Being an IT leader you get lots of opportunities to work with vendors. Sometimes you welcome the calls, most of the times you don’t. This episode I’ll go over some tips to help you work with vendors and make the best choice when deciding which vendor go with. Vendor management is an important aspect of leading a technology team.
They usually are giving way gifts in exchange for a scan of your badge. Remember nothing is ever free. If they scan your badge, you can bet they will email you and most likely call you. Think about the value of that fidget spinner vs your time when you go to get your badge scanned. My rule is, if you’re not at least somewhat interested in the product, don’t even approach the table. The swag may look enticing, but you’ll just be wasting your time and the vendor’s time. Stay away unless its legitimately a product you’re interested in.
What to do when vendors cold call you? That’s tough, I usually don’t answer the phone if I don’t know who is calling me, but every now and again one gets through. For starters, don’t be rude, but also don’t be too open either. Be brief and have them get to the point. If its a service or product that you 100% know you aren’t interested in and will not be interested in anytime soon, then politely say “no thank you, we’re not interested, please remove me from you call list.” Now, if they don’t take no for an answer, I usually say it again, and then say “goodbye” and hang up. Try to always be as nice as possible, but don’t continue a conversation that’s going no where.
If you might be interested in the product or service, but not right now, tell them. Say, “hey, I can’t talk now, and I’m not ready to move on anything right now, but feel free to call me back in XXX months and maybe things will be better for us to talk.” I usually go with 4 months as a standard. This gets you off the phone, and doesn’t burn any bridges incase this is a service or product you might be interested in in the future.
If you are interested in the product and have time to take the call, then do so. Talk it out, ask questions, but never commit to anything more than another call. Schedule the next call on your terms, and ask for information you can read or research prior to that next call. I usually don’t ask for references at this point, I wait until its time for a quote or SOW before I ask for references. Its best not to get ahead of yourself. Before the next call, be sure you have researched the company, product/service and checked for reviews and complaints.
If you cold call a vendor, the vendor should feel like they’ve won the lottery. But honestly, they rarely act that way. Be mindful of their time. Don’t expect to get all of the information you’re looking for on that call. The initial call is to make a request, and expect to get the information on a followup call/email/meeting, etc. If you’re looking for a product such as a software suite or cloud solution, ask to schedule a demo. Feel free to ask about pricing, but understand that they are only giving you their first offer at this point. Discounts could be in the works when you get to the negotiation stages. Don’t show your hand too much on these calls, I never tell what my max budget is or even what range I’m looking to spend until I’ve seen a demo.
Be sure you’ve done some research prior to calling, don’t expect to get 100% of the info on the call. Its a better use of your time and the vendors if you’ve read about them, written down some questions and have a couple of dates/times in mind for follow up meetings and calls. Do your homework before sending that email or picking up the phone. It will save an enormous about of time.
This is the point where you should probably make a note to listen to the “Art of Negotiation” show once you’ve finished this episode. Below are a few things you need to do before deciding between vendors:
I hope you enjoyed this episode and if you have any questions feel free to hit me up on twitter @johnrouda or using Speak Pipe (the “leave a voicemail” link on the side). I’m open to taking any questions on leadership or management. I’ll either email you back a response or answer your question on an upcoming podcast.
(must listen to get the real value out of this episode)
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