By: Kelsey Braak, Shayan Ahmad, Maddie Issleib, Claire Garvin, Eric Speer, Matt Ripple, Chintan Patel, and Andrew Koultourides
The West Monroe team has worked with nearly 300 software vendors spanning industries and services. We partner with the clients to deliver solutions that alleviate operational pain, automate manual processes, and augment existing functionality, all the while maintaining an agnostic approach to the vendor selection process. Our agnostic approach to software selections follows a proven methodology in which we reach out to vendors, create and distribute an RFI/RFP, facilitate demonstrations, and assist in scoring to provide a holistic recommendation to the client. Throughout our experiences, we’ve worked with the clients to facilitate the process and guide them toward informed decisions. Along the way, we’ve identified a set of best practices that set the most successful vendors apart from their competition.
There are two key elements to getting the relationship between a potential client and your team off to a good start.
- Communication: The first element to any successful relationship is communication. It is essential in building trust right off the bat. Assume you’re being considered alongside other competitors and pay attention to the small things: show up on time, follow the directions, pay attention to time zones, include original respondents on emails, etc. One behavior that builds credibility from the get go is to speak the same language as the client. The more you understand the client’s business, the more the client will feel like this isn’t just another sales pitch.
- Identify the Problem: The second element is gaining a true understanding of the client’s problem. Once we have a mutual understanding of the problem, we are better able to work together to identify if your solution best fits the client’s needs. Often, the client is simultaneously working to identify needs and a desired state, so be prepared to manage some level of ambiguity. Being flexible goes a long way. Ask questions about what the clients are looking for so you can show your ability to help them solve for their most pressing issues.
Typically, clients will begin by issuing an RFI/RFP with detailed requirements to understand each vendor’s solution offerings. To kick off the process, immediately reply with your intent to respond to the RFI/RFP. This simple communication significantly helps the facilitators with coordinating demos as well as vendor research. Once you have reviewed the RFI/RFP, there are a few things we recommend considering:
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions. We will tell you everything the client is comfortable with sharing regarding proprietary systems.
- Formatting your response matters. Deviation from the directions outlined in the RFI/RFP makes your response stand out negatively.
- It’s all about the details. Provide more context even if it means adding an attachment for further information.
- Expand beyond marketing language. The clients and our team have researched your solution and have probably seen the marketing on your website. Exclusively reiterating the same language shows little effort in your response and the clients desire a response tailored to them.
A lot of time and effort goes into creating an RFI/RFP and it is the first step of the process, so do your part by going the extra mile when responding to one. Start the relationship off on the right foot, pay attention to details and understand how your solution solves our problem.
Congratulations! You’ve made it to a round of demonstrations. Depending on the RFI/RFP, there may be multiple demo rounds (virtual or onsite). Demonstrations are a vital part of the selection process one of the most memorable components of the process. Below are some key expectations from the clients:
- Coordinate with your team to ensure alignment and consistent messaging. It’s paramount to come across as unified and well-informed as a team.
- Show effort to understand the client’s current state processes in advance. Don’t be afraid to ask clarifying questions to craft better responses.
- Tailor your demonstration to be interactive and engage the audience.
- Personalize the demonstration environment whenever possible. Adding client branding or other personalization helps the team visualize using the product and positively impacts scoring.
- Ensure all required technology is downloaded and tested in advance of the demonstration.
- Live demonstration of product functionality always trumps a flow of screenshots.
- Do your best to provide estimates and state assumptions when addressing more complex questions. Avoid using, “it depends,” in your responses.
- Highlight personal experiences and best practices of your solution. Provide more than what can be found publicly in your marketing materials.
- If provided a test script, follow it. Your ability to drive the demonstration while staying on track and within scope is critical.
After all demonstrations are complete, our team sits down with the client to collaboratively score the vendors on criteria such as: cost, risk, implementation timeline, product roadmap, client references, and functional and technical capabilities. Here are some of our tips to prevent lower scores :
- Err on the side of providing more detail than less. If a cost figure includes aggregated fees, break them out individually. If there are tiers of pricing, include them so cost models can be adjusted accordingly.
- For an implementation timeline, state assumptions, and include where the client’s resources would be needed.
- Include case studies of where you have been successful and relevant client references.
- Circumventing the process by directly contacting the client, providing feedback about other vendors, or being inconsistent in messaging throughout the process will ultimately hinder your chances at partnering with the client.
All in all, provide as much detail and include assumptions to give yourself the best score possible.
From start to finish, everything is taken into consideration. No matter how small it may seem, a single detail could be what tips the scale. Although these insights will not guarantee a selection, we hope they will limit avoidable errors and set the foundation for a rewarding long-term relationship with the client.