What buyers and vendors need to know –
As of May 29, there are 29 – just a coincidence – vendors who have completed the process to become Certified. Another dozen or so vendors are going through the process. So what does it take to become a Certified Vendor?
Step 1: Finding the Right Fit
Sales tech covers a lot of ground, and the first step is to work with a vendor to define a category for their solution. The dream of many vendors is to be defined in a unique category. But, upon discussion, most realize that a very narrowly defined category really doesn’t serve their or buyers’ interests. Too narrowly defined, and buyers may not immediately understand what the category is. Too broadly, and there’s just too many possible solutions. And, in reality, there are always multiple solutions that address a particular need.
Step 2: Asking the Right Questions
Every category in the Vendor Neutral 100 Certified Landscape is supported by a very detailed questionnaire. These are built using research on many different vendors in a category. By then comparing common functions and capabilities, the Vendor Neutral Certified Questionnaire covers:
- Company and Marketplace Information: This helps situate the vendor in the market, and we gather detailed information about the company, industries targeted, key customers, number of customers, and much more.
- General Product Information: There’s a lot of common function across SaaS products from administration to implementation, technical support, etc. Most interesting for buyers is every vendor selects up to ten challenges their solution addresses. These are closely aligned with the needs buyers’ select from their self-assessments to start matching vendors to buyers.
- Specific Product Information: For every category, the questionnaire asks on average 200 questions about the specific capabilities of a solution. This also covers key capabilities – again, these are aligned with buyer self-assessments to further target needs with function.
For vendors, the Vendor Neutral Certification Questionnaire takes a fair amount of time and commitment to complete. That comes as a bit of a shock sometimes. But getting that level of detail is key to building profiles, and developing a data-base of knowledge, that gives an accurate view of just what it is a solution can actually do.
Completed questionnaires are reviewed, and often there are further questions from me to ensure accuracy and detail. Sometimes, vendors don’t quite give themselves enough credit (You said you do “A” and “B” so doesn’t that mean you should be able to support “C”?). Perhaps surprisingly, vendors are quite straightforward about things they do NOT do – though they often note that completing the questionnaire that it is a good competitive review exercise since every function covered is supported by multiple vendors in a category.
Step 3: Building the Vendor Neutral Certified Profile
While only two pages, Profiles are packed with information covering every key function of a solution along with the core challenges addressed and capabilities delivered. For buyers, they can be a good checklist, both to map functions to needs as well as a basis for asking vendors questions or driving demos.
Certified Profiles are reviewed and approved by vendors and myself as accurate before being published.
Step 4: Putting Profiles to Work For You
For Buyers, vendors with Certified Profiles with solutions mapped to your needs help cut through the confusion and clouds of content to focus on the right solution for you.
For Vendors, a Profile demonstrates a commitment to openly and accurately describing the capabilities and benefits of a solution in an open and above-board way.
For both – creating a common ground for better aligning solutions with needs helps shorten the selection process, sets clear expectations, and sets the stage for achieving success!
Steven Wright is the Certification Analyst for Vendor Neutral.
Interested in becoming a Certified Vendor? Schedule a meeting with us to learn more about the Certification process.