Marc Andreesen was right—software is currently eating the world.
Pilots no longer control their planes, software does. Gone are the days when accountants would lose themselves in their clients’ financial figures—nowadays, they simply let software take the reins. Businesses of all shapes and sizes rely on software for everything they do: managing customer relationships, handling their payroll, or helping them fix broken machinery.
Enterprise software is omnipresent and omnipotent. Consider the following statistics:
- Global IT spending on enterprise software is set to reach $601BN in 2021, a 13.6% increase from last year.
- It’s predicted that total IT spending will reach $4TN in 2022.
- Choosing the wrong software can be an extensive, time-consuming mistake. Lidl was recently forced to cancel a €500M, multi-year SAP introduction project after realizing that it wasn’t suitable for their specific needs.
Businesses need enterprise software—there are no two ways about it. However, given the cost of implementing enterprise software solutions (whether that’s money, time, or effort), organizations must choose the right software providers to work with.
This is perhaps easier said than done, though there are certain indicators that might reveal if an enterprise software vendor isn’t right for your business. Let’s examine these in detail, outlining 7 red flags to watch out for during enterprise software vendor calls.
7 enterprise software vendor red flags
The list below is by no means exhaustive. That said, if you do notice any of these red flags, you should seriously reconsider whether the vendor in question is right for your business.
1. Overtly sales-orientated questions
Many enterprise software vendors still rely on outdated sales approaches, such as BANT (budget, authority, need, and time). But wait—aren’t these all useful questions to know? Sure, they are. Unfortunately, however, many companies’ internal commission incentives are set up so as to reward salespeople who bring in certain types of customers. A salesperson might therefore ask pointed questions so as to checkboxes (and benefit themselves).
For example, they might blurt out a question about your budget before you’ve even had the chance to build up a relationship. Or perhaps they ask to speak to the decision-maker as soon as they realize that you don’t have ultimate purchasing power. Don’t mistake their eagerness for helpfulness. The best enterprise software vendors will take it steady. They’ll follow a methodical approach to understanding what you’re struggling with, where their solution might be able to help and will use your conversations to assess if you’re a right fit for their software.
Be wary of salespeople looking to get a deal over the line before they fully understand your needs.
2. They position their software as the end, not as a means to the end
No business buys software for software’s sake. Instead, they only purchase software that they believe will help them with a specific goal—whether that’s turning paper-based technical documentation into augmented reality (AR) alternatives or connecting with off-site experts when a technician needs help fixing a machine.
Be wary of vendors that boast of “all-in-one” solutions, or who tell tall tales of a ‘promised land’ once you’ve implemented their software. Remember: software is ultimately there to solve a pain point or fix a problem. If the vendor seems more concerned about their product than your problem, they’ve got their priorities the wrong way around.
3. You’re never told “no”
This might come as a bit of a shock—especially for those of you who are used to dealing with fawning salespeople desperate to show you they’re worthy of your business.
If a vendor doesn’t push back on any of your requirements, ask for further clarification, or temper your expectations, then there are 4 possibilities:
- They’re selling the world’s first absolutely perfect software;
- They’re overly confident;
- They don’t fully grasp what you’re trying to solve;
- They’re too focused on their own goals rather than yours.
There is however one major caveat: you need to be 100% sure of what this software needs to solve. If you yourself only have a wishy-washy idea of how you might use their solution, don’t be surprised if you receive vague, overly positive responses.
4. Lack of reference customers
Reviews and references can help you ascertain a company’s authenticity, whether you’re choosing a place to go out for dinner or picking a new enterprise software vendor. Therefore, seek out vendors that have a bank of reputable case studies from companies that are similar to your own. This is one of the best ways to ensure that the vendor is appropriate for your business’s needs.
That being said, this one’s a bit of a double-edged sword.
You might happen to be dealing with a startup that’s yet to bag its first big customer. It’s not that they’re unsuitable—it’s just that they have no way to prove their worth. Don’t simply disregard plucky upstarts due to a lack of verifiable experience. Instead, trust your gut. You might end up with an amazing partner for life. Over time, your company could even play a key role in shaping the direction of their product.
5. Mudslinging the competition
When you hop on a call with a vendor, be prepared to speak about their competition: what differentiates them, why their solution is a better fit, and perhaps even where their solution falls short versus other alternatives.
Good salespeople will readily engage in these discussions without mudslinging the competition. They’ll be respectful of their competitors while being totally honest about their own software’s advantages and shortcomings. However, if they begin to talk trash like an overconfident, overcaffeinated heavyweight, then be warned.
The best vendors would rather say no to an out-of-scope prospect who’s not a good long-term fit than agree to a deal that will likely fall flat on its face. They’ll also show a healthy respect for their competition and won’t descend into childish “my software could beat up their software”-type discussions.
6. Undefined project goals
This is a two-way street. Both you and your vendor need to come to a mutual agreement, outlining your project’s specific goals and identifying tangible ways to measure progress along the way. Once you’ve built a relationship and are ready to dig into the details, your vendor should show a keen interest in the project’s scope, timelines, task assignments, and cost. If they’re comfortable with ambiguity then they clearly don’t have your best interests at heart.
Ultimately, remember to use “business problem solved”—not “software delivered to specifications”—as your guiding success metric.
7. Cookie-cutter (or lack of) questions
We’re not saying that a vendor’s salespeople have to be Oprah Winfrey and Tim Ferris rolled into one. They do, however, have to show a keen interest in your business’s specific needs. If they persist in asking irrelevant questions that simply don’t apply—or even worse, if they don’t ask many questions at all—then this is a major red flag.
Companies don’t pick enterprise software vendors, they partner with them. Nobody should be with a partner that doesn’t care about their specific wants and needs.
Judge an enterprise software vendor by the questions they ask, not the answers they provide.
Wait—is this blog itself a red flag?
Some of you might be thinking:
“Hang on a sec—are RE'FLEKT trying to imply that because they’re writing about red flags during vendor calls, they’re the perfect enterprise software vendor?”.
If so, you got us. Dang.
Only kidding. Look, we buy software ourselves, so we go through the same hurdles as you. That’s why we wrote this. We also want to put our money where our mouth is. If you need an AR authoring software or a remote support tool, then give us a call.