Getting the Most for your Purchasing Dollar.

So you did your homework assignment and you know what your company needs. Now you need to identify some vendors, sort through their offerings and select the best vendor and product for your needs. This can get tricky; the vendor with the best product may not be the best to do business with. If you keep your requirements in the forefront of your evaluation process, you will likely buy what you need, let it slip and you will likely buy from the best salesman.

Identify vendors

I suggest that you start on the Internet. KnowledgeStorm,, provides a searchable directory of information technology services and products. In addition to their own site, the same database is found at Yahoo, Oracle and ITworld. Or you can use a more general search engine like Google or Yahoo. While some companies may have products and services that you need that do not have Internet presences, I would be hesitant to do business with them.

Select a few key people who will be responsible for using the service or product and get their ideas and concerns about each offering. Have these people contact the customer or technical support for each company. Call them several times, send them some e-mail, ask questions, these are the people you will be dealing with after the sale. If you are not comfortable with them now, how will you like them when you have to depend on them? Write a small evaluation of each organization after each contact. A month later when you are trying to remember what you liked or disliked about each you will be glad you have the notes.

You go through your selection process and you have narrowed the list to one or two companies that you would like to do business with. You have a fair idea about what their offering can provide to you organization. Determine what their solution is worth to your organization:

· Will your company make fewer mistakes?
· Will you increase production?
· Will you be able to do more work with fewer people?
· What will it cost to make the changes to your business to use the new system?
· How much extra productivity per employee will you gain?

All of these will contribute to what the software or product is worth to your company. Calculate a good ballpark value.

Once you have a good idea what it is worth to you, call the sales department for each company. At this point, given what you know about their offerings and company, you are in a prime position to quickly negotiate (yes, they have a lot of room to negotiate) a fair contract. Make sure that the contract includes both the initial sale and at least one year of support. Make sure you know the ongoing costs of using the system.

If you intend to extend or enhance the product internally after the purchase you need to make sure that the contract does not prohibit what you intend. You should be able to negotiate as part of the deal that they provide your company the necessary information to make the enhancements.

So when you do your research, work with your staff, checkout the companies, determine the value to your company, and then contact the sales people, you are in a unique position to be a well-informed consumer and negotiate the best price for the products.

Copyright 2001 Paul Rubin