A 360 Degree Approach

By Mary Faulkner, Director HR, Denver Water

Mary Faulkner, Director HR, Denver Water

Let’s assume you’re an HR leader with vendor decision-making authority.

Let’s also assume that you know you are going to need to partner with a technology vendor in the near future. You attend a conference or two, do some preliminary research, and inevitably end up on several email and cold call lists. Each vendor will promise to solve all of your problems, if you’d just take 15 minutes to give them a call back.

Here’s the thing-vendors and HR are speaking a different language, and it’s frustrating both sides.

It’s been my experience that tech vendors are either too technical or too general-they struggle to find the Goldilocks Zone that helps them meet the HR leader where they are. The reality is people in HR come from a variety of backgrounds, and a number of HR leaders are increasingly tech-savvy. And woe to any vendor who tries to talk down to a tech-savvy HR leader.

Even when a vendor strikes the right tech balance in the pitch, it’s highly likely that the salesperson knows next to nothing about corporate HR beyond the product he/she is pitching. This isn’t necessarily the fault of the salesperson-it’s not their area of expertise. But as an HR leader who has had products pitched to me, it’s incredibly frustrating when a salesperson isn’t willing to try to understand what my world is really like. You can’t promise to solve my problems if you don’t even know what my problems really are.

"To build credibility, employ expertise who understands the daily grind of working inside a company-the politics, the policies, and the insanity.“

So what’s the solution? Here are a few suggestions for vendors to keep in mind:

• Do your homework on the organization’s buying process: Having worked in both private and public sector, I’m struck by the differences in how the two types of organizations make buying decisions. Most public sector organizations are bound by pretty stringent procurement processes. Vendors doing a cold call without recognizing the buying process are immediately at a disadvantage.

• Develop a method for understanding the HR leader’s tech-savviness levels: This method is really just “ask questions.” It’s dangerous to make any assumptions of the potential customer. Before you launch into your sales pitch, do some level setting. How much does the HR leader know about their current system? How involved are they in the configuration? Is the HR leader aware of today’s marketplace? That way, you’ll be able to meet the HR leader where they are and can have a conversation on the same level.

• Consider hiring HR advisors: From time to time, I have HR tech companies reach out to me and ask for input on how a practitioner might react to the product or the pitch. I appreciate that they’re thinking ahead like that. I’d appreciate even more getting paid for it. (haha-but no, really) If you own an HR tech company that will be targeting HR people in the sales funnel, you need an HR person on staff. It can be a recovering HR person, but get someone who understands the daily grind of working inside a company-the politics, the policies, and the insanity. It will build your credibility.

There you have it-some simple suggestions to help vendors “speak HR.” Even if we don’t buy from you, you will make a positive impact.

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