I cribbed some of this from William Tincup’s session at HRTX Chicago, and I’ll probably go back and add to it after HRTech in Vegas this week. But let’s start with the 35,000-foot view if you’re super busy, then we’ll get more nuanced.

Higher-level (and mostly obvious) on how to buy HR tech

  1. Make a list of the stuff you absolutely need.
  2. Make a list of the stuff that might be nice to have.
  3. Understand your integrations.
  4. Talk to some of the people who will be using it day-in and day-out.
  5. Talk to your peers in the industry (former colleagues, people you meet at trade events, message boards, Facebook groups, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.)
  6. Look at external reviews and ratings of different product suites.
  7. Try to downplay fads as much as possible. For example, while mobile-first is by no means a fad, very few people in the world currently push global payroll from their smartphone. So if you’re looking for payroll options, you’ll probably end up doing that at your desk or a secure locale, so mobile might not be as relevant in those contexts.
  8. Do NOT lead with price. When you lead with price, you often end up with, well, crap. I fully understand that HR departments, where recruiting often resides, don’t generate revenue directly. As such, they have limited budgets often. I get it. I think everyone gets it. But within reason, do not lead with price.

Out of those, I’d say (5) and (8) might be the most important, although all of them have value.

Dealing with salespeople

Pop quiz, hot shot. How do you know a good weatherman from a bad weatherman?

The bad one always says “my forecast this week…”

The good one says “our forecast…”

A good sales guy is a good weatherman. What the hell does that mean? It’s “our.” It’s a collective journey. That means more than half the time, an excellent sales guy says “no” to you. “No, we can’t do that. That’s impossible and in some ways preposterous.”

This is paradoxical to many people, who think sales guys have to accept any condition or make anything happen to hit the mark. Not true.

Here’s what happens when sales guys accept every prospect condition or treat it as a “automatic yes:”

  • The team back home who works on the product burns out
  • The sales guy isn’t trusted
  • The sales guy may not even really know the capabilities of the suite and is just trying to hit his specific number
  • You get a mish-mash of crap that doesn’t really speak to each other

The most crucial call

You “hop on” multiple calls during your process of buying HR tech. What’s the single-most important one?

Probably a call between you (as the client), the sales rep, and the implementation team. This call needs to be some first-grade-level listening work.

“Kevin, can you repeat what the sales team just said?”

“Dan, are you on the same page as implementation here?”

Implementations often come down to relationships, and implementations often flop completely due to the relationships not being secure during the sales cycle. So make sure you, sales, and implementations squad are all together.

Interesting aspect from Chicago

In three rotations of talent acquisition leaders, only one rotation had more than five people who had bought new tech in the past 8-12 months. I doubt that says the market for HR tech is slowing down — if anything, it’s growing pretty quickly — but it may speak to some analysis paralysis (at least in the Chicago market) on what’s necessary when buying tech on the HR side of the coin. Hopefully this quick guide began the process of helping.

You can always reach out to anyone at RD for additional assistance on this stuff. Tincup screens thousands of tech solutions a year, so he generally knows how “A” might differ from “B,” and where you might be able to request competitive pricing (because let’s be honest, the pricing side does matter).

Ted Bauer

Originally from New York City, Ted Bauer currently lives in Fort Worth, Texas. He's a writer and editor for RecruitingDaily who focuses on leadership, management, HR, recruiting, marketing, and the future of work. His popular blog, The Context of Things, has a simple premise -- how to improve work. Ted has a Bachelors in Psychology from Georgetown and a Masters in Organizational Development from the University of Minnesota. In addition to various blogging and ghost-writing gigs, he's also worked for brands such as McKesson, PBS, ESPN, and more. You can follow Ted on Twitter @tedbauer2003, connect with him on LinkedIn, or reach him on email at [email protected]