It’s a bit surprising that sales teams from some ERP vendors are still under the impression that simply wining and dining a customer is enough to win a sale. It’s this type of hubris that can cost vendors entire projects.
Recently, I was helping with a customer’s software evaluation and selection process. Yes, we have products and solutions that extend beyond the simple self-service tool usage we offer on our website. For this project, TEC was brought onboard to help conduct a comprehensive evaluation and selection process, following our methodology.
This means we looked at vendor RFI data in our software and augmented it with their unique requirements to get to a shortlist. With the shortlist, we looked at the vendors’ market information (for which we have a template), and then added other evaluation components including vendor scripted demos, performance and scale, ease of use, and reference checks. Conceptually we have to take the easily quantified elements, and supplement it with measurable qualitative factors. Some of this work was done on-site, some of it was done remotely, but at the expense of making this discussion too verbose, I’ll focus on our services related to evaluating their finalists.
One of the aspects that stood out throughout the evaluation process was the customer’s dissatisfaction with one of the vendor’s sales strategy. Instead of trying to accommodate the customer’s request for a quantifiable approach, the vendor kept pushing for informal meetings and canned presentations instead of precisely following product demonstrations scripts that were to be scored and evaluated.
Instead of actually trying to understand that the customer is making a quantified evaluation and selection, the impression was that the vendor focused on taking the executive team out golfing, to expensive restaurants, or to conferences at exotic locations. While flattering and entertaining, they ultimately have negligible effect on how the decision was being made. In fact, it had the opposite effect.
When it came time to actually make their recommendation, the customer used our decision support software as the repository for their analysis. This consisted of a holistic view of not only what the vendor can do and what they showed they can do – but also looked at quality of support, references, and the other qualitative aspects discussed above. Using our methodology, they not only were able to make a quantified recommendation of their final selection, but conduct sensitivity analyses to determine how the shortlisted vendors would perform if needs changed over time, or if there was a degree of uncertainty in how they set their priorities.
The moral of the story is – listen to what the customer wants; and if they are taking a formal approach to the software selection – participate as much as possible. If that means filling our a few more RFIs or actually preparing for product demos in compliance with customer scripts – by all means do it. It could be the difference between winning and losing. It’s not a waste of time, and even if your product doesn’t look as good as the competition – at least you’re showing a willingness to help, and customers always quantify that positively when making their assessments.