“Who are you and how are you going to help my employer maintain the ability to pay my salary?”

When evaluating technology vendors for possible B2B supply chain relationships, don’t shy away from directing questions toward those who create the product that is under procurement consideration.

Perhaps, during the course of your day-to-day nine-to-five, you’ve created or helped to create some of the RFI (Request For Information) or RFP (Request For Proposal) communications that enterprises need for comparing & contrasting sources of potential production inputs. Such documented requests are important elements of maximizing employer value and, consequently, profits and, consequently-consequently, your sustained income from whichever role you occupy within the organization.

The product itself, though, represents only a part of the relationship that your employer has with its supply-side stakeholders. The people who make the product are just as important to both their employer’s success and yours, so suss out information like the vendor’s HR turnover rate (churn) as well as how closely its various departments work together (e.g. do they have a workforce that is geographically distributed and do they do much outsourcing of their own production needs?).

Such questions need not be of a personal nature. Instead of asking someone where they went to school, try asking them what their process is for resolving bugs or similar product defects. Instead of listening to a sales pitch as a captured audience, find out whether a potential supplier’s engineering staff — or whoever creates their employer’s product — would be willing to sit in on one of your employer’s sales meetings (assuming your employer approves).

The key is to build a trustful and mutually beneficial relationship based not on the product alone or the first impression you get regarding specific personalities, but rather on the way that potential vendors work together to add value to your employer’s roadmap advancements. It’s the business management equivalent of “Measure twice, cut once.”