The Internal Sales Job: Get the Buy-In When Selecting a New ESP

It might be time for a new email service provider (ESP), either because you’ve outgrown one or you’re tired of one. If so, that means it’s also time for a coming together at your company, to ensure everyone is on the same page before you ever talk to a vendor.
I can’t stress enough the importance of this buy-in, both for the sake of your sanity as you go through the selection process, and for your success when you implement that new ESP.

The importance of buy-in can’t be overstated. If you’ve ever been married, think about the kinds of discussions you have to have for big-ticket purchases, and how having buy-in can save your marriage. If you bought a new car without your spouse’s buy-in, you’d have some serious fallout to contend with. Trust me, I know…

You need that same kind of buy-in when preparing to do an email service provider comparison too. You need to know everyone is on the same page, all needs are being met, and the budget is agreed to. You need to make sure the C suite is on your side. And you need all of that before you even let a vendor into your inbox let alone through your office door.

Get buy-in before the sales teams show up

Having everyone in agreement before you even start on your RFP or make your short list is imperative. Not only will this keep you focused on the actual needs (vs. wants) of your organization’s different teams, it will affect the buying/sales process itself.

Imagine a meeting with a potential vendor during which that ESP’s sales team is hearing conflicting information from the various people sitting around the table (i.e. your people). How can they promise to meet your needs if you’re not even sure what your email software needs are? How can they be confident they’re the best email service provider for you? Alternatively, you’ll help the ESP’s sales team to do their job. When your team is in agreement and you’re clear on your needs, they can be clear in addressing them.

Avoid an irrelevant RFP

In addition, lacking buy-in means you could set yourself up to have an irrelevant RFP (and with all the time it takes to create one, it’s better to get it right the first time). If the requirements you’ve listed aren’t the requirements agreed to by department XYZ, it won’t matter how long or short that RFP is because it won’t get you the information you need to make an informed decision.

On the other hand, if you have the discussions and get the buy-in, you might just shorten the RFP process because you’ll know exactly what is needed, giving a potential ESP a clear picture of the capabilities you require…for everyone.

Even if you forego the RFP and go straight to a short list of vendors, you’ll need to have these discussions and get this buy-in, for all of the reasons mentioned above.

And during those discussions, you might learn you don’t need a new ESP after all. But that’s a different topic altogether.

Keep your team in the loop as you progress

As you’re moving through the RFP, shortlist or sales process, keep people in the loop so they remember the how and why of your choices—and that they agreed to them. It can take a while to find the best email service provider for your needs. And people have short memories.

Between the time when you started the discussions about a new ESP and signed the contract with one, they might have forgotten just what everyone agreed to, and that memory lapse can be the same as having no buy-in at all. If you keep reminding them along the way—like with a status update that says “…and XYZ ESP offers that segmenting capability we all agreed was critical to our strategy”—they won’t be able to come back later and claim they hadn’t agreed to something they actually had.

No buy-in before the selection? Don’t look for it after!

You might get through the selection process okay, but then there’s the dark side you’ll suffer through after investing in a new email service provider if you lack buy-in.

If someone muscles through an ESP choice without taking into account the needs of other departments, or without getting the buy-in of their own team (or even management), how quickly and effectively do you think that new ESP will be implemented? After implementation and the migration from the old ESP to the new, how well do you think that new platform will work? I suspect there’d be some resistance and some friction, to say the least.

In addition to a slow ramp-up time, the effect of not having the buy-in ahead of time can be costly in other ways too. There are potential support costs if people at your company are leaning on the ESP to try and make things work the way they need.

There are potential ESP customization costs if other departments are asking for customized capabilities because those features weren’t part of the original RFP. There are potential revenue costs—i.e. lost revenue—when the platform is simply not used because it doesn’t fit everyone’s needs. And there’s the really big cost of going through another RFP process, as well as another costly implementation when your organization outgrows that new ESP too fast, or tires of it too soon.

Communication is by far the best way to achieve everyone’s buy-in when looking for a new email service provider. Talk openly, talk often, and talk all through the process. And listen. You might not like everything you hear, but you’ll need to take all of it into consideration, no matter how unreasonable a request might be. Do this before, during and after, and make sure your buy-in is a shoo-in when choosing an ESP.

About Marco Marini

With 25 years in business, Marco is a walking encyclopedia of all things email: best practices, technologies, trends, and more. Marco is currently the COO of iPost, an email platform built for marketers by marketers. iPost an easy, flexible, dynamic marketing automation solution for email and mobile marketing. He has also held key marketing positions with CyberSource, ClickMail, eHealthInsurance, DoveBid and IBM Canada.

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