Offshore Vendor Selection: Site Visits

The idea of this post partially came from Offshore Visits. Tom’s post is about visits to an existing vendor, the visits during vendor selection process are quite different though.

I am fairly convinced that the unwritten rule – “must visit perspective vendor site to make a selection” was originated by offshore sales force. This is a well known closing technique similar to test driving the car (“must drive before you buy”) a.k.a. “puppy close”. The goal of the salesperson is to build your commitment to purchase and getting you involved, getting you to invest the time paves the road to closure.
From vendor’s standpoint on-site visits help tremendously in many other dimensions, for example having you on their territory (care salesperson would take you to his office “just to discuss some details”), playing one of the strongest powers of persuasion – reciprocity, etc.
Does it mean that to avoid high pressure of sale you should avoid on-site visits? Not at all. You just need to keep your eyes on the ball and counter the pressure. Shear understanding of the role the site visits play in the selection process will help a great deal. Also here a few simple techniques that should help you counter the pressure:

  • Visit several vendors on the same trip.
  • Separation of duties may help a great deal – if it’s at all possible use people not involved in the final decision making to go on the trip.
  • Be the driver of the agenda for all meetings on the trip.
  • Concentrate on your needs and things you should accomplish on the trip.
  • Take a few days off after the trip to do some personal travel and enjoy the scenery which you may never have a chance to see again.

The main goal is to make progress in your vendor selection in a way beneficial to you and not helping vendor to close the deal. In that light I find site visits extremely helpful and educational. My typical agenda would include:

  • Interview with perspective team (I usually go for marathon interviews – 20-30 people per company, 20-30 min per person)
  • Informal interview of managers, executives, etc. – I do not interview them per se, instead get a chance to see them in action
  • Review infrastructure, take a pick in server rooms, see desktop environment
  • Check out employee lifestyle – workstations, libraries, transportation, food, break rooms, wallpapers, etc.
  • Assess physical and other aspects of security

I do my best to avoid:

  • Meetings with large participation and no purpose
  • Sales presentations in any shape or form
  • Any optional activities that do not pass sniff test

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