Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Program report: Tips and Tricks for Successful Vendor Negotiations

Tips and Tricks for Successful Vendor Negotiations (Acquisitions Roundtable and TS-SIS Program)
Tuesday, July 17, 2007 — 12:00-1:30 p.m.
Hilton-Prince of Wales

I came in late to this (having written down the room number incorrectly), so I am missing the first part of Anne Robbins' (University of Illinois College of Law Library) presentation, but here are some of the excellent tips she provided:

  • Provide all your vendors with a consistent form of address. Not only will this help ensure accurate delivery of your mail, any pieces that don't have this address are probably unsolicited or junk mail.
  • Keep records of all interactions with vendors. Ask for an e-mail followup of any telephone conversations. If the vendor doesn't provide one, send yourself an e-mail about it and file it in a folder in your e-mail; then you'll have a complete record of all phone and all e-mail conversations. (A followup comment in the Q&A period mentioned you may want to copy the contents of these e-mails to a jointly accessible vendor file--either part of your ILS, or a separate database--so other staff can have access to this information.)
  • Be polite in your interactions (but you can be politely persistent!).
  • Ask for what you want. Even if you're not sure such a thing is possible, it doesn't hurt to ask. Vendors may have some discretion to do what you need and may be able to bend the rules a bit for you.
  • Some negotiating tips: Negotiating with a library vendor is not like buying a car. Most price points won't have a lot of wiggle room (but again, it doesn't hurt to ask). Identify ahead of time what the "dealbreakers" are for your library (e.g., IP-based authentication vs. password authentication). Talk to colleagues--their experiences with the product and vendor, their "dealbreakers," their experiences with the negotiation process.
  • More and more vendors are bringing up online account management tools. These allow you to perform many "do it yourself" functions that can save calls and e-mails to the vendor. You can monitor subscriptions and billing pro-actively and catch problems before they happen (like stopping the shipment of an item you don't want). Some vendors also have replacement pages available for downloading online, saving time and effort in claiming them.
  • While the CRIV web site has valuable information, a lot of the information is unfortunately out of date, and (also unfortunately) there is no searchable index for CRIV Sheets. The Fair Practices guide is a good general overview, but many vendors aren't aware of it. It can be a good source of useful language when crafting form letters for serious problems.

The second speaker was Emerita Cuesta (University of Miami School of Law Library). Her talk focused on dealing with foreign (primarily Latin American) vendors.

Challenges dealing with foreign vendors:
  • Publication patterns (and schedules) are erratic. ("We're in the middle of a civil war and can't get to a printer.") Many publishers have a "laissez-faire" attitude taken to the extreme ("we'll publish it...some day...").
  • Mail delivery is erratic.
  • Publishers may not be able (or willing) to invoice in dollars.
  • Your university's business department may have difficulty dealing with foreign addresses (e.g., checks mailed to Lima, Ohio instead of Lima, Peru).
  • Some publishers are multilingual but you can't assume everyone can speak/read English well.
  • Many governments are starting to put more and more materials on their Web sites (which is good) -- but this often means that getting these materials into print format is taking a back seat to the Web presence.
  • The situation varies by country; Columbia and Guatemala are real problems. Things are better in Argentina, which has many reliable vendors.

Some solutions to the above:
  • Because of all the problems with checks and the mail, she strongly advised trying to do credit card or wire transfer payments whenever possible.
  • Try to find publishers/distributors that have a U.S.-based address/office as well as their home office.
  • The business model in Latin America is very much based on personal relationships. Try to make (and keep) good contacts with publishers and distributors.
  • Many generalist vendors can also handle law materials for you.

Emerita is in the process of building a database of Latin American vendors and contacts; please contact her with any information you'd like to share. (FCIL is also talking about building a foreign vendor database.)

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