7 questions to ask when selecting a vendor

Written by
Graham McConnell
Graham McConnell
Updated on
  4 min read

Selecting a vendor is a serious decision. Many people who believe they’ve thoroughly vetted all options before making a selection later regret their choice.

(Learn how RFP360 can help you select the right vendor the first time.)

Fortunately, if you simply take the time to ask a few key questions, you can vastly increase your chances of selecting a vendor that’s right for your organization.

7 questions the smartest prospects ask before selecting a vendor

If your sales rep won’t let you meet other people in their organization, that’s a huge red flag.

According to George LaRocque, “At the point where you do engage with a vendor, you should demand that you get direct access with the product, and customer success and implementation teams … to evaluate the potential working relationship with the people that will truly make your implementation a success. Leverage sales to help keep the process on track, but don’t let them play gate keeper.”

The people in charge of your training, support, and day-to-day account management will make or break your experience. Make sure you can work with them effectively before selecting your vendor.

It can be easy to forget that it’s not only your stamp of approval that matters. As George stated in this article:

“Leverage IT and Procurement early. Don’t wait until you fall in love with a product to get the vendors through any required compliance, IT, or security audits. The vendor’s ability to work with your requirements there, as well as your extended team, will speak volumes to their ability to be successful with you long term.”

It’s especially important to understand if legal or IT have deal-breakers you can use to help eliminate options early on. Knowing that will save everyone a lot of work and cut down the number of RFP responses you have to thoroughly evaluate.

Essentially, this an honesty test. If your vendors aren’t willing to admit who their competitors are, or why they lose customers to them, you might want to question their general transparency. (And let’s be honest: If they do answer, you’ll learn about a few other options.)

Okay, the try-before-you-buy concept isn’t exactly new, but it’s only effective if you fully leverage your trial.

And if we’re honest, most of us don’t like investing our time in a platform/product when we’re not sure if we’re going to keep it.

But if you’re purchasing technology or software, you really only find out how intuitive a product is by using it, testing your own data, building out a test sandbox, etc.

We recently found a fantastic article from CIO.com which shared 12 Tips to Help SMBs Select and Manage Vendors. Among their many excellent tips, they advised seeking a vendor who is familiar with your industry.

According to Kean Graham, CEO, MonetizeMore, an ad tech firm, ‘“A vendor that is already tailored to your type of business will offer immediate value. They will already know your pain points and how to solve them because they already [understand] your industry.”

So when you interview vendors, ask how they have helped organizations like yours. Request case studies from clients who have overcome the challenges you’re facing. These specifics will help you understand how much they get you, and if they’ll actually solve your problems.

The last thing you want in a new vendor is complacency. Finding a vendor that is constantly striving to innovate and provide more effective solutions is key.

Ask to see any potential vendors’ roadmap to see what current shortcomings they plan to address and when. This will also help you evaluate how they view the future of the challenge you’re facing and what they think is the best method for addressing those challenges.

Finding out how long the average implementation takes can be extremely telling — especially if the company in question requires in-person training or if there are additional fees for data uploads, etc. And depending on your goals and needs, timing could be your determining factor in selecting a vendor.

It’s also extremely helpful to find out their average customer support response time and when they’re available.

Do they only respond during business hours? Do they respond within a day, an hour, or a week? How can you reach them during emergencies?

How RFP360 can help

RFP360 streamlines the RFP process so you can quickly gather and evaluate vendor proposals.

“Vendors are now providing more complete responses with less effort,” said Ronni Beckwith, principal, HR technology consulting practice leader at ihouse.

Request a demonstration to learn how RFP360 can improve vendor selection at your organization.

Graham McConnell

Graham lives in the B2B marketing space. He dabbles in writing, usually about digital marketing, but has other interests like the Portland Trail Blazers, the Portland Timbers, sci-fi films, video games and of course, response management.