A Call to Action for HR Leaders: You should Embrace Relationships with HR Tech Vendors

Tracie Sponenberg, Senior Vice President, Human Resources, The Granite Group
Tracie Sponenberg, Senior Vice President, Human Resources, The Granite Group

Tracie Sponenberg, Senior Vice President, Human Resources, The Granite Group

I love conferences. LOVE them. I believe in the power of continuous learning, and I learn best when immersed in a learning experience. And as much as I enjoy the content, my favorite part of conferences is attending the trade show portion. From SHRM to HR Tech to local HR conferences to industry conferences, I have made many HR technology purchases for my companies by getting the opportunity to meet and talk to these vendors. There is nothing like being able to stand in front of a vendor booth and fire off every question you've ever had about Learning Management Systems. It is certainly far more effective than Googling for solutions!

That said, with every vendor connection made that may lead to a business partnership, there are probably three dozen badge scans. And three dozen emails to go along with it after the conference. I, like many of my peers, used to view these emails/calls/contacts as annoyances. I would delete the emails, let the call go to voicemail and not respond in general. Eventually, the vendor would get the hint. Maybe.

Not anymore.

Here's why I changed my mind.

  Vendors have a job to do. Particularly  startup vendors. Small businesses make up about 99% of the businesses in our country. Every Google or Microsoft started as a small business. I am doing my part to give them the support  

My husband has his own business (he's a CFO/Controller/Operations Consultant.) We don't tend to think of him as a vendor, but essentially he is. His business survives on word of mouth and networking - he doesn't advertise. To stay ahead of the ebbs and flows of owning a small business, he reaches out via email to business owners, HR professionals, connections of connections. He is great at what he does, though of course the person on the receiving end of a blind email doesn't know that. They also don't know that by owning his own business, it allows him to balance work and family, and pick our girls up from school every day, be there for every single sporting event or other event they ever have. And that's critically important to us. A bout of marketing emails last year resulted in a shockingly low number of responses - not even a "thanks but no thanks." These were in some cases blind, but in many cases connections of connections, or connections of mine.

We can do better than this.

Vendors have a job to do. Particularly startup vendors. Small businesses make up about 99% of the businesses in our country. Every Google or Microsoft started as a small business. I am doing my part to give them the support. Just today, I emailed back five potential vendors, answered a call, and scheduled a demo. For many of them, the response was essentially "thanks but no thanks." But one or two of them might be potential future partners.  

Almost without fail, every single vendor I email responds and thanks me. It takes me all of about five minutes a day.

That's not just the right thing to do, it's good business. You never know when you may need one of these vendors.  And now, after more than a year of embracing relationships with vendors, vendors are one of my top sources of continuous learning.

So, if you are a vendor I previously ignored, I apologize. You have a job to do and so do I. Just don't call me seventeen times a day (true story) or tell me "I can't" when you call me seventeen times a day and I ask you to stop calling me. (Also true story.) I will let you know if I am interested or not. It is likely going to be a no. But maybe not. I may have been missing out. 

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