The popular topics of conversation with brand leaders are often the digital tools and vendors we work with.  It’s almost a given when you have more than 3 in a room together.  Here are a few vendor warning signs that have come up over the years in conversation:

1. They Know Your Business Better Than You Do

I’m amazed at the claims I sometimes see and hear. No vendor can truly know that their product will save me thousands of dollars. It’s how I use it and what I do with their product or services that will make the difference.  It’s also a bold claim because they don’t know why we do the things we do necessarily. They may not even know what vendors you are currently using.  It’s a claim that is orchestrated to get my attention but instead comes across as unknowledgeable, cold and incorrect.

  • Companies should be transparent about their policies, processes and procedures. This helps avoid anxiety and concerns from sales teams.  If you lived off commission you would be anxious too, right?
  • Vendors should take the time to get to know you and your business to understand the “why” and the “how” so they can better position their product / service for your needs.  If they are not willing to partner with you on understanding your business first, you may be in for a painful future relationship.

2. The Hostile Attack

Go ahead and laugh, but this is true and not just from one experience.  I have had multiple e-mails or phone exchanges that sound like a bad break-up.  Some of the exchanges are quasi-hostile in nature from the sheer disappointment of my disinterest in continuing to learn more.  A fairly recent exchange related to an internal corporate process and their claim (out of frustration) that “they have never seen a company go through a process like this before.”  Really? Well, that’s our process.  It was designed for a reason and it works for us. I’m not forcing you to go through it.  The other vendors didn’t seem to have a problem.

  • Vendors should understand it’s business and not personal.  We have business ethics rules, process requirements and reasons for ensuring we have fully explored every option before engaging with a new vendor.  Persistence, impatience and temper-tantrums do not build a great working relationship.

3. The Stalker

You know this type.  You’re busy. Returning phone calls and e-mails of every single sales contact would soak up hours a day.  Calling daily from a blocked number and sending multiple unreturned emails sometimes does not communicate to a potential vendor that you are disinterested unfortunately.  I have even had someone hunt me down in the building because they were there to see someone in another department.

4. The “Turn & Burn”

The vendor brings in 24 people to your company to demo, present and answer your questions.  However, after the contract is signed they forget your name. Getting support is a nightmare and getting their attention is next to impossible.  This is particularly a problem sometimes with newer vendors that do not have a large staff, vendors that are having financial difficulties or vendors going through a merger or acquisition process.

  • The best vendors know it’s about the relationship. Companies should do their best to try to identify these types early on in their process.  Overly aggressive or vendors with bad reputations should be avoided.  Vendors should do their best to show why their support and follow-up is the best part about their product or service.

5. They Have Magical Products & Services That Do Everything

It slices, it dices and it will even do your laundry.  Nobody and no product can do everything and do it well.  Vendors have a way of overstating their capabilities and inflating promises that their product or services can sometimes not live up to. An adjacent and even worse issue is when a potential vendor may claim “we can work to make that integrate,” “we can add that” or “that’s in our roadmap.” If I can’t see it, touch it, test it and smell it – I’m not interested today.  It might be great down the road, but that’s down the road. I’m here today with needs. Hoping for a roadmap or paying for something that should be out of the box can be problematic.

  • Companies should know the strengths of the tools and services before you meet with the vendor. Companies may have overlapping capabilities with other vendors…and that is ok.  Companies should do their research and know their needs and key requirements from vendors in advance.
  • Vendors should be up front on where their product shines and what needs work. Companies appreciate candor and honesty as it builds trust that may make the difference between one vendor selected over another.

6. The RFP Process Feels Like You Are Buying A Car

I once had a vendor call me up and say “Dude…you gotta do this.”   It sounded like he was having a bad flashback to a frat party in college.  The sleaze factor is alive and well.  Also, high pressure tactics to make a deal rarely work.  If anything, it communicates either how desperate the vendor is to make a deal or what you can get in 3 months.  If a vendor can offer it today, they can offer it in 3 months. It’s not like companies employ an RFP process for fun.  They hate it as much as the vendors do. Everyone wants it to end.

  • Vendors should approach customers and potential customers in a way that does not turn them off or become offensive.  They should also recognize high pressure tactics may offer a few quick wins but over the long haul will not help develop a healthy business.
  • Companies should “go with their gut” and walk away from anything that doesn’t feel right.  There are almost always other options.

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