The enterprise buying process is broken. And I suggest both customers and providers need to work at fixing it.
Let me back up and explain. The all-too-common traditional process that is no longer working typically looks like this: Customer has a need, finds providers that sell a product to fulfill that need, and then selects a solution based on price or a mixture of price and feature/functionality.
What I am proposing is that we take a more transparent and collaborative approach to the buying process. Something that would look like this: Customer talks to provider about what they are looking to do with their business (change in technology, new apps, outsourcing, etc.) and also shares critical things like business challenges, their forecasted growth and their current infrastructure environment. The provider then proposes possible solutions based on a holistic view and customer selects the one that works best for them.
We’ve had the pleasure of using this process with a few customers and in every case, it leads to more on-target solutions and, ultimately, happier customers. In one example, a large software manufacturer was developing a five year technology plan and in our discussions, they provided details around their product rollout, impact on customers, sales forecasting, etc., which ultimately became the requirements for their data center space, server capacity, redundancy and connectivity. It took months of planning and a truly collaborative approach between the two companies, but we ended up with a successful solution by focusing on long term business needs and drivers.
Now I know this is asking a lot of the customer. It’s a cultural shift, really. For so many years, it’s been the same “keep your cards close” process. This is supposed to help you keep costs down and prevent you from giving away too much information that could lead to a costly solution recommendation.
But in reality, telling the provider everything can actually save you money and lead to a solution that better meets your needs. I know this may come across as self-serving as if there is only benefit to the provider but here I will counter with this: If you provide a comprehensive view of your environment, your goals and your challenges to the vendors you are considering, it will become clear – very quickly, I might add – which vendors really understand your business, market and needs. And that is reason enough to give this approach a try.
What about you? Do you agree? Have you tried being transparent with your providers or customers? Any successes or failures?