One of the most valuable lessons I learned at PepsiCo was to listen to the salesmen vendors or startups send over.
Not necessarily because they are right, but because they linked a product or service that they can provide to a plausible return on investment. Sure, it may all be sales, but if they have customers using it for over a year there must be some grain of truth to what they are selling.
I took on the role at PepsiCo to help implement a system whose main function was so hard to explain in detail, we made t-shirts with long equations on them to help identify the team. It wasn’t until a vendor came and described how his product fit the problems we were trying to solve for did the systems intended purpose really begin to click. Often times we get so bogged down in the details of perfecting the one thing we are working on, it’s difficult to remember the goal or audience it is for. Speaking routinely to other people in the same industry or trying to solve the same problems helps to identity the forrest from the trees.
A vendor’s life depends on being innovative, having a good solid pitch, and being able to quantify the ROI for clients without sounding like a car salesman. It’s a tough juggling act and should be admired when done correctly.