Upon his return from Pittcon, John Trigg and I had a conversation about whether or not the products available are starting to basically have the same features. John wrote more about this for TheIntegratedLab.com.
My opinion is that, in their effort to cover as many of the desired features as possible, that many of our products do actually have basically the same features available. Many products are differentiated not by the difference in features as much as in the look-and-feel of the product, the way the features are implemented toward specific industries (or not), or in the other factors, such as the operating system, database, support, training or other factors that can take place during a sale.
A few years ago, I was working with a customer who was doing a product selection and we were able to narrow-down the selection to two strong candidates. We saw the demos, checked the references, compared the features, and did all the other due diligence that you would expect. And we were well and truly undecided. With regard to features, the two products basically offered all the same standard features and each offered a couple extra desired and important features that the other one didn’t offer. Speaking to the references left us feeling that we were still no closer to knowing which product was a better choice for the situation.
In the end, based on more discussions, we were able to find one specific factor that was important to this customer that we used to break the tie. It was not based on features or any other initially obvious factor.
Thus, if you find yourself in this situation, and I suspect this is probably the situation more than most would want to admit, but you will have to dig deep as a team to come up with a way to break the tie and I would urge you not to rely on a coin toss. Think of it this way: if you end up with a negative experience with the selected vendor, if you had a good reason for selecting them, you will at least know why you made the decision. If the decision was made on a coin toss, you will probably truly regret it but be too financially committed to change it, leading you to a long and unhappy implementation period.