The ERP software selection process isn’t without its share of pitfalls and ambiguities. Few of these challenges are intentionally caused by ERP vendors and their sales reps, but a lack of oversight early in the selection process can come back to haunt your organization during the ERP implementation process.
Five Red Flags
If your vendor is exhibiting any of the following behaviors, consider it a red flag:
- Insists on conducting the demo and evaluation process their way, rather than your organization’s preferred way
- Controls the tempo and pace of the evaluation process by requesting that they demo last or at a later date
- Bypasses working with your project team, and tries to work directly with executives
- Creates doubt by criticizing your project team’s approach
- Cries foul by expressing concern that they don’t have enough time to prep or don’t agree with the selection process
These patterns are generally more common when the ERP vendor feels they are at a competitive disadvantage to their competitors. Many organizations overlook the warning signs, but this is to the detriment of their entire digital transformation.
How to Manage ERP Vendors
The following methods can be very effective in diffusing vendors’ attempts to control the selection process:
1. Ensure time to prep with the vendors so they have no reason not to understand your business. This includes sharing demo scripts, outlining key business requirements and allowing access to subject matter experts within your organization.
2. Allow vendors access to your organization’s key employees. While many sales reps prefer to build strong relationships with your executive team rather than sell the merits of their system, they should have at least some interaction with your employees. Without this relationship building, key employees may refuse to participate in the selection process.
3. Remember that you are the customer, not them. Although it sounds simple, you would be amazed at how demanding sales reps can be. Whatever heartache a sales rep expresses, it is important to remain firm, have confidence in your evaluation process, and demand that they earn your business on merit. You are not expecting too much by asking a vendor to demo their ERP system against your business needs and requirements rather than simply presenting their canned sales demos.
4. Coach executives to deal with vendors. It is very likely that at least one vendor will bypass you at some point in the process and go straight to someone higher in the organization. Your executive team should be coached on how to handle reps when they call or request a meeting so that those inquiries are redirected to the project team.
5. Let a vendor walk if necessary. If a vendor thinks their chances of success are slim, they may walk from the deal. Your organization shouldn’t be afraid to let a vendor self-disqualify. After all, it’s not a good sign if a vendor doesn’t have confidence in his or her own product’s ability to compete.
6. Remember that you can work with another value-add reseller (VAR). Many software vendors sell directly to customers as well as through a network of VARs. If one option doesn’t want to participate, don’t be afraid to look at another VAR that may be willing to participate in your selection process.
7. Engage with an independent third-party to facilitate the evaluation. Information is power, and having complete and unbiased information about software vendors and their functional capabilities can only be achieved by relying on an independent third-party.
8. Expect some turbulence and drama. There is no such thing as a software selection that goes exactly as planned. It is not realistic to expect that every vendor will cooperate.
ERP vendors that are difficult to work with during the selection process aren’t going to be any easier to work with during ERP implementation. By managing ERP vendors “like a boss,” your organization will save time, money and heartache.