Choosing Software & Services

Where to begin… There are so many technology options these days. Don’t get me wrong, its great! Years ago you had to pick a technology partner and live with the decision for years. Shackled to their release cycles and promises to fix it in the next release. As a Boston Red Sox ⚾ fan that familiar “maybe next year” saying started to get pretty sour. But the “curse” is broken and these are new times. We’re in the Lego® generation now! Pick and choose what you like and integrate a custom solution. If you out grow a tool, pick a different one, integrate it and move your data. Even your data layer can be a platform that is part of your technology stack. I know, you may already be feeling anxious and I’m not helping… probably making it worse. So lets move along. 🏃🏿

Getting Started

Like our own customers, most people start with a web search. The problem with a straight Google search is that it provides a lot of content that may not be accurate unless you provide a lot of context in your search. Also the results are often skewed by general consumer searches. If I have no idea who the players may be, I do several searches to see what names may pop-up most often. This gives me a level of confidence related to the competitive set that I need should evaluate. When I am ready to dig a bit deeper, I use evaluation platforms/networks. My favorite is G2 Crowd because it has a lot of peer reviewed content and several analytical and filtering tools. Trust Radius is a peer review site, but I don’t think it has as many analysis features. (Gartner, Forrester, etc. are good sources… if you have a subscription.) It is especially nice when you know the product category or when you want to compare a few products.

For Example

Let’s say you were tasked for find some tools to help the sales and account teams to manage and develop prospects. You have your marketing team working to nurture and qualify leads and they are passing them along to your sales team. To help the team manage the prospects, share and avoid duplication you think a tool may help.

Step 1: You do some searches and find some articles about sales engagement and a few different product mentions.

Step 2: You go to G2 Crowd and click on Software > All Categories. After a quick heart palpitation from the overwhelmingly long list, you search “sales engagement.” This returns one category and a list of products. The temptation is to start clicking on the companies, but… wait for it … you click on the “Sales Engagement” category instead. Much to your delight, you are presented with a nice 2 by 2 chart that positions all of the major players. Nice.

Step 3: So your eyes scan the diagram and you look at the leader quadrant in the upper right corner. You can click the logo in the chart or the company in the list below the chart to checkout the product. Let’s say we clicked on Outreach. This gives you a nice summary of the product/company, and since this site is built on user reviews it puts us on the Reviews tab. There are also ProfilePricing, and Features tabs. As you scan the pages, you notice that there is a link to chat with a G2 Crowd associate, which could be helpful, but right now we are just doing some research. You also notice that there are some buttons to compare Outreach with other products. Sounds interesting, so lets click Outreach vs. SalesLoft.

Now things are looking pretty interesting. You can start to compare the products side by side to see which ones may be the est fit for your business and who to include in your evaluation or RFP.

Step 4: You also notice that there is an nice box in the margin that lists other similar products and a convenient little plus symbol ➕ to add them to the comparison. This is starting to give you a good feel for which products you may need to explore further. Then it occurs to you that this is a lot of informality and you wonder how much is relevant to you and your business. It’s OK, lets push on.

Step 5: Filters. When I was a kid, smoking was common and filters were those smelly things that everyone tossed on the ground and filled the change tray in the car with. (I know, it was an ashtray, but to a non-smoker… its for change. Also, I know I ended the sentence with a preposition. Let’s just keep moving.) As you look at the page, and left navigation, you will notice there are filters. Love it! You can filter by the category because some products fit into most categories. (It’s a dessert topping and a floor wax… that’s for you older SNL fans. Younger people, search “SNL Shimmer” on YouTube.) You can also filter on company size, to see the comparison related to reviewers from your size company. If you are looking for an enterprise company, your needs and assessment may be much more critical than a SMB. Also, you can save your comparison… after all, we heart to heart stuff! 💚

There are plenty of reviews to read. I like to look at the most critical reviews to see if there is a weakness that is concerning to me. Sometimes the criticisms are personal preferences and down-right of the topic. Once you have narrowed the field of potential solutions to 2 or 3 options you can start digging into the products. Sign-up for demos and downloads to learn as much as you can from the solution provider. This will put you in their lead funnel, but at least you know that it is a product of interest. (Much better than scanning your badge at every booth of a trade-show. (We all know that it may take a long time to get off the call list for products that don’t match your needs.) ✨🤪 I find that there is much you can learn from online or guided demos, and you can pepper the sales people with lots of questions. Be very candid with them and tell them your concerns. If they have a good product/service they will be prepared to answer the tough questions. If you work for a large company, bring your procurement/sourcing partners early so they can start working on pricing while you focus on features and functions.

In Summary

Shopping for a technology solution can be intimidating, but it is much more manageable when we breakdown the task. Here is a short breakdown of the tasks to put in your notes.

  1. Conduct a general web search to see who are the category players and what they call the category.
  2. Jump to a review source that can tell you more about the company/product in the context of your business. (G2 Crowd, Trust Radius, Gartner, Forrester, etc.)
  3. Evaluate the findings and reduce the list be eliminating the products that have unacceptable gaps.
  4. Go deep to evaluate each product on your short list. Don’t be afraid to sign-up for information, watch demos, or take calls from the sales people.
  5. Eliminate the candidate solutions that are not a fit, and tell them. It is much better for you and them if you tell them early if they are not a fit for your company.

These steps will lead you into a final evaluation and selection group of products that are viable options for your business. Continue to research, talk to current customers, and work your LinkedIn network for others that are using the product, so you can get an inside scoop.

I hope this was helpful. Re-post it if it was. 🍰

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