It’s difficult to trust someone you don’t know with even small tasks. Trusting a new tech vendor with a significant chunk of your business process is even harder.
What if your vendor promises one thing and delivers another? What if you don’t know what the right solution should look like?
You have a lot of voices in your ear when selecting a vendor — budgeting concerns, IT requirements, departmental demands, etc. — so it’s important to cut through the noise and get the information you need without getting sidetracked.
Looking for these six traits before choosing a tech vendor will spare you headaches and ensure you find the best provider for your business:
You need someone who can adapt to your changing business model, not someone who’s trying to sell you a pre-made package. Even if your business provides the same service as hundreds of others, it most likely doesn’t operate exactly like any other. Your company is unique, and your vendor should provide tailored solutions.
Does this vendor have your best interests in mind — or only its own? If the sales team tries harder to peddle extras than to demonstrate the effectiveness of the vendor’s solutions, tread carefully. You want a company interested in keeping you happy long past the initial sale.
Does this vendor know which technology solutions work in your industry? If you have to stop a conversation to tell a salesperson you already tried an option that failed, the vendor might not be up-to-date on the technology your business needs.
Vendors should be able to anticipate problems and offer fast solutions. Ask who else they serve and what kinds of problems they have solved for those companies. Proven results matter.
Your vendor needs to have a detailed plan for supporting your business during the transition, especially if you’re moving to any kind of cloud application. How will your new technology interact with your current systems? What new software or hardware will you need to get up and running? Ask your vendor for a detailed road map outlining steps your business should take, a timeline for their implementation, and the reasons they’re necessary.
Tech support is crucial during the early stages of a relationship with a new vendor. For the first few months of transition, your vendor should provide staff training to your business’s employees and back-end support to your IT department to prevent any serious delays in your operations.
In a perfect world, new tech solutions would integrate seamlessly with existing software. In actuality, after your tech vendor sets up your new product, an unforeseen problem will likely arise. You want your new vendor to deliver solutions, not give you the runaround or try to charge you for “premium” services while you’re helplessly waiting for your new technology to work correctly.
Asking the right questions of your potential vendors is important, but to make the most of your new technology, you should do a little work of your own.
You need to take two important steps before entering into an agreement with a new vendor: research and communicate.
Conduct thorough research on your available options. Learn about potential vendors’ current customers and how those customers feel about their services. If you have contacts at companies working with one of your prospects, reach out and ask how things are going. If you hear that a vendor overpromised and underdelivered, cross it off the list.
Once you start talking specifics with a vendor, clearly communicate your expectations to give your new partner the chance to meet them. Know what you expect, explain the level of service you require, and be as specific as possible about your needs before you sign a contract. If your partnership with a vendor fails because he thought you wanted one thing when you needed another, part of the blame rests on your shoulders.
Relying on a new tech vendor to keep your business running might seem terrifying, but if you ask the right questions, it doesn’t have to be. Be patient, be inquisitive, and explore your options before you make a commitment.
Once you experience the benefits of working with the right vendor, you’ll be glad you put the extra effort into your selection.
Jack Berlin is the founder and president of Accusoft