The Sell: Vendors, Trust and Transparency

Meeting with vendors always makes me apprehensive, and the first few minutes of any interaction with a vendor will determine how I view them for a very long time. I have a tendency to thin slice sales pitches, and if things seem "off" then I am very quick to close the door on that vendor and her products. So what works and doesn't work in a vendor's pitch to this buyer?

1. Do make an effort to know my network and my organization. You may not know what my particular library uses as its ILS, but you should know that libraries maintain a large database of records. It's even better if you go to my website and learn about my organization — what are our numbers and how do we compare to similar organizations. And if you make an effort to "know" libraries then I'll really be happy.

Don't tell me that you're well suited to handle my needs just because you sold to the local school district. Our needs and our budget constraints are very different.

2. Do tell me a lot about your product and how it will assist me in getting more done for less money/time/effort.  Citing a case study and offering customer references is always a plus. But stick to my needs.

Don't show me other products that your company sells and try to scare me into using those, too. I had a vendor recently who was showing me a very good backup solution but he started his sales pitch by telling me about his firewall product and tried to scare me with talk of viruses and SQL script injections. Stick to my needs, not your sales wants.

3. Do tell me exactly what I can expect to pay, including any service agreements or subscriptions.

Don't give me an equipment price one week and then a contract for maintenance after I've received approval for the hardware cost. I need to know all the details up front.

4. Do give me valid reasons for price differences. I don't mind paying more for quality, but I do mind paying more for brand or bling.

Don't belittle competitors without valid reasons. If another company that has a good reputation is offering its services for less then be prepared to explain why your product or service is more expensive, and please do that without trying to make me feel as if I am the only person in the entire world who would question why your service is so much better.

5. Do try to sell me a product or service that is properly sized for my organization.

Don't try to sell me something by saying that "this is what Giant XYZ corp is using." My organization isn't that big and we certainly don't have deep pockets. Conversely, don't try to sell me something that you sold to a one-location org. Know your customer, and your customer is me.

6. Do know that we are a tax-payer funded non-profit. We must account for every penny. And pennies are rare right now.

Don't make me ask for the non-profit discount. I'll never forgive you if I find out there was a discount available "if only I had asked."

7. Do respond to my silly and repetitive questions. I'm an INTJ and I deal with many issues every day — sometimes I forget technicalities.

Don't make me feel stupid for asking a question. Any question. No matter how stupid it really is.

8. Be transparent.

Don't make me find something out by myself.

Obviously there are many other issues that impact purchasing decisions, but these eight things play a very large role in whether or not I choose to do business with a vendor. Perhaps the unsaid word in all of this is trust. I need to trust my vendor. Your criteria may differ.

1 thought on “The Sell: Vendors, Trust and Transparency

  1. Donna Brumby

    Good comments, Mike. A public librarian dealing w/ vendors requires an approach slightly skewed from the rest of one’s life. I’d just add something about not getting suckered into becoming an unpaid product developer for vendors. You can end up spending enormous amounts of time testing products and offering suggestions for improvement!

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