Working With IT Vendors – 5 Useful Tips

In my last position I received so many phone calls on a daily basis from vendors that I actually changed my voicemail to say “Hi! You’ve reached Kevin Pashuk. If this is an unsolicited call from a vendor, please don’t expect a return call.”

I can’t say I’m proud I did that, but it certainly reduced the call volume.

Now before you rush out and change your voicemail message, you need to take a moment and consider the role vendors have in your ecosystem.

Let me fill you in on a secret.  In a former life… long ago… I was… a vendor. (Why do I feel I’m in a 12 step program?)  I have a bit of experience on the dark side. 

As a CIO, you can’t exist without vendors. While they are not all great, as a CIO, you have a lot to do with establishing good vendor relationships.

Here are five things to consider when working with them:

  1.  Some vendors can be annoying, overbearing, obnoxious, and a general PITA. (If you don’t know what a PITA is… Google it.)  That’s because the newbies get sales training that tells them this is effective.  As CIOs, we know it’s not.  
    Most of the time they are annoying because they are selling a product that you don’t need or want.

    As a CIO, you should be aware of which companies can help you deliver your mandate. Make sure you find ways to be aware of the marketplace.  This could be trade press publications, or at shows like MES.  I personally find these useful since I’ve allocated specific time to meet vendors, and I am there by choice.
  2. Recognize that the sales folk are doing their job, just like you are doing yours. But recognize that their job (despite all the talk of ‘solutions’) is to move as much product as possible. Don’t be offended if they ask you to buy something.  You get a salary, and a pension, and vacation days.  Most sales representatives make the greater proportion of their income from commission.  They swim in the shark tank of quarterly quotas and commissions. 
  3. Don’t abuse vendors by asking for detailed quotations and proposals for equipment or services you don’t intend to buy. It’s a lot of work to respond to an RFP, or to gather together a detailed quotation on complex equipment.  Make sure that there’s a chance to win the business.
  4. Vendors are a good source of reference information, specialized knowledge and connections to other organizations solving similar problems.  While you can assume the whitepapers may be a bit product biased, I’ve learned much in talking to some of the reference contacts that were provided. Don’t be shy to ask for these things.
  5. Finally, while it’s important to maximize the buying power of your budget, stop the price haggling when it is fair. You don’t need to make the vendor bleed and sell you items at a loss. That is not building partnerships.  That is being abusive.

So instead of complaining about vendors, consider what you will do to identify the vendors you need and work on developing a successful relationship with them.  You need them.  That’s why building relationships with my key vendors is on my ongoing task list.

As for the PITA vendors?  I’m afraid they don’t get much business from me. But I try to be a little less blunt when I tell them no.


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