Managing Change: What to Ask a Vendor Before You Sign the Contract

“If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading.” – Lao Tzu

Fear of change has stymied personal and organizational growth since the dawn of humankind. The risks can seemingly outweigh the benefits. For organizations, the stakes can be high. Your company’s bottom line could be affected. Your job could be on the line if you make the wrong decision. Or – you might be heralded as a hero for pulling your organization back on the track of growth and prosperity.

Fear of change is also the reason so many organizations find themselves in relationships with vendors who no longer deliver what they need. Ever switch your team to a new CRM, a new security protocol or new health insurance provider? It’s not fun, but as the quote above suggests, if your company isn’t getting the results or service it needs, doing nothing won’t help you end up in a better place.

The art of proper onboarding

One way to move from a place of inaction to a place of future growth is to thoroughly investigate not just the deal, but the onboarding process and relationship management that takes place AFTER the contract is signed. Understanding HOW the change will happen can be as important as knowing the deliverables once the change is made. This improves your chances of a successful transition because it goes beyond the ROI of working with a new vendor, to how that relationship will grow successfully moving forward.

Arrowhead is a company that manages promotions of all types for our clients, often from start to finish, which can involve design, platform development, fulfillment, customer relations, compliance and more. One size does not fit all, which means how we onboard new clients, understand their needs and nurture a true partnership for success is critical to accomplishing our goals, and keeping business.

Who’s on the team?

Every industry has nuances, but successful onboarding can be remarkably similar across industries. When contemplating a change, understand the handoff between the team you are dealing with up to the point of sale, and the team you will be dealing with once your account is established. At Arrowhead, they are one in the same. By eliminating any passing of business from transitional teams to activation, implementation and account management, this structure allows us to maintain continuity, and eliminate knowledge gaps. Admittedly, this isn’t possible in every industry – but the basic concept is the same: how will your new vendor insure information is shared from one team to the next to create a seamless experience?

If you have customers, how will that transition impact those customers, if at all? This should be determined up front so that ideally, you retain the information you need, and your customers see zero disruption in the services/goods you provide. If data needs to be shared between vendors during a transition – how will that happen, and will your new vendor take care of any heavy lifting to ensure that data is received?

What does the future hold?

Understand what to expect one year out, or even five years out from the time you make the transition. You might have multiple team members who are part of that vendor relationship over a period of time. People move on or get promoted. Your new vendor/partner should be able to tell you how they ensure they will retain knowledge and continuity as new team members cycle through on either side. If your potential partner has a history of high turnover among employees, that could be a red flag. By contrast, a company with a history of long tenure among employees ensures your account knowledge is retained, along with a working understanding of your company culture and goals.

One caveat – any vendor you work with should also have a reputation for keeping abreast of industry changes, trends and employee development. Ideally you have partners who understand your industry, your company, and be able to offer continuity as well as innovation.

A best-in-class service partner understands where you have been, what you need now and what you may need in the future. Our goal with our partners is to continue discovering new ways to work together to achieve growth for our clients, which, in turn, leads to growth for Arrowhead.

Any vendor you work with should be consistently discovering new possibilities to benefit your company, and the team you work with should become stakeholders in any conversations that move beyond the initial scope of work.

Taking action

Change might seem daunting, but proper onboarding can turn what seems like a challenge into an incredible opportunity for your company. By asking simple questions upfront, you can ensure you are working with the right team that will help drive your company’s success. Having those answers in hand before the deal is signed can also help bring your own stakeholders on board, further eliminating friction in the process. Fear of change should never prevent you from moving forward.