Often when we are talking to potential clients, there comes a time in the decision-making process where they ask for references. Customers are looking to verify that providers will do what they say they will. But really, what is the point? It’s like when asking people for references during a job interview process – does anyone ever provide bad ones?
I’m not saying that references should be forsaken, but instead, property owners and managers should give some more thought to how they will make it a more valuable, informative exercise. In addition to all the other vendor qualifying questions that need to be asked, this is now the opportunity to verify the provider is being truthful in its promises.
When asking for references, you need to be specific:
- Make sure the client references are similar to your business in size and location.
- Ask for at least one reference that reflects a situation where the company had a similar business issues they were looking for the platform to solve.
- If part of your deployment hinges upon successful completion of a software configuration or adjustment to meet your unique needs, ask for a reference or two that can attest to the company’s ability to deliver on what they promise.
In addition, the timing of reference requests is important. You should be asking when you’re close to making a decision – this is a late-stage buying activity. Don’t forget that the vendor has to ask its clients for their time so you don’t want to waste it by asking to speak to them too early on in the buying cycle.
Bottom line: Be prepared, schedule a time to speak, and ask the specific questions you need answers to. When you’re done, go back to the vendor with any discrepancies you’re concerned about and give them the opportunity to explain.