“The customer is always right” is one of those old school sayings that was used when a sales rep was trying to get a customer to buy their product. This sales tactic is probably still used in some industries but would not work where there is a complex product such as distribution ERP software.
With distribution software, the relationship between the customer and vendor is more like dating, as the goal is to find a solution that is the best fit for both parties. This does not mean that vendor and customer have to become best friends or have the same likes in common, but that they have to be in the relationship with the same goal in mind. Does the distribution system fit and can the two parties work together?
Assessment of the Parties: Deciding to go on the First Date
To make sure the first date is not a total bust, the customer should perform a detailed search on the software vendor and their product to determine if it might be a suitable fit. A good vendor will also perform a search to try and learn as much as they can about the customer to determine if they could provide what the customer might need. At this stage, the assessment should only allow both parties to decide if they want to go to the next step or “first date”.
Initial Discussions: First Date
Just like many first dates, the initial discussion is not easy for either party. It can be difficult for customers to open up about their business, as old school tactics have made consumers wary of sales people. However it is important to have open discussions, as this is where both parties should start to determine if there is any reason why they should continue. As a customer seeking a solution, make sure you ask questions that will allow you to determine if you want to continue the process. No sense in having further meetings/communication if you can determine during this “first date” that there are no commonalities. At any time during this initial discussion, either party should speak up if they determine there is not a good fit.
Even without seeing the software, the questions you ask the vendor should allow you to determine if you can see your company working with them for many years to come. A good vendor will spend time trying to understand the needs of the customer in terms of functionality, business processes and cultural fit. If any of these do not match, they should speak up.
As in dating, both parties sometimes hope that the relationship will get better and end up wasting precious time “courting” even though they are confident that the relationship will go nowhere. It is to the benefit of both parties to part ways as soon as possible if it is not going to work. No sense in wasting each other’s time.
You have been on the “first date” and have learnt a lot about each other but there is still a lot to learn. This stage is where you should get down into the details so you can feel confident this is the right solution/vendor for your company. Further discussions, questions, answers and demonstrations will all need to be had during this stage in the relationship. Both parties need to make sure the other party is right for them.
As in building a relationship through dating, the end goal and result is the “proposal”. After both parties have had enough time to learn and understand about each other, the proposal is the culminating action that is used as the agreement between the two parties in deciding they want to work together.
Remember that your evaluation of new distribution ERP software is a two way street. Both parties must be confident in the process and follow it for the best results.