- The technology choices available to sales and marketing leaders continue to grow and to cut across categories
- Many orgs purchase tech based on prior experience or using a tactical approach, with little thought to data integration, business value or user impact
- Orgs that use a consistent vendor evaluation/selection process that incorporates a decision model are more likely to achieve ROI and value objectives
When it comes to making sales technology decisions, even the most sophisticated organizations can sometimes defer to the HiPPO. What’s a HiPPO, you ask? That’s the highest paid person’s opinion – which usually amounts to a senior executive saying something like “We used xyz company for that solution in my last job, so let’s use them here too.” Or even worse, “I have a connection with that company/board/CXO – let’s use them here.” Not exactly an analysis-driven basis for decisionmaking, especially when those decisions can have major implications for sales productivity.
Using the right approach for selecting a vendor for a particular solution can be a daunting task. The best way to overcome the HiPPO approach (or any other emotionally driven approach) is with a consistent evaluation and selection process that incorporates a decision model based on data.
Phase 1, evaluation, usually starts before any vendors have been contacted and includes the following steps:
- Education. Gather input from analyst reports, white papers, journal articles and peer companies.
- Objectives and metrics. Define the business and productivity value of the technology in specific terms, then confirm these with key stakeholders and sales leadership.
- Base decision model. Identify the current and future elements that will be used to evaluate the vendors. Organize these into logical groups and subgroups.
- Model weighting. Assign a weight to each item on the decision model (e.g. group, subgroup and element) to indicate its relative impact on the organization’s ability to achieve the objectives and metrics.
You are now ready to proceed to phase 2, vendor selection, which includes the following steps:
- Vendor grouping. List the potential vendors, and group them into three categories: “likely fit,” “uncertain” and “unlikely fit.”
- Analyst review. If available, contact an analyst who covers the vendor’s space and confirm that the vendors are correctly grouped and that the objectives and weightings are appropriate.
- Request for information (RFI). Gather more detailed information by sending an RFI to each vendor deemed viable. Include a request for customer references, as well as structured questions that correlate with the decision model.
- Vendor meetings. After a review of RFI responses, meet with each vendor for a presentation and demonstration. Provide each vendor with a list of structured use cases for its demonstration.
- Reference check. Verify vendor responses by contacting the customer references provided. Use a discussion guide to structure these conversations and capture feedback for communication to the decision team.
- Model update. Review the decision model’s selection hierarchy and relative weights. Make changes if needed to reflect new learnings from vendor meetings, demonstrations or references. Be sure to track changes to documents and get final review and approval from executive sponsors.
- Vendor evaluation. Enter the scores and rationale for each vendor in the decision model and stack rank the results.
- Results review. The decision model serves as a guide to the final selection. However, it requires a final review to understand and address factors that may have influenced the outcomes, such as a weighting of variables that unintentionally favors one vendor’s solution.
Technology is one of the top three expenses for sales organizations, right behind personnel costs, such as salary and compensation, and hiring, onboarding and training sales reps. Organizations that use a consistent vendor evaluation and selection process that incorporates a decision model are much more likely than others to achieve ROI and receive their expected benefits from technology investments.