Evaluate How They Sell

There’s a saying “how you sell is how you solve.” It’s true: how a firm treats you during the sales process is an accurate indicator of how well they’ll deliver for you if you hire them. Or put another way, you will never be treated better than when they’re trying to sell you. So if you’re uncertain about them as a firm or about how you’re being treated before you sign on the dotted line, pause — because it’s downhill from here, my friend.

Having said that, pay attention to how they interact with you and comport themselves during the sales process. Some red flags:

  • More sales people than customers in a meeting.
  • Sales team members on their phones or doing other work in the meetings.
  • Inability to go “off book” and deviate from their slides or agenda to make the meeting valuable.
  • High-pressure sales tactics (e.g., pushing for an end of quarter signature with deep discounts that expire if you don’t sign).

I’m not naive, I get it: software firms are often publicly traded and have made promises to Wall Street about performance, but ultimately, if that’s their North Star and they’re willing to sour the relationship to stick to it, you need to think long and hard about whether they’re a good partner or not.

Don’t Let Perfect Be the Enemy of Good

Anyone who’s been in corporate IT for any length of time will tell you, a “B-” software product implemented “A+” is better than an “A+” software product implemented in a “B-” fashion. Yet, all too often we forget this and look for the software product that will meet 100 percent of our needs.

Here’s the truth: no software meets 100 percent of our needs. I always say, software will — in the best case — meet 75 percent of your needs. So flip the script and think about what 25 percent of missed needs can you live with? That’s the real test of a fit for purpose software product. And if that means you get less than what was your ultimate list of requirements, but you get stuff done, that’s better than dragging the decision out over 12 months, 18 months — or never making it at all.

It Will Never Be a Perfect Process

As I said at the top, every organization is different and every software decision is, of course, unique. But hopefully the advice I’ve given here helps you think about how you could do things better the next time you have to select software and helps your organization realize more value for the time and money they spend.