When choosing vendors, many people think that the most important attribute to look for is accountability. But I believe that deadline sensitivity is more important, because it protects your business and automatically guarantees a higher-quality vendor.
For example, imagine that you are meeting someone for lunch, and the person is late. If he’s accountable, he’ll own up to his mistake and say, “Sorry, my bad.” If he’s late again, he says, “Oh, sorry. My fault.” When he’s late a third time, he’ll say, “You know what, I just can’t seem to meet the deadline.”
When the deadline is a lunch meeting, you may be inconvenienced and irritated. But what if the deadline is for delivering sales copy, putting up a web page, or shipping your product? The result may be deadly to your business. You may lose customers and go broke.
Whether you’re hiring a copywriter, a webmaster, an executive assistant or some other team member, look for vendors who are sensitive to deadlines. Meeting deadlines is an obvious sign that vendors are deadline sensitive. But how they respond when they are unable to meet a promised deadline is also insightful.
Vendors recognize that deadlines are agreements. The agreement is, “I’m going to do something by a specific time.” Like any other agreement, you can keep a deadline, you can renegotiate a deadline, or you can unmake a deadline.
Bad vendors break their agreements and then make excuses for why they missed their deadline. Mediocre vendors are accountable and at least acknowledge their role in missing the deadline.
Excellent vendors take a different approach. They demonstrate accountability by doing one of two things when they can’t meet their agreements: renegotiating or unmaking the deadline.
Both responses involve the vendor saying, “I agreed to it, but I can’t keep it. I’m sorry.” With renegotiation, they agree to a new deadline. With unmaking, they back out of the agreement entirely.
With agreements, When trumps it all, because an agreement has a deadline. Unmaking an agreement after a deadline has been missed is not accountable. Likewise, renegotiation is best done before the deadline.
Excellent vendors recognize that the easiest, the fastest, the most effective way to lose rapport and trust is to wait for the deadline to expire and then say, “Ah, I’m sorry. I didn’t make it.” They communicate with you as soon as they know that they must break their agreement and miss the deadline.
Have I done this? Of course! Sometimes I overestimate my ability and I renegotiate deadlines. Sometimes I have to unmake them and say, “I can’t do it. Sorry.” And then, many times I keep it.
Excellent vendors prefer not to miss deadlines. In fact, they prefer to beat their deadlines. But they know that when it’s necessary to renegotiate or unmake deadlines, the rule is “the sooner, the better.” Early warnings give clients more time to modify their plans, which protects the relationship.
Do you agree the deadline sensitivity is a key attribute to look for in your vendors? Share your thoughts below! -Alex
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