As a business technology buyer, working in both small, medium and Fortune 400 companies, I experienced a variety of approaches by vendors who wished to sell their tech wares. Two popular models are “tell me about your pain” (and I will share our solution) or “let us build a relationship” (and you will buy from me because you trust me). The most successful vendors understand that a business relationship between two companies is akin to a marriage – an intricate and long-term relationship wherein culture fit between the vendor and the buyer determines success or failure.
Before the First Date
Business technology vendors who start with “pain points” want to close the deal – typically as fast as possible. This is a red flag for culture fit because they are selling from their sales playbook, instead of understanding your company’s needs. Instead, spend time within your business to determine your objectives and needs.
What will be the business outcomes if we purchase this technology?
I recommend that you work with a business analyst who has experience and training in technology requirement assessments and business process analysis. The business analyst will help your team articulate its needs and this will facilitate a successful match with the right vendor. Check out IBAA.org for more information.
Dating Tech Vendors
It is critical that both parties look for a cultural fit before they invest in a long-term relationship. I define cultural fit as this:
Do the two companies conduct business from a similar perspective or world view?
For example, if your company values hands-on service and you select a technology vendor that does not offer effective hands-on service, your employees will not be happy when they need the vendor to help solve problems with the technology. One of the best ways to unpack the culture of a technology vendor is simply to ask them: Tell me about your company’s culture. You might be surprised by the answer! In addition, make sure you read their web site and marketing information thoroughly to test if the company presents itself in a consistent manner.
In addition, look for opportunities to speak with existing customers. You can ask your sales professional for references and remember that they will give you a list of their most engaged customers. This is a start but with the networking opportunities available on platforms like LinkedIn, it is not hard to find other customers that you can contact directly and ask if they would give you a few minutes to discuss the proposed technology vendor.
Another way to evaluate the culture of the company is to pay attention to every communication and interaction during the sales process. Are they calling you every day or ignoring you? Are they overwhelming you with information and options or are they vague about the implementation? Remember also that the sales process does not always match the support process, which is more important. As you move closer to a deal, be sure to ask to speak with the support manager at the company or contact their support team to experience the interaction.
After the Honeymoon
Once you select a technology vendor, the next phase (implementation) supports or detracts from the health of the relationship. New technology always disrupts the business and its employees. Instead of pretending that disruption will not happen, use your business analyst to help navigate the needs of your employees to adapt to it.
At Encore Electric, Inc. we use a simple model for change. Read my CTN articles, End the Frustration of Technology Adoption , for more information.