Getting to know you

Whilst you may be the customer procuring a system you shouldn't underestimate the importance of selling yourself. Universities can tend to be naive, or possibly complacent, and assume that suppliers will already have an idea what kind of university they are and what their standing is within the sector and against global comparators.

Even more importantly you need to tell suppliers about your drivers for undertaking a VLE review and your aspirations for the future. A clear and succinct summary of your goals will be very welcome but by all means add links to important strategy documents that lay out your priorities and timescales.

If your official strategy documents set out things that you aren't now following to the letter for whatever reason it is a good idea to point this out. Similarly, if your real driver is to cut costs it is best to be upfront about this.

A number of contributors to this Toolkit have told us that they went into a procurement process with a very open mind and were disappointed by the small range of responses they received to their invitations to tender. Suppliers will be inclined to make assumptions about you and the likelihood that you are seriously interested in their product. Unless you make it clear from the start that you are engaging widely and want to see the best that the market can offer, they may erroneously assume that their chances of success are so slight it is not worth the effort to tender.

Don't be complacent and assume that the market will come to you - it won't.

Richard Walker, Head of E-Learning Development, University of York

Know your strengths

Just as the supplier needs to sell their company to you, you need to sell yourself as a potential customer.

It pays to know your own strengths and why a certain supplier might be particularly keen to win your business and to have you as a valuable reference site. You should then take every opportunity to establish your own credibility in your tender documentation.

Factors that might make you a particularly good catch include:
  • being a large or prestigious institution;
  • being prominent in a niche area;
  • showing the potential to purchase more of their products in future;
  • having a strong track record in successful implementations;
  • being their first site to go live with this particular product;
  • being in a strong position to advise them on future VLE development;
  • intending to use the VLE in an innovative way.