Why You Weren't Selected: Benefits Consultant Pet Peeves

James Bond impersonators, razor scooters, pink cupcakes, and thousands of people in polos. As I walked into the staggering HR Technology conference expo hall a few weeks ago, I had one distinct impression:

I'm completely overwhelmed, and have no idea where to start. 

Which interestingly enough, would be the theme I heard over and from numerous HR Tech purchasers in the days that followed.

Working for an RFP software company, I work such purchasers a lot. With HR C-suites, vendors, or consultants who are part of the benefit solutions shopping process (those issuing or responding to a HRMS or HRIS system Request for Proposal, etc.). But since we're not exclusively an HR solution, we came to the show with the fresh perspective of an outsider.

And we looked around wide eyed, feeling new respect for the magnitude of what our customers are up against. 

It was clear that selecting a HR tech provider has never been more complicated, and everyone involved has an incredibly full plate.

So I decided to ask the experts how to make it easier. Here's their wisdom on what buyers should look for, and how sellers can set themselves up for selection.

Q. How can vendors stand out (and get selected)?

“Learn how to write well. Learn how to use bullets and numbers in your RFP. Make them clear and concise. They need to be easy to digest." 

 - Sharlyn Lauby, HR Bartender (get more of our Q&A and her brilliant advice here). 

"I think the number one thing HR Tech vendors can do to be more appealing is to be sure that they can make it clear what they are offering. Many of the HR tech vendors gave me their spiel, and I just had to say, 'Huh. Wow. Hope you have a good conference.' I just couldn’t penetrate the fog of jargon to figure out what they were offering."

- Steve Bruce, Ph.D., PHR, Editor, HR Daily Advisor


"The easiest way for vendors to get an edge up in the broker and consultant world is to make it easy."

- Matthew Kaiser, Vice President; Managing Director of Lockton Benefit Group (get his conference recap here)

"Because the HR technology industry is so volatile right now, solutions we normally relied on as our 'go-to' are being challenged in order to keep pace.  

"The challenges service providers faced last year are very different than those faced this year and with new technologies and providers emerging almost daily, keeping up with the competition is no longer an option, it’s a requirement. 

"We’re also in a seller’s market which often leaves the client or consultant at a disadvantage. Vendors have guaranteed demand and are frequently understaffed. The result is service and implementations being led by new employees who are still learning the ropes, making it difficult for buyers to get the assistance, support, and resolution they expect."

Jennifer Bedeaux, National Practice Technology Consultant, Wells Fargo Insurance

"Meeting expectations and defining success on all ends is the ultimate goal. That being said what has a considerable impact on vendor selection is an edifying discovery and sales process, meaning a comprehensive review of requests for information with responses provided in a timely and detailed manner.  

"Also, that first client engagement with a new solution provider is absolutely critical to earning serious consideration for future business. A savvy salesperson will remain engaged throughout the initial implementation process, to ensure the commitments and information provided at point of sale are seamlessly delivered.

"Conversely, the solution provider’s service/account manager should also be a key part of the implementation in order to ensure process consistency in the evolution from an implementation account to a recurring customer."

Pattie Zappone, National Practice Technology Consultant, Wells Fargo Insurance

Conclusion: do's and don'ts of vendor selection 


Purchaser pet peeves / vendor red flags:

  • Don't use confusing jargon in the name of sophistication
  • Don't make your Buyers' lives more difficult by witholding critical details 
  • Don't underestimate the power of a great prospecting process
  • Don't discount the importance of implementation
  • Don't think short-term, acting as if you're "done" once the check clears

Why You Weren't Selected - get sleected.png


To win brownie points with your HR Director, Benefits consultant, or Insurance Broker: 

  • Do use simple language in everything from product pitches to proposals
  • Do make each RFP response clear and succinct 
  • Do take as much off the Purchaser's plate as possible 
  • Do be thorough, and give buyers all the information they need
  • Do make initial client engagement a priority 
  • Do keep your sales/account manager involved throughout the process
  • Do think long-term, and focus on winning long-term loyalty and referrals 

The expo, the conversations, all confirmed that the vendor selection process has never been more complicated. If we want to keep up, we need to leverage every tool available to make our part in selection and the RFP process as efficient as possible. 

Here's how to make sure your next RFP response is a winning response

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