Maximize Return on Investment
- Be the Customer! Quality providers serve the needs of their customers. As the customer, set clear expectations and manage to those expectations. Approach the purchasing process with the mindset that a provider is lucky to have you as a customer, not vice versa. Be transparent with your needs and ask the questions that concern you before signing the contract.
- Know What You Need! Identifying what you need can save you time and money. Providers often offer multiple services that align well together. Often times, bundling those services can be a cost savings. But, ONLY if you need everything in the bundle! Prior to sending off the request for proposal, take the time to plan your needs and set clear criteria for how you will fill that need. Doing this will empower you, as the customer, to lead the sales process and make sound decisions.
- Use the RFP Process As A Group Brainstorm! What if you could have all of the top providers of a product or service sitting in your conference room brainstorming about the best solution to fill your need? You would come out with the best idea, right? Through an effective RFP process, you can do just that! Using an RFP process to invite multiple providers to provide solutions to a clearly articulated outcome is an efficient way to leverage the knowledge within the market. Often, in creating an RFP, it is easy to get swallowed up into wanting to define the solution, rather than the outcome. However, the customer typically is not the most qualified to create a solution and we find providers to deliver on an ineffective solution. Take the best ideas, choose the provider(s) that are a great fit for your team and work creatively to reach your outcomes.
- Understand the Contract! Before signing on the dotted line, it is vital to know exactly what you are signing up for. Does the contract offer a performance clause that allows you as the customer to cancel if defined outcomes are not being met? Does the scope of work and/or outcomes clearly define the purpose for the contract? Do you know what your total expenditure will be? And, does the contract period align with the goals you have set? Contract negotiation can be challenging. Take the extra time to ask questions in order to ensure you have made the purchase you intended.
- AutoRenew – Friend or Foe? What happens when an agreement is on AutoRenew? It renews automatically! Using this feature for items such as your website domains, your parent communication system or anything that you use frequently and have no plans to change is a great way to ensure that you do not experience unnecessary interruptions. Using this feature for anything else can result in maintaining a product or service that no longer has value. For all purchases, establish an implementation plan. Having this plan will allow you to maximize any prepaid discounts that fit the plan or likewise help to avoid unnecessary expenditures as you “test” a plan. Developing a plan for managing the effectiveness of any purchase, including criteria for which to measure such effectiveness against your anticipated outcomes, must be developed for each purchase. The data from this plan will allow for smart decisions to be made in the future.
- Purchasing Should Not Be A Habit! Providers will often reference the sales process as changing the purchasing habits of a consumer. The value in changing habits to meet a product or service for them is that you will develop a “habit” using their product. While developing habits in process, evaluation, decision-making etc. is a necessity to good purchasing, developing habits in the providers can limit the outcomes achieved. Establishing protocols for reevaluating a process and the contracts around that process force the behavior of also taking time to reestablish outcomes. It in not necessary to change providers each time you go through a request for proposal process or evaluate your goals. It is necessary to question as to whether your needs are being met. The best providers will grow with you, inspire additional growth and welcome the opportunity to prove they are the best fit.
- References Go Beyond Paper! References should be a part of every purchase process but not just as an item on the checklist. It can be assumed that any reference listed for a provider will provide positive feedback if asked how they like working with the provider. Otherwise, why would they be listed? The key to using references to your advantage is developing very specific questions regarding process that you may have concern about. Using references to better understand approach, test the implementation of the proposed process, gauge the flexibility and drive for growth and any other concern you have had related to a process, is valuable. Yes, the reference may be caught off guard by your question. This allows for truthful answers, building confidence in the reference. Using the review system on this website is another great reference check. Insight from peers that share similar values and face similar challenges carries a great amount of merit and validity. Establishing “fit” is an important step in the process. The highest quality providers do not always “fit” within the needs of an organization. References are a great asset to determining “fit”.
- It’s okay to ask! The value of competition in the marketplace is that providers are working to earn your business. While dollars is the easiest way to assess value, value-added services can substantially increase the return on investment. How can a provider bring more value to the relationship without adding more expense or increasing the price? How can the relationship become a win win? Often times, providers have an array of value-added services that are available to the customer. It is possible that they may not provide this information as they have not connected the value it brings to the customer. As the customer, it’s okay to ask! Ask the provider for what you need. The worst that can happen is that they say “no”. But what if they say “yes”? Shoot for your best case scenario and work from there.
Do you have questions?
Send us your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org!