Get ready for speed dating at HIMSS 2016. Walking into the vendor area at the HIMSS convention is like going stag to a New Year’s Ball. You’re not sure who you are going to approach. Unless of course your name tag has any title starting with a C in front of it. Then you are the Belle of the Ball. But before you put on your walking shoes and Fitbit and start that tedious walk through the showroom, you might want to consider what you are looking for in a vendor.
Using eHarmony’s degrees of “compatibility and dimensions" is an easy way to summarize the same traits you should look for in a contractual relationship. Your next project, bonus, or even job security may depend on who you select during these short encounters. So you should be prepared to do some analysis on the “deeper relationship” level. Keep in mind, these sales people have their elevator speeches and their free iPad’s ready to go within 1.2 seconds of your look their way. But you want more than a quick encounter. So here is what you should look for in a long term relationship:
1. Emotional Temperament
Some of these dimensions include: Self Concept, Emotional Status, Emotional, Obstreperousness, and Passion. When I talk to vendors I look for a certain energy around the person giving the demo. They should look and act like they are working for the best company with the best solution in the world. They are passionate about what they are doing and you get the sense that they can talk about it all day…and some do!
2. Social Style
Some of these dimensions include: Character, Kindness, Dominance, Sociability, Autonomy, and Adaptability. Don’t lie to me, show some character! I have heard outright lies during the sales demos and I don’t mind calling them on it. If they “misrepresent” their product at this stage, then why should I trust them when they say they will deliver on time and on budget? It sounds silly, but it is the old adage; “Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me.”
3. Cognitive Mode
Some of these dimensions include: Intellect, Curiosity, Humor, and Artistic Passion. I love it when I run into a vendor that is having a good time doing what they love. You can normally tell in the way that act towards each other and the response to some questions. They quickly huddle and bounce ideas around each other to come up with a solution to a challenging problem that you may have. It is art, it is passion, and often they are jovial about solving the issue. Most importantly they understand how their solution fits in within the rest of healthcare, looking at the impact to patient care and improving people’s lives. They may even suggest another vendor or solution. This is someone you want to keep on your list.
Some of these dimensions include: Vitality and Security, Industry, and Appearance. Is this the person you want to introduce to your board or staff? No, seriously, does he have a Man-bun, or is she trying to sell more than her intellect? You do want a vendor that looks and acts professionally. When you invite them to the table, your staff and coworkers will take it as an endorsement from you. So you have to ask yourself, "is this the person I want to be associated with?"
5. Relationship Skills
Some of these dimensions include: Communication Style, Emotion Management, Conflict Resolution. Your organization may have many political landmines that must be navigated. There are certain divisions that still have not bought into the solution you will be proposing. This vendor must be savvy enough to not only communicate their solution, but be sensitive with how they will deal with difficult senior leaders.
6. Values and Beliefs
Some of these dimensions include: Spirituality, Family Goals, Traditionalism, Ambition, and Altruism. You may be working for a non-profit or faith-based organization. You want a vendor that shares your organizational culture or at least is sensitive to it. They need to understand the limitations of your funding and they need to place their solution in the context of your workflow.
7. Key Experiences
Some of these dimensions are: Family Background, Family Status, and Education. The president and owner of the company you are talking with started with solid experiences and actual life altering events in their families that motivated them to start a company. Unfortunately, the people they hired to implement the solution are clueless about what they are selling. To them it's just a gadget and they do not understand what impact it will have on people's lives.
I once had vendor say a very embarrassing and sophomoric joke during an EMR demo. It fell flat and it was frankly embarrassing for everyone. The conversation afterwards focused on his faux pas rather than the software.
I always try to supply vendors with my own scripts. When they come on site they should show me the product I saw at HIMSS, but I want to see it with our sample patient and our workflow. Too often vendors will demo with scripts designed for a business model that does not apply to your organization. They ignore the script you sent and apologize for not having "time" to put it all in. This is a huge red flag. They just want to get another customer, they don't want a long term relationship. Time to keep looking for that vendor that fits your 7 degrees of compatibility.