How to Buy the
Right Software

Practical Help for
Companies of Every Size

Chapter 6: Selecting the Winning Solution

So, Where Are We Now?

At this point of the software evaluation and selection process, you’ve:

Now you’re ready to select the desired solution!

What You Need to Know

It’s likely that you and your entire project team are swimming in information and trying to keep everything straight. It’s common to see that some team members will remember things differently or maybe remember more about the last vendor(s) they evaluated than the earlier ones.

However, if you’ve stuck to the plan, you’ve been able to capture the requirements and how each vendor meets those. It’s important to keep team members moving forward throughout the process to prevent memory loss regarding how each vendor meets your overall needs.

Before selecting the winning solution, the team should keep the following in mind:

  • Nirvana doesn’t exist. There is no perfect decision or software solution. You should consider finding the solution that meets 70-80% of your needs and offers shorter time to value (TTV) and the lowest total cost of ownership (TCO).
  • The bigger your decision-making committee—the harder it is to come to a quick consensus. Not all committees are the same, nor do they act as a perfect democracy. Some members may have elevated titles or power and push their opinions forcefully. Experienced salespeople know this and will do their best to cater to and ensure the decision-makers and influencers get their questions met and needs taken care of during the sales process. So, be sure to get any key issues, questions, or requirements addressed—even if they come from someone with less influence or power.

    70% of the time, salespeople only need to convince one person in a buying committee: the dominant influencer.

  • Understand the cost of doing nothing. If your team is having a hard time making a decision, consider the impact of continuing with existing systems and processes. What is the cost of doing things more manually, using tribal knowledge, or using disconnected systems between distributed teams? Be sure to capture and save all of the project information in case your team or the final decision-maker decides not to select a solution at this point in time.

    We have created a simple way to consider the cost of common mistakes for manufacturing companies to help your team understand the ongoing cost should you elect not to buy any software. See our “What Does It Cost?” calculator and plug in your company’s unique dynamics and select from a variety of challenges to gain instant feedback on the cost associated with common mistakes in your industry.

  • The need to mitigate decision-making risk. The risk tolerance of your team will vary by role and department. Each team member is likely to have preconceived ideas about working with salespeople and vendors. Some will have a favorable view and be more trusting of sales teams. Others will be skeptical or question a lot more to poke holes in vendor solutions or claims. This will make it harder to come to an objective decision, so stick to your guns and follow the plan established in Chapter 2. Don’t overthink the selection process and create an overly complex justification document because the committee is worried about fear, uncertainty, and risk.

Time to Evaluate the Vendors

You have conducted an organized, systematic, and well-thought-out plan to select the best solution for your company. Using the requirements guidance in Chapter 3, you can compare and contrast what you captured for each vendor. We recommend using a simple requirement rating scale of 1-7, with 1 being best. Likewise, we recommend that 1-7 weighting be applied to all the requirements since not all requirements are equal nor should they be given equal weight.

In addition to rating and comparing your specific business requirements, we recommend comparing more areas:

  • Does the vendor offer a true cloud-based software-as-a-service (SaaS) solution (or is it hosting of a client/server solution)?
  • Is there a significant learning curve or custom coding required to meet your requirements?
  • Did the vendor’s customer references offer both pros and cons or was it simply one-sided and everything was great? Credible references will share the good and areas of improvement as well.
  • Are you convinced the software solution can scale as your company grows and your needs evolve?
  • How long has the vendor been in business?
  • How many customers do they have and how many in your specific industry?

Presenting the Recommended Software Solution

With all the hard work behind you, you want to make sure the information you present is clearly articulated and compelling. Depending on your executive sponsor’s direct involvement throughout the process, h/she may be ready to make the final presentation to the executive team. If not, your pitch may be to an executive sponsor before you have the green light to present to the ultimate decision-makers. When the final pitch is made, be sure to have the most compelling and influential member(s) of your team present to increase the likelihood your selection will be approved.

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While you should present a single vendor choice, we don’t recommend notifying the other vendors of any decision until your decision-maker(s) have approved your selection. It’s always possible that the decision-makers may either not approve your team’s selection or they may ask for a consideration of other vendors based on pricing or other factors.

Present Your Case for Executive Approval

Here is your “consultative” sales pitch: the identified problem and its impact, then a solution along with its results. The presentation will address hard dollar as well as intangible, even emotional, benefits. Here is an outline of presentation components with a suggested order.

Executive Presentation Outline
Slide # Topic
1 Introduction
2 Business Needs
3-6 Critical Business Processes
7 Financial Impact and Supporting Information
8 Other Cost Savings
9 Intangible Benefits
10 Cost Range

In the project plan template, you’ll find a template presentation based on our example scenario.

When presenting, remember:

Don’t overwhelm with eye charts and a ton of slides/documents

Your job is to assimilate the software evaluation simply and explain your team’s selection

Don’t sugar coat anything you have concerns about if there are some minor risk points—it’s best to be transparent should issues arise later (then you’ve covered yourselves)

Be prepared to dive into details and documents that support your decision during or after the presentation

Ask for input, thoughts, and timeframe to make a final decision. Your decision-makers will likely not be shy about asking hard questions, but close by asking if there is anything else they need to know before making a decision.

Ask for approval. Close by thanking the entire evaluation team and decision-makers for their time. Ask when they believe they can provide a final decision.

What’s Next?

  1. Once you have a final decision—hopefully to move forward with your vendor of choice—you should notify each vendor. Each vendor is likely to have invested tens or even hundreds of hours during the sales process and it is a sign of respect to let them know as soon as a decision is made.
  2. You don’t have to be very specific about the rationale for your team’s decision but be prepared for the vendor to want as much specific feedback as possible, so they can share with their bosses and executives why they didn’t win your business and how they might improve their sales approach, solution, or pricing in the future.
  3. Share the decision internally. It’s a good idea to share the news about vendor selection and allow various impacted departments to understand why the vendor was selected and the goals for the new solution. Be sure to leverage your committee members appropriately to help gain acceptance and gather support for the decision.
  4. Finally, it’s time to begin the transition to implementation phase. You’ll want to work with the selection committee to establish the implementation team players (see next chapter). Those players should be well-informed about the decision-making process so they can head into the implementation project with a positive approach and not feel like a decision, or solution, was handed to them without a clear understanding of the reasons and benefits.

Chapter Activities Summary

✓ What you need to know (about software selection)
✓ Evaluating vendors
✓ Presenting the recommended solution
✓ Setting the stage for successful deployment