Whether simply looking to retain your business or gain new business, suppliers in general will stop at nothing to put themselves in a better light and win the battle. They will throw competition under the bus and make up stories about why alternate solutions will not fit your needs. The reality is many supplier representatives have come over from a competing company and now are pushing their product to you. They promote their new employer as being number one in the market for whatever product and service they are trying to sell. What they forget to mention is what the competition has that they do not, as they are only focused on winning. The truth is typically that they themselves do not know what is best for you and only care about making money!
In telecommunications, acquisitions have strong influences on pricing structures, service offerings, and overall capabilities. The competition for these services continues to boom with more localized suppliers playing against the big wigs. Going for the “popular” name does not always result in the best fit for your company. When choosing a provider whether through a formal sourcing engagement or going to the market direct, you need an unbiased opinion and should focus on the facts versus fiction. I have listed out some of the key considerations when choosing your supplier:
- Understand your requirements: One of the most critical factors before making a decision is to really understand your needs...and wants. Most businesses make a decision to change or upgrade their services because of an immediate issue that needs resolution. They might neglect looking at a holistic view of their requirements for both the present and future, resulting in another financial investment down the line. Take some time to consider what will help now but will also allow you to grow your business into the future from both a productivity and technological perspective.
- Product Offering: Now that you know what you need, make sure you know what you are getting. Many suppliers offer the same solution but have a unique way of bundling and selling services. This is one reason suppliers “trash talk” about each other because they themselves do not completely understand the offering. You should understand all elements being proposed for each solution, how each is going to address the requirement, and the cost breakdown. Does the offer meet all of your infrastructure and technical requirements? Will the solution allow your business to grow? Are there too many superfluous bells and whistles that should NOT be considered? If you are able to decipher each piece of the puzzle, then comparing suppliers against one another should come with much more ease.
- Pricing: In the same way you need to understand what is actually being offered to you, you should understand how it is priced. What are all recurring and non-recurring charges as well as the miscellaneous costs? Are incentives being offered and how are they being applied? Again, when comparing proposals you may not be able to line every item up side-by-side but you can at least look at the bottom impact. On a separate note, some suppliers will leverage their “limited time only” promos encouraging you to sign by a certain time or the promo will go away. This tactic is typically used to leverage you in choosing them without really investigating your options. Don’t always take threat to heart. If they want to be a partner, then they will do what is needed to keep or win your business.
- Customer Support and Service Level Agreements: How will your account be managed and will there be local representation? For some suppliers, the level of account support depends on how big $ your account is and the services being purchased. If it is important to have a dedicated account team and chain of escalation that is no overseas, then this should be a factor in your decision making. What are the commitments to SLA aspects of the services being purchased? Basically you should be familiar with all of the supplier’s commitments and yours.
- References: Do not be afraid to ask for references and actually check them. You understand how other businesses use suppliers, what types of services they have, and what the history of the relationship has been like. You should start at the beginning to learn about contracting, ordering, installation, and on-going support, just to name a few.
As stated above, suppliers like to play hard ball when it comes to acquiring business; they are not your friend or each other’s. At the end of the day their objective in any engagement is to pad their pocket. Telecom services have many moving parts and every company has their own way of selling them. So remember, don’t only listen to what the competition has to say. Do your own research and make sure you are truly getting the most bang for your buck!