.

One of the most effective means of growing one’s business is simply to ask the vendors ‘how can I increase my business with you?” This simple question can open new interest from the rep and will lead to a dialog about sales growth. Not surprising, good deals, good discussions and productive promotions begin to happen.

While some retailers think beating down vendor reps as a sport and chuckle over how much they squeezed out of a vendor, some retailers may be too short sighted. Again, I wish to be very clear; retailers must negotiate hard and smart with their vendors but doing so with a spirit shared benefit will yield greater profits for both the retailer and the vendor, provided the vendor practices the same attitude of common goal.

In principle, vendors, reps and retailers are all standing in the same bathtub. Working together with a shared sense of accomplishment will yield far better results for all parties. Make it so!