Saying No to Would-Be Vendors

I’m the Director of Information Technology and department-head for a physician group in Connecticut. I see my role in part as delivering the best we can against the many needs and expectations of our internal customers, our external partners in the medical community, and our patients. This includes saying yes most of the time and then figuring out how to get it done. Like any team these days, we have finite resources, both financially and in terms of our available time.

There are a lot of niches in Information Technology: data center, storage, cloud computing, database, business intelligence, networking, wireless, security, backup and recovery, telephony, clinical applications in our case, and the list goes on and on. And I hear from companies that specialize in all of these every single day. As a result, I receive and send around 400 e-mails per business day, I get a couple dozen phone calls, and a handful of requests via LinkedIn. Every day. Repeat again tomorrow.

While my experiences and my desire to accommodate my customers may have shaped me into something of a yes-man, I now realize that it’s high time I learn to say no. That is, no to the many adequate, worthwhile, even commendable products and services that aren’t currently on our priority list. No to the tasks that don’t advance the immediate needs of our business. No to the things that we might be interested in six months or a year from now but definitely aren’t today.

“We just need 30 minutes of your time.”

The most common request from would-be vendors is for 30 minutes of my time for them to tell me about their product or service. A strong seller who knows our market well, who knows the industry well, can make a fairly compelling case for the value of 30 minutes spent with them. They have lots of time to hone their message. At the end of the day, they’re doing whatever it takes to earn a living, just like me and my team.

But my time isn’t free. Even a small to midsize business spends a fair amount to retain their staff including people in positions of wider responsibility. I don’t have to think of myself as important to realize that my time is a valuable resource and that I’m responsible for managing all resources within my sphere of influence in a way that serves my company’s objectives.

So now that I’ve finally taken the time to write this down and internalize it, I’m going to get in the habit of saying no a whole lot more. No I don’t want to hear from the sixth security vendor to call me this week. No I don’t have time to hear more about your new cloud-hosted, AI-enabled application at a time when we’re focusing on something else. No I don’t need any offshore development services at this time. No.

To the many IT vendors out there who will call me this year: I don’t care what you’re selling. It doesn’t matter if you’re an industry leader. It hardly matters if you believe in your service. If the gizmo you’re selling is on my priority list to the point that I planned to reach out to your company anyway, then we’ll talk. Otherwise we won’t.

Let’s assume that I have enough ethics that I wouldn’t go grab some currency from petty cash and give it out to strangers. So why should I treat my time any differently? Why should I take your meeting? I shouldn’t. In fact, I won’t. Or if I’m wearing my customer service hat, I’ll say it with a smile and a little more politely. I’m not interested. Thank you anyway. Have a great day.

*If you’re an IT vendor and I sent you a link to this post, please don’t take it personally. I know you’re just doing your job. And so am I doing mine.

No.

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