Lexicon Systems, LLC Blog

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Vendor reference call do’s and don’ts

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In my 25 June 2012 post I introduced due diligence for software initiatives. When your organization issues a Request for Proposal (RFP), you should ask each vendor to supply customer contact information to allow due diligence. Here are twelve do’s and don’ts for reference calls…

  • Do speak with reference customers with business needs and/or implementation scope similar to yours.
  • Don’t extend each call beyond 30 minutes. Respect the software customer’s time.
  • Do prepare a list of questions that you need answered, and use it as a guideline.
  • Do use a combination of closed- and open-ended questions to allow you to gather good information you might not have anticipated before the call.
  • Don’t ask questions related to confidential contract information such as license or subscription fees or implementation costs.
  • Do ask what some of the greatest challenges were with the software project.
  • Do ask the customer if s/he would select the software and/or implementer if s/he could do it over again.
  • Do keep the number of people on each reference call from your organization to a minimum.
  • Do have the same people in your organization participate in each reference call.
  • Do consider whether you are speaking with a beta customer who adopted the software early, vs. a customer that implemented software when it was more mature.
  • Don’t hesitate to ask a reference customer to provide a short Web or face-to-face demo of the software in action.
  • Don’t limit yourself the references that the vendor provides. If you know someone within another customer’s organization, make a phone call.
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Author: Jill Barson Gilbert

Founder, President & CEO of Lexicon Systems, LLC, an independent management consulting firm in Houston, TX. Thought leader on environment, health & safety (EHS) and sustainability software. Trusted advisor on strategic planning and strategic marketing issues.

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