incoming phone call

Yes, It’s a Vendor Calling—and You Really Do Want to Answer

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You’re working on a brief or awash in meetings and have finally sat down to get some work done…when, of course, the phone rings. It’s a vendor.

It’s so tempting to hang up right away, but just a minute! Even though we’re a vendor, we get these calls all the time too, so we understand it can be frustrating. And your business development team experiences the same situation and reactions too. In our years of experience selling eDiscovery, we have also discovered ways to make vendor phone calls positive and productive, whether making them or receiving them.

We’ve assembled a compilation of questions to help you understand if there’s something beneficial about what the vendor might be offering. This stems from determining whether the vendor has done their homework and from the information you can share that might result in a better level of service or the answer to a legal technology problem that has been plaguing you. More often than not, it’s worth at least a quick assessment to establish if it’s worthwhile to continue the conversation.

First Three Questions

There are three critical questions to address in the first few minutes of a call. “Why did you pick me?” is an excellent way to ascertain whether the salesperson has done their legwork. If the answer is that you’re a lawyer and all lawyers need eDiscovery, then there probably hasn’t been enough work on their end.

The second is, “how can you help me without wasting my time?” Although blunt, this is a great question to drive the vendor to quickly and efficiently tell you why their product is a fit for you. If they can’t do that succinctly, it’s time to move on.

The third question is, “how do you set yourself apart?” This is a perfect time for a vendor to identify their competitive advantage. If they can bridge the gap into how that advantage might fit with your technology or operational needs, all the better.

If the person on the other end of the phone can’t answer these questions or doesn’t seem confident, then it’s time to be done. Politely, if possible, since vendors are people too.

Next Three Questions

The second set of questions is about helping the salesperson understand more about your process, so there are questions you should expect them to ask in the next phase of the conversation. These are details they wouldn’t necessarily be able to learn from researching the firm website, LinkedIn, or other networking resources. If they can understand your current process, this helps establish – in a deeper way – if there is a fit between their offering and your needs.

This is also the time to say if you aren’t the best person to talk to. If there’s a committee that makes decisions, or if each practice group or even each attorney does their own thing.

First, the caller should ask about your current eDiscovery tool or workflow. There’s a chance the salesperson may already know this, but it’s a quick and easy way to confirm and define for everyone where you are in the eDiscovery process.

The next question to ask is, “what’s the thing you like the most, and what’s the thing you dislike the most about what you do now?” This inquiry may require some thought on your part, so it’s worthwhile to consider in advance. Knowing this will prove helpful for your own purposes, regardless of any inbound call, and is beneficial if you know the answer for yourself and the other members of your team. Even better is to understand the answer to this for yourself and other team members that are performing different parts of eDiscovery or using the tool in a different way than you may be.

Finally, they should ask about your vendor evaluation process. The way firms handle eDiscovery varies incredibly, so this is an important aspect for a vendor to understand. There are firms where each attorney is an island and others that require the use of the same tool across the board; knowing this from the beginning can save you a lot of time and potentially save your colleagues from having to field additional vendor calls. If there’s a formal process in place, great, and if not, there’s almost always a point person for those decisions, so give the salesperson that information, especially if it isn’t you.

Final Three Discussion Points

For the final three questions, it’s time to put you back in the driver’s seat. Pricing is often the elephant in the room, but a general discussion about cost at this point may help indicate if you can move forward together. Not necessarily a formal quote but rather an overall idea of how pricing is structured.

The next question to ask the vendor is whether they see either cases or workflows like your firm or company uses. This can help you understand how well they can help if (or more often when) extra assistance is needed, either on a project management or a technical level. It may also demonstrate experience and ideas that could improve your workflows or efficiency, which is a strong advantage that may indicate a change could be worthwhile. 

If you’ve made it all the way here, then it’s time to ask for a product demonstration. If everything has gone well so far, it’s time to dive into the nitty-gritty of how the solution functions, and it’s worth spending fifteen to thirty minutes taking a look. Be sure to include anyone else on your team who either has decision-making power or uses the tool often because there might be considerations they are focused on that you haven’t thought about.

What Happens if the Conversation Breaks Down?

If at any point it becomes clear this call isn’t potentially helping you, don’t hesitate to (politely) point it out. eDiscovery salespeople are professionals too, and getting feedback on their work can help the next person they will call or even help you down the line too. If it’s not a fit for you or your firm at the time, they may ask for a referral somewhere else or to check back in the future. It pays to be polite and helpful because the eDiscovery world is small, and they may be working for a different company, or even for your firm, down the road. Your eDiscovery needs may be incredibly different at some point – maybe even sooner than you anticipate – so remember that you’re in it together.

So, What’s Next?

Now it’s time to flip the script. We want to know a few things about how you handle vendor phone calls. Specifically, what can a caller say that would make you want to hang up? Are there buzzwords or phrases you just can’t get past? Email/contact us – we would love to hear what does and doesn’t work for you.

Dr. Gavin Manes on Email
Dr. Gavin Manes
CEO at Avansic
Dr. Gavin Manes is a nationally recognized eDiscovery and digital forensics expert. He founded Avansic in 2004 after completing his Doctorate in Computer Science from the University of Tulsa. At Avansic, Dr. Manes is committed to high-technology innovation, research, and mentorship, and has several patents pending. Avansic's scientific approach to eDiscovery and digital forensics stems from his academic experience.

Dr. Manes routinely serves as an expert witness including consulting with attorneys on data preservation issues. He contributes academic content to peer-reviewed journals and delivers classroom lectures. See his full CV at

Dr. Manes has published over fifty papers on eDiscovery, digital forensics, and computer security, countless blog posts, and educational presentations to attorneys, executives, professors, law enforcement, and professional groups on topics from eDiscovery to cyber law. He’s briefed the White House, the Department of the Interior, the National Security Council, and the Pentagon on computer security and forensics issues.

At the University, Dr. Manes formed the Tulsa Digital Forensics Center, housing Cyber Crime Units from local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies. He’s a founder of the University of Tulsa’s Institute for Information Security, leading the creation of nationally recognized research efforts in digital forensics and telecommunications security.
CEO at Avansic

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