Phil StrazzullaBy Phil Strazzulla

Time is a precious commodity in my life, and this is especially true when buying software. Even wasting 30 or 60 minutes on a call with the wrong vendor is a huge time suck that most of us can’t afford.

I also want to make sure I’m diving deep into a shortlist of 2-5 vendors. I don’t have infinite brain cycles to devote to every solution that comes along.

So, I’ve developed a habit of sending a short email to a vendor before I jump on the phone with them. I want to make sure this is going to be a good mutual fit. If not, let’s not waste each other’s time.

You can watch the whiteboard video on this topic here if you'd prefer.

What’s in the email

To make this more concrete, let’s talk about what’s in this email:

  • What type of solution I’m looking for and why
  • What I like about my current solution
  • What I hate about my current solution
  • The key workflows I need to see on a demo, and any other key considerations (features, integrations, etc)
  • Budget constraints I have / an estimate for how much this may cost for my organization
  • Any other impediments I can foresee in my buying process

Let’s say for example I’m buying a new application tracking system (ATS). Here’s what this may look like:

  • I’m looking for a new applicant tracking system because our current ATS doesn’t allow our recruiting team to easily source from this database and we have over 1 million candidate records that are going to waste.
  • What I really love about our current ATS is that it’s employer branding friendly and our career site is built on top of it.
  • However, the analytics are clunky and we get no value from the standard dashboards (which aren’t customizable).
  • Our onboarding workflows are all custom built and the ATS needs to integrate with that. We are also a global company so need applications available in German, Mandarin, and Spanish.
  • We are a 1,500 employee company, our recruiting team is 15 people - how much do you think this will cost ballpark?
  • Our IT department is really difficult. Do you have an InfoSec document you could shoot over so I can get their approval before we even do a demo, they’ve killed a lot of new software for us in the past.

Key benefits of this template

This email takes 10 minutes to write, and you can re-use it across many vendors. However, this 10 minutes can yield huge benefits:

  • Some vendors will simply tell you they are not a fit, which saves you time. Some will even give you good advice on where to look for a solution to fit your criteria.
  • When you actually get on a demo, a good sales rep will give you a customized demo around what’s important to you. I find many demos spend too much on features I don’t care about - let’s talk about what matters to me!
  • Many times a rep can email colleagues to get answers to your tougher questions before you talk. Maybe they can get that ROI calculator together, or the info your marketing team needs to know.
  • Sometimes you get on the phone and a sales rep clearly hasn’t reviewed the information you sent over. That’s a really bad sign. If they can’t recover quickly, end the demo politely and save yourself the extra 45 minutes.

The main goal with this tactic is to save time, and save your brainpower so you can focus on the few vendors that make the most sense.

The above template is kind of like a mini RFP. But, most RFPs are just heavy and don’t actually get to the right shortlist. Unless you’re a consultant helping a company buy a $1 MM HRIS, stick to the above to properly vet vendors in the early stages of your buying process.

About the Author

Phil Strazzulla is the founder of Select Software Reviews, and focuses on helping advance the People/HR/Recruiting function through knowledge sharing and community building. If you buy HR Tech and want weekly insider tips, sign up for this newsletter.

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