Companies have needs, and they look to other companies to fill those needs. No matter what service or product you’re looking for, as you shop for solutions, it’s important to know the qualities of technology vendors versus partners. Ask these questions to differentiate between the two:

How do does their offering address your needs?

A vendor’s goal is to get your needs to fit their solution. A partner’s goal is to get their solution to fit your needs. That’s a big difference, especially when you’re shopping for a learning management system or other software. If a provider offers a one-size-fits-all solution, you’ll be in for a constant battle. Flexibility is key. In the e-learning industry, for example, a partner solution gives you options to use your own content, buy existing online courses, or create custom training. With a vendor solution, you have to take what you can get, even if it doesn’t really work for you.

How do they support their solution?

Support is a key differentiator when comparing technology vendors versus partners. Software can streamline anything, but the human connection still matters. No matter what type of technology tool you’re implementing, you need real people to act as your guide before, during, and after you close the deal. Too many solutions have amazing sales people and top-notch implementation teams, only to leave you hanging (or make you pay) for the support you need once you’re up and running.

How transparent are they about costs?

Cost alone won’t help you distinguish vendors versus partners. How their representatives talk about costs, though, can be very insightful. In any technology solution, there are many factors that determine costs, and most providers are clear about what you’ll pay to get started with their program. Where you really need transparency is in ongoing costs. Will you pay for upgrades, support, or content updates? If reps can’t answer these questions quickly and clearly, they’re probably destined to be a vendor and not a partner.

How do they talk about their other clients?

Here’s a question to ask prospective suppliers to determine if they’re likely to be vendors versus partners: “How do your other clients’ needs compare to mine?” Their answer will tell you 1) do they understand your needs? And 2) do they care about their other clients’ needs? From there, you should know exactly which solution to choose.

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