Techies usually hate dealing with sales folk, because we seem to come from different worlds. Engineering is about honesty: Either that bridge will hold or it won't. Sales is about deceit (or so we geeks assume): Lie to the customer and cash the commission.
So it's no surprise that renegotiating your telecom relationship (and dealing with telco sales folk) ranks right around getting a root canal for most IT execs' lists.
But the right deal can save your organization millions of dollars and lay the foundation for the next three-to-five-year architecture. Here are some tactics to make the most from your telecom procurement process:
-- Define your goals clearly in the RFP. There's no one "right" definition of a successful deal: One company might want to save money at all costs. Another might wish to improve service quality while reducing costs. And a third might be willing to pay more to achieve a wholesale increase in service quality and capability. Whatever your goal is - know it, and state it clearly.
-- Start early. Most companies make the mistake of allocating too little time for the RFP process, including negotiation. But by doing that, you're giving up one of the most powerful negotiating weapons at your disposal. The key to getting a great deal lies in being willing to go back to the table as many times as needed to get it done right. Don't shortchange yourself - plan for at least six months for the RFP and negotiations process (and add another eight weeks for the first circuit install).
-- End with the quarter. In your RFP, you'll sketch out your intended procurement timeline. If you can, plan to end with a signed contract right before the quarter-end. Why? Sales folks' commissions often are paid on a quarterly basis. If a salesperson sees the opportunity to get the check earlier, he will fight harder to close the deal in a timely fashion.
-- Get it in writing. At the start of the process, make it clear that anything a salespeople commits to is something you expect to see in writing in the final contract. Make them provide you with the exact verbiage they'll use (in writing). If they try to argue that the terms are "pending legal approval" - tell them to get legal approval before they commit to you.
-- Go as many rounds as necessary. As noted, the key to a successful negotiation is a willingness to go back to the table multiple times. I've found that three to five rounds of negotiation yields the optimum results. And finally, no matter how counterintuitive it sounds, throughout the process remember that you and the telco sales team ultimately want the same thing: a fair deal. Don't give up till you've got one.