Let’s face it, not all channel partnerships will be a win. After all, they are ultimately human relationships that may result in instances of incompatibility, lack of communication, or opaqueness around the partner’s value proposition.

Whatever the situation, there are strategies and best practices for terminating a vendor relationship so as not to make a bad situation worse nor adversely impact your own customer base.

Know When to Walk Away

Partnerships should never feel like a game of poker. But if they ever do, you’ve got to know when to walk—or run—away. Whatever leads to the split, your intuition is the best guide. If something doesn’t feel right in the vendor relationship, it’s probably time to call it quits. Having an exit strategy, or offboarding process, in place is always a good idea and can help to avoid unnecessary pitfalls when it comes time to say goodbye.

Never Burn Bridges

They say that change is the only constant. Partnerships will come and go, and vendor product offerings and solutions fluctuate. But you never know when you’ll need a referral or good word from a former partner.

Besides, ending things on a sour note won’t serve your business well. Remember the old saying, “What goes around, comes around.” In other words, don’t create drama or place unnecessary hurdles, such as threatening a lawsuit, in the way of an inevitable exit. Do abide by the terms of any pre-existing contracts and wrap up any agreed-upon work.

Even if it wasn’t the best relationship, ending things amicably will always pay richer dividends in the long run. Getting together with your vendor over coffee or a meal (on your dime) can ensure that things end on a good note.

Communication Is Key

Keeping open communications is essential for any business relationship. But this is especially so when exiting a partnership. When things are winding down, use the time to meet with your outgoing vendor instead of “hiding” behind presumptions and disparities. Leverage the opportunity to discuss what went well in the relationship, offer feedback if the vendor requests it, and wish each other the best going forward.

Humility is never a bad thing, so be willing to acknowledge what you could have done to strengthen the partnership. While there are obvious reasons you’ve chosen to no longer work with your vendor, keep in mind that every exit offers an opportunity to show appreciation for the chance to collaborate. As one source states, “[I]t’s important to acknowledge that they took as much a chance on working with you as you did with them.”

Always Put Customers First

Your customers are the most significant thing you need to worry about in any partner exit. They can pick up quickly if things have gone south in a partnership. Besides, putting a bad spin on your vendor won’t serve you well. One source says it best: “Keep customer satisfaction in mind when working the exit. Unhappy customers will not only have an effect on the joint product but have an effect on your brand as well. Customer satisfaction is in the interest of both your partner and yourself.”

When exiting a vendor partnership, write up a brief and jointly signed statement about the dissolution to ensure customers know this is a mutual decision. This will mitigate any potential negative impact on branding.

The new rules of business today are about transparency, authenticity, and trust. Partnership exits are no exception. Following the golden rule in less-than-ideal situations means keeping things cordial even when it’s not easy. Put your customers first and think of their needs above your own. Remember too that short-term pains often produce long-term gains—through business referrals and new partnerships that last well into the future.

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