Not many people who operate at a high level think the word "vendor" is very appealing. In fact many find it to be borderline offensive.
What Is The Alternative?
Partner, yes, but it too has become jaded. Resource, ally, co-customer, you name it, the moniker has been adopted by many sales folks who are trying to differentiate themselves.
Can You Really Blame Them?
I am not sure what to call the position that true professionals strive for. I do know that it's important. It's important to me when I'm getting ready to buy. Another thing I know is that the kind folks who have allowed me to serve them like it when I help them solve the non-routine problems. You know that feeling when you get it.
The word I really want to use here is friend. My fingers actually cramped up just then trying to type it because I know in my 50-year-old brain that corporate america is not keen on a purchasing agent buying things, items, ideas, etc. from a friend.
Even if you are friends, the arms-length requirement to keep everyone from suspecting any wrong-doing has to be very, very clear. That's a shame, but the path is littered with poor decisions involving friends in business.
There Is A Balance Between Vendor And Friend.
Many call it a "trusted advisor" or some similar name. The point is, it has to be done intentionally, with the key word being intent. That means serving with good-will, a "definite chief aim" or purpose and an over-arching desire to deliver the unexpected. It also means communicating like Churchill, having the tenacity of Patton and the exhibiting the character of Honest Abe Lincoln.
In the end it really doesn't matter what's on your business card. Market leader, VP or custodian. What does matter is that you deliver, or as Seth Godin would say- ship, your work, regardless of what people label you as.