Consultants often find themselves middlemen between vendors and clients. As vendors themselves, it’s interesting to find out how consultants choose the right suppliers for their clients’ needs. TechRepublic recently asked its consultant members what influences them when they choose vendors.

Vendors hoping to capture the business of TechRepublic members would do well to maintain a good reputation and update their Web sites. Most members reported choosing their vendors based mostly on past experiences, word of mouth, and Web research. This article outlines the results of the survey. The most interesting statistics include the following:

  • 72 percent of participants said they sometimes or often have problems finding products and services that fit their clients’ needs and budget.
  • 77 percent of participants most often rely on their previous experiences with vendors when choosing a product or services provider.
  • Only 19 percent of the participants said price was the most important issue when choosing a vendor.

Recommending quality vendors to clients
Of the 143 members who took the survey, 67 percent said they recommended specific vendors to their clients. Figure A shows that slightly more than half of the survey’s participants, 51 percent, reported that they occasionally have difficulty finding products and services that fit both a client’s need and budget, while 21 percent said it was a frequent problem.

Figure A

Sources for vendor information
Whether choosing a vendor for their own firm’s needs or for a client, members reported using a variety of sources for information. When asked what methods they most regularly used to choose a vendor, 77 percent of participants said they relied on previous experience with the vendor’s products.

Surprisingly, 52 percent of respondents chose research on the Web, which surpassed the percentage of people who indicated that they used analyst recommendations for vendor information. (Not surprisingly, 89 percent of participants indicated in a separate question that they typically call on vendors used in the past when purchasing products or services.)

In the same question, 37 percent indicated that they choose vendors based on word of mouth. According to the survey, trade show appearances and solicitations from vendors were the least likely to induce a purchase (see Figure B).

Figure B

When asked what single factor is most likely to determine vendor selection, the majority of participants said “the quality of product or service.” Nineteen percent said price was the most important issue, while 10 percent said a vendor’s reputation in the marketplace is the most important factor (see Figure C).

Figure C

Matching consumer trends
In some ways, the TechRepublic survey results mirror those of a study performed by the Information Technology Services Marketing Association (ITSMA), a firm that provides marketing, branding, and sales strategies for the technology industry. ITSMA surveyed 200 buyers of technology-based professional services and solutions at Fortune 1000 companies. The results showed that prior experience with services firms ranked high in the criteria for selecting vendors for new projects. For comparison’s sake, Figure D reveals the ranking of provider selection criteria as determined by the ITSMA study.

Figure D

How do you choose?

Do you have a foolproof method of choosing a vendor for a particular product or service? Do you use a checklist, spreadsheet, or formula to find the best solution for clients? Send us an e-mail and share your methods with us.