You have decided to find new software, a new marketing agency, a new travel insurance solution, or whatever the case may be. Maybe a company has approached you with a new idea, service, or offering. How do you go about making a decision? Is the best solution the cheapest or most expensive? Is it best to go with what everyone else is doing? Following are some suggestions on how to proceed based on what I’ve seen by being on both sides of the equation.
While running a sales and marketing division, I typically ran into two scenarios: we either needed to find a better way of doing what we were doing (pain) or someone introduced us to an entirely new concept (opportunity). Identifying and understanding which scenario we were dealing with was step one due to a variety of factors, but either one usually boils down to a cost/benefit or return on investment (ROI) analysis. Let’s take an in-depth look at the two scenarios – pain and opportunity – and discuss some possible approaches to each.
Scenario One – Pain
We’ve all been there – something about a product, service or technology no longer works. While on the surface it can often seem to be the actual deliverable, many times there are more subtle instances that cause us to seek alternatives. These instances can be personalities, response times, or increasing costs. The bottom line is that there is pain associated with this supplier, so the replacement process goes into motion.
This scenario is usually the easier of the two – you know what you’re currently getting (or not), what you’re paying, and the specific things you are unhappy with. The way to approach it is to define the list of pain and seek other potential suppliers about those specific things. Ask open questions, but stay focused. This will enable you to shorten the list based on the supplier’s responses, without getting into a full blown “THIS IS EVERYTHING WE CAN DO FOR YOU FOR HALF THE COST” discussion. Be wary of those suppliers that only want to introduce anything and everything, unless they specifically address the pain that is causing you to seek a better solution. This keeps emotion down and critical thinking involved.
Scenario Two – Opportunity
As vacation rental managers, we’re often introduced to cool, new, shiny things at conferences, through direct marketing and by word of mouth. The conversation in your head typically goes something like, “COOL. WE HAVE TO HAVE THAT. Wait, how much is it?” You then begin the internal debate that includes questions such as: Is it worth it? Do I have the budget set aside (usually not)? How can I justify it?
This scenario typically requires more openness than Scenario One. Let’s say there are two companies that provide similar whiz bangs, and you set up a conversation with each. Look for two distinct approaches – the first one focuses on you and your business, how you do things, and looks for opportunities where either their product or service will drive value. Let them ask questions and answer honestly and you’ll quickly gain a sense for how much they care. The opposite approach is similar to the Scenario One conversation and is sometimes known as the “show up and throw up” approach. This supplier has gone to great lengths to make sure they have all of the latest and greatest features, that they know and understand what is best for you, without asking a single question. They simply don’t need to.
Making a Decision
So how do you make a decision? In my experience, you stop looking for a supplier and instead focus on creating a relationship where everyone has a vested interest in the success of each other. In Scenario One, if a supplier will honestly and openly answer the questions that address the pain, I’m more apt to trust them. In Scenario Two, they demonstrate they care by showing that they are interested in my business and how we do things. They care enough to make sure that their whiz bang will provide value to my business by asking intelligent questions. Care and trust are two foundations of a great relationship, and that’s where the focus should be. Rather like dating, no?
By: Andrew Vick, President, Vick and Company