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Posts Tagged ‘Vendor Selection’

I had a call recently from one of my preferred training partners, letting me know that a proposed project which had been put on hold some months ago was suddenly resurrected, and is now about to kick off. Awesome – I love that!

Sometimes client needs end up on uncomfortably longer-than-expected timetables, right? So, once a vendor-partner has had a helpful conversation to scope out a potential project, and they’ve submitted a proposal, how should they follow up?

50 shades follow up

I am asked this regularly by my partner companies, and here is my standard advice:

  1. Don’t panic. Initiatives, and even responses to inquiries, just get delayed.
  2. Don’t pester. By and large, clients dislike that. The follow-up process shouldn’t be punishment for expressing interest.
  3. Gently inquire as to the status on an occasional (and by this I don’t mean twice-weekly!) basis. Make it a very succinct e-mail or VM – not an extended sales pitch.
  4. For all prospects with whom you hope to develop a good relationship, occasionally forward interesting and value-adding resources and news items relevant to them or their company. No pitch – just, “thought you might like to see this.” It’s a valuable way to stay top-of-mind.
  5. If you’re going to be in the area geographically, offer to meet for coffee or lunch. Not a capabilities presentation. Just talk. And see if you can make connections and introductions for your client within your network.

follow up 2

I was on the vendor side for years, and carried plenty of sales responsibilities over the past 3 decades, so I know the pressure. But you have to take the long view. I cultivated a friendship with one individual whom I got to know a long time ago (2 or 3 companies ago for him!), and with whom I stayed in touch even though there was little or no immediate business. And then, a referral door opened up into a very large new business opportunity. Had I been a high-pressure pest, that likely would never had happened.

Add value. Not pressure.

Here was one client’s take recently: I hate being oversold and told that they can do everything. Trying to hard to get the business. I also don’t want to get 100 calls and emails; my time is precious.”

That’s my take – now, what about yours, training professionals? What do you prefer, or dislike, as far as a follow-up procedure from a vendor? Add your input in the comments so that your vendor-partners can benefit from your advice!

(P.S. From the vendor side of the equation, this input): One helpful piece of feedback from a vendor perspective to clients:  Please respond to the inquiry or follow-up. It is sometimes the case that a vendor puts in a tremendous amount of effort in developing a proposed solution to a stated need. In follow-up the client goes totally silent. The courtesy of a short email, such as “thanks for the follow-up and the proposal it is much appreciated. Priorities have changed slightly I will be back in touch in a few days/weeks/months” would be extremely helpful. Right now we’re seeing a trend toward shorter response cycles for more complex requirements, accompanied by very poor client feedback (or none at all).

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What is the Impactiviti network? It is where Steve Woodruff helps life sciences training professionals get clear on their outsource needs, and get connected to optimal vendor-partners.

This unique “matchmaking” network works so well because Steve also helps training vendors get clear on their message, and get connected to new training clients.

Steve is the eHarmony of the Life Sciences Training community, saving everyone from wasted time and effort.

Working on new training initiatives? Whatever you need, ask Steve!

Our training consultations are free – just ask Steve at steve@stevewoodruff.com.

 

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You’ve got an existing sales force, and they need to be trained in a new therapeutic area (while also training a new sales force at the same time).

How do you build a curriculum to accomplish this?

Here is how one of Impactiviti’s vendor-partners helped a growing client with this challenge:

>> Comprehensive Oncology Training Curriculum case study (single-page download)

curriculum map case study

Reach out to us here at Impactiviti (973-947-7429) for any outsource training needs you have – we’ll be happy to recommend an optimal partner!

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Impactiviti provides vendor-client “matchmaking” services in the life sciences training area, built on a unique trusted referral network model. We consult and provide vendor advice at no charge for life science companies. Contact Steve Woodruff at asksteve@impactiviti.com

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(there is now an addendum at the end of this post – a single question to help you network more effectively with your peers; PLUS a single question for vendors to ask potential clients as they meet/talk with them)

It can be an overwhelming experience to walk into a trade show exhibit hall – so many booths! Wall-to-wall companies! And they all seem to do the same thing!!

Sound familiar?

Some people* even shy away from vendor interaction because the exhibit hall experience can be so overwhelming, and there’s always a sense that you’re a target being sold to.

*(hello, fellow introverts!)

Well, I want to give you one simple tool to cut through the bull and help you find out if a vendor is potentially a right match for you. It’s a straightforward question demanding a straightforward answer. Here it is:

sweetspot
Here’s the thing to understand – vendors are in a dilemma. They’d really prefer to get only the business that’s an optimal “fit” for them, but they feel the pressure to cast a wide net and portray themselves as providers of “this, and that, and the other thing, too.”

Don’t let them. Go directly for the bulls-eye. Gently force each vendor to define their sweet spot with precision. Have them describe the kind of project where their blood pumps fastest. This is also, by the way, where they’ll have the best case studies (follow up by asking for a case study of how/when they did this for another client).

That’s it! With that one question, you can move past the fluff and get to the heart of the matter. And if a vendor insists that they can do 10 things well and they’re the ideal one-stop shop, just smile and move on.

ADDENDUM

>>So, you’re a vendor and you want to go beyond the usual canned question(s) when a potential client walks up (so, what are you looking for? Have you seen our such-and-such?) Here’s what I suggest: break the selling mode by introducing yourself, and then asking, with a sincere heart: “What are your goals for attending this conference, and how can I help you?” Then, be helpful – share your knowledge and advice and contacts. Focus your attention on that person, not on your pitch.

>>As an attendee, sometimes it can be awkward to strike up conversations with your peers. We know the standard questions (so, what do you do? How do you like working at ___company___?) Here’s a different question that I find leads immediately to a deeper level of conversation: “I see that you’re working for ___company___ – can you tell me your 2-minute story? How did you your journey bring you to this position?” Then shut up and listen. Give others a chance to tell their story – it’s always more fascinating than a bare exchange of facts. And it will usually open up a much-longer-than-2-minute discussion!

For my biopharma training clients, I hope to see you at the annual LTEN Conference next week in Phoenix. Want to meet up for coffee or breakfast to brainstorm your vendor needs? Just ping me at stevew@impactiviti.com and we’ll set up a time to meet with you and/or your team!

Additional reading: Conference Effectiveness Training: Don’t Leave Home Without It by Mark Goulston (and including some perspectives from Keith Ferrazzi who will be keynoting at the LTEN conference next week).

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Impactiviti provides vendor-client “matchmaking” services in the life sciences training area. Our business model is built on a unique trusted referral network model.

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I hope to see many of you at the annual LTEN conference in Phoenix next month!

Here’s one thing I hear over and over again each year – the Exhibit Hall is overwhelming!! So many vendors, and so many messages sound the same….where do I begin?

I can help.

One of the things I love to do during the conference is meet up with training colleagues, chat with you about your upcoming challenges, and then guide you to the optimal vendors in the exhibit hall. That makes your networking efforts much more productive.

That’s what Impactiviti is all about. Personalized “matchmaking”of clients and vendors. This is my 19th LTEN/SPBT/NSPST conference, so by now I should have a pretty good idea how to advise you in your vendor selection process!

If you’re interested, just shoot me an e-mail (asksteve@impactiviti.com) and we’ll set up a time during the conference to meet and make targeted introductions. Don’t wait – LTEN is just around the corner!

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over capacityPeople sometimes ask me how I determine whether a particular vendor is a good fit for a specific client/project.

One of the factors I consider is capacity – does the vendor have the bandwidth and talent and structure to do this particular project well?

Vendors have a hard time saying “No” to clients even when they know they’re about to overload their capacity – it stems from a fear of both losing face, and losing business. But this is where high-risk-of-failure starts to enter into the equation.

I encourage vendor/partners, particularly those with whom I do a Clarity Therapy session, to target their business development efforts at their capacity sweet spot. For instance, one of my partners is a great choice for niche product launches – but would be overwhelmed by a large launch. So, it doesn’t make sense for them to target those opportunities. Some of my solo consultant partners stand a much better chance at succeeding with emerging biotechs than trying to compete on a very un-level playing field with bigger providers for the business of Top 5 Pharma companies.

Here are some capacity questions to consider:

1. How much of this work will need to be outsourced to others? Outsourcing isn’t always bad – in many cases where specific domains of expertise are needed, it’s unavoidable – but a complex and multi-faceted project may demand a supplier with a higher internal staffing level just to manage the many moving parts. On the other hand, for more limited projects, that may be unnecessary overhead.

2. Does this project require dedicated staff from the vendor (especially dedicated project management)? Some work can be juggled successfully without a more focused team, but some projects require a fixed amount of ongoing bandwidth. Find out in advance if that is the case.

3. Does this vendor have the capacity NOW for this project? Last year’s success with a similar project does not guarantee this year’s success if the vendor is already loaded up with other work.

4. Am I giving this vendor too much work? One client can overload a vendor such that their performance degrades – and, can put that vendor in a dangerous position of being too dependent on a single client for their financial health. I have seen this latter scenario play out time and again – no vendor should have a single client providing more than a third of their revenue.

5. Is this the right KIND of vendor for this project? A marketing agency may not be a great choice for a given training project, because their staffing and processes doesn’t match up to the requirements. A training agency doesn’t always have the bandwidth and expertise to develop software well. A consultant may do a fine job on a curriculum map, but may be the wrong choice for a courseware build-out. Both sides have to be realistic about where the sweet spot is – and isn’t.

What has been your experience (both good and bad) with vendor capacity?

photo credit: 96dpi via photopincc

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AvoidYou remember how, in the schoolyard, certain people were so difficult to be around that you just began to avoid them?

That still happens. In client-vendor relationships. And sometimes, it’s the client company that is poisoning the relationship.

Why do certain vendors begin to have an allergic reaction to specific clients, and start to back away?

Here are the main issues I’ve seen:

  1. Hostile Attitude“We’re the client, we have the money, and you’re our servant.” This disrespectful and arrogant posture is a formula for future failure. It ensures that only the most desperate yes-vendors do work for a client-with-attitude.
  2. Non-Communication – Vendors that don’t get clear instructions and updates during a proposal process – or, that don’t even get a notice or explanation once a bid has been awarded to someone else – often decline the next “opportunity” to be frustrated by the prospective client.
  3. Convoluted Process – This usually occurs when Procurement drives the outsourcing bus. Process moves from being a help to being an entangling and confusing hindrance.
  4. Feeling Used – When a vendor feels like they’ve gone through a time-consuming and expensive process of bidding on a project that basically goes to an incumbent (maybe with a few “borrowed” ideas from other proposals), that vendor concludes that they don’t have a fair shot at gaining the work. Hence – a hesitancy to invest time in future work where they might actually be the best choice.

Not all of these things can be changed by training professionals seeking outsource suppliers, and there isn’t always a bad motive at the core of each difficult client-vendor relationship. But these are some warning signs.

Just as clients choose vendors, vendors also choose clients.

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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