As a business development rep (BDR) at Evergage, I’ve watched a lot of companies go through the software solution evaluation process. Selecting the proper vendor can be daunting, especially with the exponentially growing number of software providers on the market today. Although there are many moving pieces in an evaluation, I’ve realized there are steps that can be taken to streamline the process and ensure that you collect all the proper information to select the best vendor for your business.

Of course, the specifics of how you evaluate technology vendors will depend on the type of technology you’re looking for. (If you’re looking for CDP technology, for example, check out this RFP template as a guide.) So in this blog post, I’ll focus on a few things that you may want to consider at the beginning stages of the evaluation process for any type of software platform.

Laying the Foundation for Vendor Evaluation: Questions to Consider and Resources

Before you can start the exciting process of scheduling multiple introductory vendor calls with strangers (ha ha), there are few things you should consider upfront to optimize your time, such as:

  • What is our timeline for this project?
  • How many vendors do we plan to evaluate?
  • What is our budget?
  • Which colleagues or consultants will be involved?
  • Who signs off on the decision?
  • What is my personal bandwidth, and how much support do I need internally?
  • What are the specific ways we plan to use this solution?
  • How will we measure success/ROI?

Thinking through these issues in advance will help you and your prospective vendors get on the same page from the beginning.

Your timeline can be especially crucial. If a solution needs to be up and running for the biggest selling season of your fiscal year, for example, then a vendor’s ability to execute quickly is critical in the selection process. Or, if you are replacing a SaaS solution that is already in place, starting the evaluation with enough runway prior to the contract renewal date may save you from needing to wait another year to implement.

To help create your initial list of vendors to research, you can start by checking out reports prepared by analysts firms, such as Gartner or Forrester. There are also crowdsourced alternatives such as G2. They can provide an unbiased starting point for you as well.

Researching Vendors Online

As you begin deeper research of each solution on your list, I recommend starting by analyzing the vendor’s website. Content such as feature pages, eBooks, and case studies can give some indication of the types of customers (e.g., size, industry, etc.) the company typically works with. You can see if the company has published anything addressing your specific needs or use cases.

In addition to reviewing success stories specific to your industry or company type, understanding how a vendor is trending in the market is important, especially if you are planning to keep the solution long term. 10-K reports offer great snapshots of a public company’s financial well-being. You can look at a company’s LinkedIn profile to get a good idea of how its employment is trending. Plus, there are free sites and tools like SimilarWeb, which provides helpful data on website traffic over time.

No vendor is going to tell you when their company is going downhill. Taking these steps to research a company can provide insight into that organization’s health and may save you from having to abruptly find an alternative vendor down the road.

The analyst firms such as Gartner and Forrester, and free sites such as G2 – which publishes unbiased user reviews – can be helpful to you at this stage of your research as well. For thousands of different B2B software solutions, G2 provides numerous detailed reviews from users discussing the strengths and weaknesses they encountered while using a solution. G2 also provides a “G2 Grid” like this one for many different solution categories, which you can use to compare vendors against the dimensions of market presence and user satisfaction.

Meanwhile, analyst reports from Forrester and Gartner can provide valuable details and unbiased insights on vendors you may be considering. Their reports are stringently compiled, and many vendors do not make the cut. The analysts work closely with each vendor to make sure they have an in-depth understanding of the solution, and they gather extensive user feedback directly from vendor clients. For example, the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Personalization Engines report provides a synopsis of the strengths and cautions for each vendor, as well as the renowned quadrant image that ranks each vendor based on “completeness of vision” and “ability to execute.” Reliable and reputable sources such as these provide objective and helpful insights to buyers. In contrast, be wary of lesser-known sites that may be “pay-to-play” (where vendor sponsorship can influence coverage/rankings).

Engaging Directly with Vendors

No matter what type of solution you’re searching for, it’s important to take into consideration how smooth the initial sales process is. This can help you determine how helpful the vendor will be in the long term. A vendor’s ability to properly respond to your initial inquiry and subsequently engage with you and provide value will give you a glimpse into their responsiveness and professionalism as an organization generally. This insight is important, as a good solution with insufficient support can leave you less than satisfied and unable to realize maximum value from your investment.

Two key questions to ask yourself:

  • How quickly and thoroughly did the vendor follow up and respond to my questions and requests?
  • Was the right vendor staff present and prepared for each call/meeting?

Also, take note of any questions the vendor asks you prior to each call or meeting. By asking you questions, they are likely trying to uncover some information about your business to ensure your needs align with their capabilities.

Final Thoughts

Overall, you want to make sure you are properly laying the foundation before exploring the vast world of potential vendors to make the best use of your time. Do your homework online in advance, and pay attention to the nuances of coordination once you engage directly. Selecting a new vendor can be stressful, but pioneering a new solution that jumpstarts your business is usually worth it.

To learn more about how Evergage can be the personalization and customer data platform for your enterprise, request a demo today.