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Vendor or Partner?

• Does the prospective vendor ask probing questions about your business goals and technical requirements, or does it barge in with all the alleged answers based on a cursory understanding of what you need?

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One IT director at a fast-growing enterprise tells of the vendor sales rep who refused to acknowledge that the software he was peddling wasn't a clean fit for the customer's data analysis initiative. Had the salesman been more flexible and consultative--had he bothered to listen to the customer's extensive expansion plans--the vendor could have anticipated plenty of additional opportunities to sell into that organization, the director says. Instead, the vendor is now mercator non grata at that organization, a victim of its own shortsightedness.

• Does the prospective vendor try to sell you the store when all your organization wants and needs is a few key items? Cisco, for instance, is a topflight networking-systems vendor, but every customer doesn't need to migrate to its voice-over-IP architecture. The likes of Oracle, SAP, SAS and Siebel make fine software, but just because their products fall into the broad CRM category doesn't mean those products can be slotted or retrofitted into every customer-facing initiative. Seek out vendors that solve problems first and then look to extend the relationship on top of those initial successes.

• Is your integrator prepared to recommend a system or service of a nonaffiliated vendor, or is it predisposed to recommending only those products sold by its stable of partners? Is your integrator open about its relationships with other product vendors?

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