The DPP’s How to Buy Better report explores how media companies buy technology and services, how suppliers engage customers - and ultimately how both parties would like to improve procurement processes and ongoing relations.
The research was launched and introduced at the DPP Leaders’ Briefing 2022 - members can download the full report below, as well as the Expert Panel Advice and Action Points supplementary document.
As part of the project, the DPP hosted a How to Buy Better dinner in Amsterdam in September 2022. Or rather, two dinners - since guests were separated into buyers and sellers and placed in different rooms.
DPP CTO Rowan de Pomerai and Editorial Director Edward Qualtrough facilitated the vendors and customers respectively, and set our guests a small task.
The buyers would come up with two self-reflective action points that the customer community could do better that would make them better customers. The buyers would also come up with two demands they expected of vendors.
In the other room, the suppliers would make two self-reflective action points that would make them better partners or sellers. Correspondingly, the vendors would make two requests of what they would like to see from customers.
The groups would then be mixed and report back to each other what they had just discussed.
What the two groups reported back to each other were as follows, and pre-empted some of the outcomes of the survey.
- We need to re-imagine the RFP, which was set up for a different environment and costs vendors and ourselves time and money. Instead we require a new process which is lean, quick and smart
- We need to improve our communication and trust with the supplier community. We know ourselves what we are trying to solve, but that is a collaborative process and we can benefit from sharing more with the vendors.
"As customers we need to re-imagine the RFP and improve our communication."
And what customers expect from the vendor community:
- We require an element of commercial agility from the vendor community. This is less about moving from OpEx to CapEx, and more about not being locked in to rigid payment terms. It will involve vendors helping us overcome financial pain points, and will require supplier commercial teams to have good relations with their own CEO/CFO to have that flexibility.
- We require solutions, not sales! Vendors will benefit by offering technical pre-sales consultations, rather than sending young men in shiny suits to pitch the company’s latest products.
"As technology buyers we want solutions, not sales!"
- We will provide information about the value of the product or solution, targeted to each stakeholder group whether they are users, tech staff, finance departments, or other line of business roles.
- We will make it easier for customers to just try out the product.
And what suppliers expect from the customer community:
- We require that customers help us by defining the business problem, and not just the technology solution. (An alternative expression was for customers to focus procurement on the outcome it wants to achieve, rather than issue RFPs with solution specifications and requirements.)
- We require that customers bring all relevant stakeholders together earlier on in the process (including business users, technology staff, procurement, finance, and legal teams, etc) to help with engagement across the sales and implementation of a tool or service.
"Customers need to help us vendors by explaining the business problem, and not just specifying what they think are the technology requirements."
How to Buy Better survey comments
In the How to Buy Better survey, the DPP provided a free text box for respondents to share their views. For customers, about what vendors can do to enhance or damage the customer’s opinion of them. And for vendors, what they think can most enhance or damage their reputation among clients.
There were exactly 99 comments and recommendations. Below is a small selection of those responses.
Customer comments on what enhances a vendor's reputation:
"Demonstrate an understanding of our business and specific challenges."
"Take time to check in once their product has been installed. Instigate regular catch-ups for feedback."
"Deliver the solution on time and on budget."
"Show me, through a demo, that they understand and solve our business needs."
"Be open about pricing early on in the process."
"Be responsive and honest."
Customer comments on what damages a vendor's reputation:
"Deliver a low performing product."
"Over promise and under deliver."
"Not listen, or lie about an issue."
"Not support their product effectively. Be dismissive of any concerns, or be unresponsive."
"Not delivering, while blaming the buyer for delay."
"Try to sell me their product without understanding my business. It's not hard to know what my business is, and yet irrelevant vendors think I need their product."
"Have a mismatch between the sales process and the delivery process."
"Persistently communicating after being told we aren't interested."
Vendor comments on what enhances their reputation:
"Over deliver, or deliver exactly what is required to meet the customer's goals."
"Demonstrate market leadership. Supply innovative products and solutions that meet the customer's business, operational and technical requirements."
"Listen to their needs and be as flexible as possible; provide value and not just technology."
"Deliver as promised, and provide after sales support."
"Understand their business challenges, talk their language, tailor solutions, and don't promise you can do everything."
Vendor comments on what damages their reputation:
"Over promise and fail to deliver. Fail to provide the level of support expected and/or contracted."
"Lack of support during the sales and post-sales cycle."
"Be seen to be inflexible, or lacking in innovation and the drive to improve the quality of service or experience. Offer poor customer service and support."
"Dishonestly replying to tenders."
"Sell something that’s not actually going to do what the client really needs."
"Offer something we can’t actually deliver."
"Promise the unachievable and not listen to them."
How to Buy Better reveals areas of striking alignment between customers and vendors. It also found significant differences of opinion, in particular about why relationships break down, and who is ultimately responsible for customisations.
But customers and vendors largely agree with what makes a good vendor, and what makes a good customer. All parties ultimately know how to be a good partner; the onus is on buyers and suppliers to live up to those ambitions.
This is further explored in the Expert Panel Advice and Action Points, which you can find below. How to Buy Better is enabled by Signiant, and the Expert Panel by Mindtree and Signiant.