Technology Vendor Reference Calls
Most RFPs include a requirement for reference calls with other clients who have had good experiences. These calls tend to lack candor and depth. Honest feedback is rare.
Vendors use only their happiest clients as references, and references hesitate to bring up bad news as it might impact their relationship with the vendor.
Here are three ideas for making the most of these calls and getting a true sense of what it’s like to work with the vendor.
General references are of little value. A reference call should address the vendor’s ability to deliver a specific product by a specific team for a specific business outcome.
If the vendor is unable to produce a relevant reference, it may be a red flag. The vendor may have less depth in the area than advertised or a poor track record.
Every project and every vendor relationship suffers from hiccups. If the reference can’t think of any examples of hiccups, then the relationship is simply too new to have had them.
Great vendors work decisively to overcome these hiccups. They use problems to strengthen team bonds and improve their processes. Reference clients should be able to describe the vendor’s effectiveness in overcoming problems, not just avoiding them.
Vendor selection process
The vendor at some point had to earn the business of the reference client. References can speak to that experience including any surprises, disappointments, vaporware, etc. They know the difference between vendor sales and execution.
One great question is to ask which other vendors were considered before choosing this vendor. Now that you’ve seen the vendor perform, what qualities of those competitive vendors do you wish this vendor had?