Tech Selection Series: Conducting Vendor Demos

Welcome to the latest entry in RSG's "Real Story Vendor Procurement" (RSVP) best practice series.

Last time I covered evaluating vendor proposals. In this segment, let's talk about how to conduct vendor demos. The demo phase is critical because it takes the abstract of what we 've covered to date into something real on the screen in front of you.

Demos can be very revealing, certainly about the vendor, but also about your own requirements. Ask yourself: 

  • Did you ask the right questions?
  • Were your scenarios as meaningful as you thought?
  • Is this vendor a plausible fit?
  • If the vendor brought in an implementation partner, did they work well together?
  • How well will your team and the vendor work together?

Conducting Vendor Demos

10 Steps to a Successful Demo

1. Make sure that everyone on the team can attend all of the demos; try to schedule them all in one week. Alert people these are likely to be long days. Be sure to set expectations about what's going to happen during demo week.   

2. Give yourself and the vendor enough time during this phase. We recommend you spend at least a day for each demo. For smaller projects, you may not be able to spend that much time. In either case, make sure you follow a template and ensure there's enough time for the vendor to focus on your specific scenarios. 

3. Consider what we call double tracking. And by double tracking, I mean actually splitting out the demos into two parallel tracks. For example, you might have your technical team having a more technical discussion with the vendor in one room, and then maybe the business team having a more business oriented discussion and demo with the vendor in another room. 

4. Make sure that everyone has an evaluation form so the team can capture strengths and weaknesses as they go along.  

5. Make sure you have a strong chair to keep things moving. The vendor may have a tendency to meander, or your team members may start asking a lot of different questions. You want to stay on track and on schedule. 

6. Keep a list of unanswered questions for the vendor to respond to in writing later, and be sure to provide them a deadline.

7. Avoid slights of hand. Now, vendors are very clever and experienced at this. There are certain parts of your scenarios they may want to skip over. They have a tendency to want to show you something sexy instead to re-direct your attention. Make sure that they've actually covered all the bases they were supposed to cover.

8. Try to have just a quick debrief session among the team after each day so that you get quick impressions and document those while it's still fresh in people's mind.

9. Keep key stakeholders extra late to talk money with the bidders. In other words, have a separate caucus where you can begin some of the financial negotiations. It's never too early to start negotiating around money.

10. Demos can be stressful for you and the vendors. You both want to get as much value out of your time as possible, but remember you're not making the final decision here. You're just deciding who's going to be selected to the next bake-off phase.

Next Steps

If you're selecting digital marketing / engagement technology, be sure to check out RSG's hard-hitting vendor evaluation research.

The next edition of the RSVP selection series will cover the process of filtering to a final list. See you next week...

Other Posts in the RSVP Selection Series

Establish Business Foundations

Identify Needs and Opportunities:

Conduct Market Analysis:

Communicate with Suppliers:

Try Before You Buy:

  • Conducting Demos (you are here)
  • Filter to Final Lists (coming next week)
  • Run of Competitive Proof of Concepts (coming later)

Make the Right Choice

  • Pilot Solution (coming later)
  • Negotiating Pricing and Contracts (coming later)

What's Next 

  • Implementation (coming later)


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