Hall: Just to keep the company honest, I'd have a competitive bid process to bring things back to a head. Create a policy to review every vendor relationship every two years. Look at the financials and force them to go through the bid process. The vendors don't like it, but it's effective.
CIO.com: How do CIOs deal with the barrage of vendor sales calls today?
Hall: They develop evasion techniques. A lot of them set up vendor relations portal. When the salesperson calls, the admin tells them to go there and enter their name in the queue. Others have developed solutions that are very tricky. If a call from an IT vendor comes in, they tell them they're transferring them to Dan Heller in the procurement office. The salesperson gets a voice mail greeting, 'Hi, this is Dan Heller, leave a message.' Only there is no Dan Heller.
CIO.com: If the IT sales process is so inefficient-and even drives customers into hiding-aren't the vendors working on new techniques themselves?
Hall: What could they do that they haven't already tried? What they need to do is build relationships. What we're trying to do is change the hunted into the hunter. Rather than the vendor pursuing the buyer, why not have the buyer who has a need pursue the vendor. Then you say to the vendor, 'Here's an active buyer that's doing a project that needs you because they said so.'
CIO.com: But isn't that how the traditional outsourcing RFP process works-I tell you what I need and you give me your best proposal?
Hall: It is. But the model I'm proposing is one in which the IT buyer remains anonymous. The identity of the user organization is not revealed until they want it to be. This gives the buyer more control over that early stage of the relationship. Say, a CIO wants to outsource a help desk. He does early stage discovery on the service providers, talks to his peers, and then engages the service companies and asks questions-anonymously.
As soon as you reveal your name or your company, it's like throwing blood in the water. Once you express the slightest bit of interest, you're suddenly surrounded by sharks. Every potential vendor-even those not in IT services, those that want to sell you office products or real estate-is circling. It's frustrating, and that's why CIOs are loathe to give up their identity.
I went to the Taj Mahal recently, and as soon as the local vendors saw me in the back seat of the car, they started swarming-one, two, then 15, 20 of them following the car until I got out. They started a barrage of sales pitches-postcards, photos, guides, trinkets. And they followed me until I looked each on in the eye and said, 'I'm not going to buy anything today.' It was humiliating for me, and it was humiliating for them. That's analogous to the IT marketplace.