by Laurianne McLaughlin

How To Get More From Tech Vendors

May 10, 20074 mins
IT Leadership

Mid-market CIOs often feel like they’re not receiving full attention from their vendors. After all, the big guys have more money to spend and more staff to help manage vendor relationships. This means if you’re a mid-market CIO, you need to get a bit crafty. At our recent leadership conference, some CIOs shared their strategies.

Check them out –and please, add your own tips and tricks.  I’ll also share the best advice in an upcoming print article. 

By the way, several midmarket CIOs told me at the leadership conference that they’ve yet to feel the love that some of the biggest name vendors, including SAP and Oracle, are proclaiming for them at the moment. These vendors are making big marketing pushes for midmarket customers — now that they’ve won over as many Fortune 1000 companies as possible. But from the midmarket customer point-of-view, it’s still at the stage of talk, not walk. It’ll be interesting to see how that changes by late this year, given the expected debut of new SAP on-demand services for midmarket companies in the fall. Now onto the tips:

1. Share your business plan.  “I am very much into collaboration and find sharing your future business plans often helps the vendor understand just what is at stake,” says Sandy Rasel, Vice President, Global Process and Applications Management, McCormick and Company. “If you share your plans, you are able to have a much richer dialogue that supports your future direction and engages the vendor to work with you.”

2. When negotiating, Google first. You’ll be amazed what you can find when you search on a particular hardware part number or software package, says a mid-market CIO who uses this tactic repeatedly, most recently when purchasing a WAN acceleration device and some high-end analysis software. (He prefers his vendors don’t know he’s hip to this trick, so we agreed not to share his name.) “You will be surprised how many people scan invoices or leave price data online,” he says. This should help you determine reasonable discounts.

3. Whet the vendor’s appetite. Hint at potential growth within your parent company organization if the price is right and the product is excellent, says Jeremy Schnorbus, director of technology services for NERA Economic Consulting.

4. Be the early bird who gets the beta. Offer to help some of your vendors do testing on new versions of products. This can help you get a say in the development of the tool, plus an early heads-up to new functionality, Schnorbus says.

5. Show ‘em the competition.  “One of the best things we’ve done is a vendor appreciation day event.  Typically this is a golf outing that includes everything from prizes and lunches to a first-class lobster dinner,” says Kevin Lupowitz, CIO for Liquidnet Holdings. “Last year’s was a huge success.  Very few organizations do this type of ‘no strings attached’ event for their vendors.  It builds great partnerships and individual loyalty.  It also lets our vendors see who else we’re working with, which helps maintain the sense of urgency to stay competitive.”

6. Poach a sales rep who wants an entrée to IT. Hire away one of the vendor’s sales reps to work for you, to manage your relationship with that vendor. After all, he or she will know all the players, processes and angles for that vendor’s sales operation.

7. Play the Google card. Let vendors know that you’re interested in the current and future apps that Google has to offer. Better still, consider having a meeting with Google and several other CIOs to discuss Google Apps, then let your vendors know you liked it.

Did you get a new idea from this list? Great. Now let’s hear what’s working for you.