How to buy business software, without bias [+template]

Madeleine Work
April 26, 2022
min to read

How to buy business software, without bias [+template]

Madeleine Work
April 26, 2022
min to read

8,000. That’s the number of marketing tech tools available, according to the most recent “Marketing Technology Landscape Supergraphic”. 

Add in the Sales Technology Landscape, and you’re looking at 1,000+ additional tools.

When we’re living in a glittering diamond mine of tech, it’s no wonder so many of us have fallen ill to shiny tool syndrome. 

Source: Tenor

In this article, we’ll share Chili Piper’s tried-and-true method for making objective tech-purchasing decisions — and we’ll even throw in a template and a downloadable example to boot.

Let’s get into it.

How to objectively make tech-purchasing decisions

When you have 200+ people located across 14 time zones, you might not think it’s possible to make fully transparent and inclusive decisions. 

You’d be wrong. 

At Chili Piper, we’re able to involve everyone in decision-making because of a little something called a “decision memo.” 

We use decision memos to decide everything. 

Should we develop this new product feature? Should we implement a no-meeting day? Should we purchase a new tool? 

“We’re all about full transparency at Chili Piper. When you have employees located across 25+ countries, transparency means a decision-making process that everyone can participate in and everyone has access to.”
-Nicolas Vandenberghe, CEO and Co-Founder of Chili Piper

For our purposes today, we’ll be focusing on the latter — using decision memos for tech-purchasing decisions.

Before you go any further, we recommend you open our decision memo template in a new tab so you can follow along. 

Ready? Let’s go.

When writing your decision memo, you need to:

1. Explain the problem you’re solving

Before you buy any tool, you need to be sure it’s solving a real problem that exists — and that this particular problem is the most important problem your company is currently experiencing.

In this first section, you want to clearly explain this problem. Answer questions like: 

  • How are you currently operating without this tool?
  • What problems is the status quo causing? 
  • What drove you to search for a solution? 

2. Make the business case 

Anytime you buy a tool, you want to make sure it does one of the following: 

  1. Increases revenue 
  2. Saves time
  3. Enables objective decision-making
  4. Creates opportunities for growth 
  5. Fosters internal collaboration 

If you’re not able to tie a purchase to any of the above, it might be a good sign to think twice about making this purchase. 

Or, at the very least, do some deep thinking about how this tool would positively impact the business.

“When making your business case, remember that top line is sexier than bottom line. In other words, making money is cooler than saving money.” 

-Craig Jordan, CEO and Founder of SaaScend

3. Identify all possible use cases and integrations

A big mistake people make is buying tech as a point solution to solve a single problem. 

“If you’re only using 20% of a tool’s functionality, you need to either figure out new use cases — or solve the same problem using a different tool in your stack.”

-Rosalyn Santa Elena, Chief Revenue Operations Officer at Carabiner Group

An equally big mistake is buying tech without understanding how (or if) it integrates with your current systems.

To avoid making these mistakes yourself, answer the following questions in your decision memo:

  • What tools that we currently use does this tool integrate with? 
  • What use cases does this solve for? 
  • What opportunities is this tool expected to create?
  • How does this fit into our current tech stack? 

4. Explore potential options to solve this problem 

There are always multiple solutions to any problem. The trick is exploring all possible solutions and narrowing down from there.

This could mean researching competitors, uncovering unused features in your current tech stack, or working with your engineering team to build custom solutions.

You can add as many options as you’d like. We also recommend adding “Do Nothing” as the first option, so you can reiterate the cons of continuing with the status quo.

Under each option be sure to include: 

  • What this option means
  • Pros — How is this option better than the others?
  • Cons — How is this option worse than the others? 

5. Identity stakeholders 

Each decision memo needs to have a(n):

  • Owner: This is the person who created the decision memo and drives the decision memo forward. (This is not necessarily the person who drives the entire project)
  • Contributors: These are the people who review the decision memo and add their comments, edits, and recommendations. They will also give their recommendation for the best option to solve the outlined problem. 
  • Decision-Maker: This is the person who will make the final decision. Send to the decision-maker after all contributors have added their comments, edits, and recommendations. 

6. Solicit Recommendations

After you’ve put the final touches on your decision memo and identified your stakeholders, add your recommendation. Your recommendation should include your recommended course of action, what you predict the new process would look like, and the proposed next steps.

Then, send your decision memo to contributors for review. Ask them to add any comments and edits as they see fit. Everyone on your team has their own experiences and knowledge — take advantage of that to make the most well-rounded decision you can!

After all your contributors added their recommendations, send it to the decision maker for final approval. 

Decision memo example

Why Chili Piper decided to purchase Gong

It’s all well and good to read about how to write a decision memo. But how do you apply those lessons to real life? 

(Psst… download the full decision memo example here).

If you grabbed your copy of the decision memo above, you’ll notice the template is a bit different from our example. (If you didn’t grab your copy of the decision memo template, get it here).

That’s because a decision memo isn’t made of pure titanium — you can flex it to suit your specific needs. At its core, a decision memo is just a tool to help you make objective decisions. The sections themselves are a guideline.

Anyways, back to the main point. Here’s how Chili Piper used a decision memo to decide on a conversational intelligence platform (spoiler: We went with Gong): 

Context 

First, we outlined the status quo. We shared what we were currently using and the problems we were having. 

At the time, we were using SalesLoft Conversational Intelligence for recording sales meetings. While this worked fine during our early stages, the lacking functionality started to gnaw on us as we expanded our sales team. 

When we were preparing the context section, we asked end users (sales reps) how SalesLoft Conversational Intelligence just wasn’t cutting it. 

We ended up with a strong case for why it wasn’t working — and why we needed a change.

Business Case

Then, we made our business case. 

As we were building out our business case, we assumed that a more advanced conversational intelligence solution would:  

  • Save up to 1 hour per rep per month by easily surfacing action items and promised next steps
  • Allow us to identify high-risk deals, saving at least 1 deal per rep per year

Using these assumptions, we estimated that the ROI of switching to Gong would be more than $70,000. 

The other advantage of listing out quantifiable expectations is that they double as success metrics. When it came time to renew Gong, we were able to measure actual outcomes against expected outcomes, and decide whether we wanted to renew our contract (another spoiler: We renewed).

Options

In our search for a conversational intelligence platform, we explored six different tools: Jiminny, Refract, ExecVision, Wingman, Chorus.ai, and Gong. 

Under each tool, we included:

  • Use cases 
  • Integrations
  • UI screenshots
  • Total cost
  • Recommendation

Integrations were key to our decision-making process — if the conversational intelligence platform didn’t integrate with our current systems, we wouldn’t even think about moving forward. 

“If you don’t have all your systems integrated, you’ll never get a full picture of what’s going on.”
-Dan Stratton, Partner at CloudKettle

Recommendations

For this decision memo, we solicited recommendations from four team members: three from sales and one from RevOps. 

Pro-tip: Never, ever make a decision about tech without Ops. 

Then Nicolas, Chili Piper’s CEO, made the final decision. 

And that’s the story of how Chili Piper became a Gong customer — and the beginning of our beautiful friendship.

What’s next

If you didn’t grab your copy of the decision memo template and decision memo example above, get them now: 

Once you’ve got those tucked away somewhere safe, you should be ready to rock and roll — and start making the most objective decisions of your life.

8,000. That’s the number of marketing tech tools available, according to the most recent “Marketing Technology Landscape Supergraphic”. 

Add in the Sales Technology Landscape, and you’re looking at 1,000+ additional tools.

When we’re living in a glittering diamond mine of tech, it’s no wonder so many of us have fallen ill to shiny tool syndrome. 

Source: Tenor

In this article, we’ll share Chili Piper’s tried-and-true method for making objective tech-purchasing decisions — and we’ll even throw in a template and a downloadable example to boot.

Let’s get into it.

How to objectively make tech-purchasing decisions

When you have 200+ people located across 14 time zones, you might not think it’s possible to make fully transparent and inclusive decisions. 

You’d be wrong. 

At Chili Piper, we’re able to involve everyone in decision-making because of a little something called a “decision memo.” 

We use decision memos to decide everything. 

Should we develop this new product feature? Should we implement a no-meeting day? Should we purchase a new tool? 

“We’re all about full transparency at Chili Piper. When you have employees located across 25+ countries, transparency means a decision-making process that everyone can participate in and everyone has access to.”
-Nicolas Vandenberghe, CEO and Co-Founder of Chili Piper

For our purposes today, we’ll be focusing on the latter — using decision memos for tech-purchasing decisions.

Before you go any further, we recommend you open our decision memo template in a new tab so you can follow along. 

Ready? Let’s go.

When writing your decision memo, you need to:

1. Explain the problem you’re solving

Before you buy any tool, you need to be sure it’s solving a real problem that exists — and that this particular problem is the most important problem your company is currently experiencing.

In this first section, you want to clearly explain this problem. Answer questions like: 

  • How are you currently operating without this tool?
  • What problems is the status quo causing? 
  • What drove you to search for a solution? 

2. Make the business case 

Anytime you buy a tool, you want to make sure it does one of the following: 

  1. Increases revenue 
  2. Saves time
  3. Enables objective decision-making
  4. Creates opportunities for growth 
  5. Fosters internal collaboration 

If you’re not able to tie a purchase to any of the above, it might be a good sign to think twice about making this purchase. 

Or, at the very least, do some deep thinking about how this tool would positively impact the business.

“When making your business case, remember that top line is sexier than bottom line. In other words, making money is cooler than saving money.” 

-Craig Jordan, CEO and Founder of SaaScend

3. Identify all possible use cases and integrations

A big mistake people make is buying tech as a point solution to solve a single problem. 

“If you’re only using 20% of a tool’s functionality, you need to either figure out new use cases — or solve the same problem using a different tool in your stack.”

-Rosalyn Santa Elena, Chief Revenue Operations Officer at Carabiner Group

An equally big mistake is buying tech without understanding how (or if) it integrates with your current systems.

To avoid making these mistakes yourself, answer the following questions in your decision memo:

  • What tools that we currently use does this tool integrate with? 
  • What use cases does this solve for? 
  • What opportunities is this tool expected to create?
  • How does this fit into our current tech stack? 

4. Explore potential options to solve this problem 

There are always multiple solutions to any problem. The trick is exploring all possible solutions and narrowing down from there.

This could mean researching competitors, uncovering unused features in your current tech stack, or working with your engineering team to build custom solutions.

You can add as many options as you’d like. We also recommend adding “Do Nothing” as the first option, so you can reiterate the cons of continuing with the status quo.

Under each option be sure to include: 

  • What this option means
  • Pros — How is this option better than the others?
  • Cons — How is this option worse than the others? 

5. Identity stakeholders 

Each decision memo needs to have a(n):

  • Owner: This is the person who created the decision memo and drives the decision memo forward. (This is not necessarily the person who drives the entire project)
  • Contributors: These are the people who review the decision memo and add their comments, edits, and recommendations. They will also give their recommendation for the best option to solve the outlined problem. 
  • Decision-Maker: This is the person who will make the final decision. Send to the decision-maker after all contributors have added their comments, edits, and recommendations. 

6. Solicit Recommendations

After you’ve put the final touches on your decision memo and identified your stakeholders, add your recommendation. Your recommendation should include your recommended course of action, what you predict the new process would look like, and the proposed next steps.

Then, send your decision memo to contributors for review. Ask them to add any comments and edits as they see fit. Everyone on your team has their own experiences and knowledge — take advantage of that to make the most well-rounded decision you can!

After all your contributors added their recommendations, send it to the decision maker for final approval. 

Decision memo example

Why Chili Piper decided to purchase Gong

It’s all well and good to read about how to write a decision memo. But how do you apply those lessons to real life? 

(Psst… download the full decision memo example here).

If you grabbed your copy of the decision memo above, you’ll notice the template is a bit different from our example. (If you didn’t grab your copy of the decision memo template, get it here).

That’s because a decision memo isn’t made of pure titanium — you can flex it to suit your specific needs. At its core, a decision memo is just a tool to help you make objective decisions. The sections themselves are a guideline.

Anyways, back to the main point. Here’s how Chili Piper used a decision memo to decide on a conversational intelligence platform (spoiler: We went with Gong): 

Context 

First, we outlined the status quo. We shared what we were currently using and the problems we were having. 

At the time, we were using SalesLoft Conversational Intelligence for recording sales meetings. While this worked fine during our early stages, the lacking functionality started to gnaw on us as we expanded our sales team. 

When we were preparing the context section, we asked end users (sales reps) how SalesLoft Conversational Intelligence just wasn’t cutting it. 

We ended up with a strong case for why it wasn’t working — and why we needed a change.

Business Case

Then, we made our business case. 

As we were building out our business case, we assumed that a more advanced conversational intelligence solution would:  

  • Save up to 1 hour per rep per month by easily surfacing action items and promised next steps
  • Allow us to identify high-risk deals, saving at least 1 deal per rep per year

Using these assumptions, we estimated that the ROI of switching to Gong would be more than $70,000. 

The other advantage of listing out quantifiable expectations is that they double as success metrics. When it came time to renew Gong, we were able to measure actual outcomes against expected outcomes, and decide whether we wanted to renew our contract (another spoiler: We renewed).

Options

In our search for a conversational intelligence platform, we explored six different tools: Jiminny, Refract, ExecVision, Wingman, Chorus.ai, and Gong. 

Under each tool, we included:

  • Use cases 
  • Integrations
  • UI screenshots
  • Total cost
  • Recommendation

Integrations were key to our decision-making process — if the conversational intelligence platform didn’t integrate with our current systems, we wouldn’t even think about moving forward. 

“If you don’t have all your systems integrated, you’ll never get a full picture of what’s going on.”
-Dan Stratton, Partner at CloudKettle

Recommendations

For this decision memo, we solicited recommendations from four team members: three from sales and one from RevOps. 

Pro-tip: Never, ever make a decision about tech without Ops. 

Then Nicolas, Chili Piper’s CEO, made the final decision. 

And that’s the story of how Chili Piper became a Gong customer — and the beginning of our beautiful friendship.

What’s next

If you didn’t grab your copy of the decision memo template and decision memo example above, get them now: 

Once you’ve got those tucked away somewhere safe, you should be ready to rock and roll — and start making the most objective decisions of your life.

Madeleine Work

Madeleine Work is a Content Marketing Manager at Chili Piper. She loves learning new things and making discoveries — and then sharing her learnings with others. When she's not typing away at her laptop, you'll probably find her running, hiking, or off on an adventure somewhere. Connect with Madeleine on LinkedIn.

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