How Donald Trump Would Evaluate Vendors?

I often get asked the question of how to best evaluate two vendors especially when I am out in a sales role for Silverlink.  People often see so many marketing pitches that they start to look the same.  Some people just want to do an RFP which often ends up just focusing on the cost lever.  Others get so focused on “cute” demonstrations.  What really matters is how they perform in a real scenario and what results they achieve.

I’ve talked about this for years after a client of mine did this with two vendors years ago (see old post from 2008), but after watching the Apprentice the other night, it helped me frame this.  Donald Trump has this great way of sorting thru lots of smart people.  It’s not perfect since I know as an INTJ that it probably wouldn’t be the best forum for me, but it’s a great analogy.

The resume is the marketing pitch.

The interview is the demonstration.

You can hit both of those out of the park, but it still may not be the right fit.  The question is how does the candidate work with others.  How does the candidate perform under pressure?  What are the end results?  How do they perform over time?

It’s obviously hard to duplicate that in a corporate world, but I always encourage our clients to put us head-to-head with the competition.

  1. Identify a challenge (e.g., increase use of mail order pharmacy).
  2. Ask each company to design their best solution.  (Focus on what questions they come back to you with…that tells you a lot.)
  3. Pull your target population and randomize them into one group for each competitor plus a control group.
  4. Make a few last minute changes to your program (which is reality) to see how the company deals with that.
  5. Have the company implement the solution.
  6. Look at their execution process.
  7. Look at their reporting.
  8. Compare their outcomes with the competition and against a control group.
  9. Ask them for recommendations on how to improve the program.

Now you’re at a point to make an informed decision.  You’ve seen how their team works.  You understand their process.  You’ve seen actual results.  You’ve seen how they think.

The money spent to get this decision right and the learnings you will have will pay for itself in the long term.  Everyone is always short staffed, but it’s worth it.

At the end of the day (IMHO), you want to find partners not vendors.  A few key partners that understand your business, challenge your assumptions, and improve your outcomes is always better than a lowest cost player.  Focus on substance not glitz!

(And another hint I often tell people is to do reference checks with people who work with the company on a day-to-day basis not the executives who may be removed from the first hand experience.)

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