If you’re a training manager, you’re doubtless working with salespeople from consulting firms and vendors to select the products and services you need to support your teams. As you evaluate these competing bids, it is very easy to subconsciously favor the bid from the person you’d prefer to do business with moving forward.
You don’t want to disregard this gut feeling entirely. Having a good working relationship with the people you’re going to deal with on a day-to-day basis is crucial to the overall success of your training program. Unfortunately, the salesperson is typically not the individual you end up partnering up with once you’ve signed a contract. Instead, you find yourself dealing with sales engineers or customer service representatives.
This is fine if you love the product or service you’ve purchased, but if you find yourself having trouble justifying the purchase seconds after your superstar salesperson has stepped out of the boardroom, you may want to reconsider what aspect of the product or service actually impresses you. Here are our recommendations for making a decision based on the needs of your learners, and not on your social preferences.
How to Make the Right Purchasing Decision
- Make a list. Before you step into any sales meeting, you should have articulated a precise list of needs. Be sure to think critically about how those different needs affect different people in your organization, and which needs are most important. When you come into a meeting equipped with this list, you can easily determine which products or services are a good fit based on their features rather than the face attached to them.
- Check it twice. Both before and after your initial meeting with a salesperson, you should take the time to get to know their product or service on your own. Detaching your own perception of the product or service in question from the influence of the salesperson will help you gain clarity. If you’re considering purchasing a technology product, get a demo or trial license and use it.
- Don’t go it alone. Test it out yourself, and invite other people in your organization to review different options. You may be rooting for one product that works best for you, but you’ll need participation from a cross-section of the eventual users to make the right decision.
- Beware the workarounds. A salesperson addressing your specific needs with suggested workarounds may be a red flag. If a service is appropriate for your organization’s needs, workarounds should be minimal. Make sure you understand how much you’re compromising your needs before you sign on the dotted line. When you decide to purchase from a company with their promise that they’ll implement a set of workarounds, hold them to it and get the salesperson involved if necessary.
- Check out cloud tools. Most software tools are now available as cloud services. If your company’s security and firewall settings will allow it, you’ll save administrative and support efforts by using cloud tools. You’ll be able to rely on the vendor to keep your version of the software up-to-date, reduce server costs and have more flexible access to the resources. This includes elearning authoring tools—the Adobe Creative Suite, Articulate and other popular tools are now available as cloud subscriptions.
Technology tools are a great way to expand the reach of your training programs, but since you often need to make long-term decisions when purchasing technology tools, take the time to get it right.
About the Author
Kelly Meeker is the Community Manager at OpenSesame, the elearning content marketplace, where she creates, curates and shares with the learning and development community. Find her on her blog at www.OpenSesame.com/blog, on Twitter (@OpenSesame) or at firstname.lastname@example.org.