How to find the best technology sellback partner.

March 12, 2020

When schools and districts decide to sell back their aging edtech devices, they often find themselves in an “alphabet soup” of decision making. Should they issue an RFI, an RFQ or an RFP when looking for a sellback partner? Is any of this even necessary?

Before a school can decide, let’s first understand the differences and then explore some best practices.

A request for information (RFI) is a way to get information from vendors about how to solve a problem. For example, if a school isn’t sure how to dispose of aging devices, they might seek input on various solutions, including recycling and trading in. An RFI is the first step if you don’t know which direction to take.

A request for quote (RFQ) is issued when the solution is known and focuses on price and payment terms. For example, a school that decides to sell back devices may issue an RFQ that simply asks for prices for each type and age of iPad and MacBook the school wishes to divest.

A request for proposal (RFP) takes additional factors into account besides price, including the sellback partner’s experience, reputation, financial stability, service, process and industry knowledge. When I was a sales rep for Apple, I saw firsthand how quickly the value of a fleet of devices could be reduced by a trade in company taking unexpected deductions for nicks, scratches and other blemishes. If done right, an RFP can provide the clearest comparison of vendors and help you avoid unpleasant surprises that an RFQ cannot.

The key is asking the right questions

Some school districts require some sort of an RFQ or RFP, even if it’s not public and formal. Many opt to interview the top sellback companies and then select the partner with the most Apple experience and trade in expertise. Others simply require three or more bids. Whatever the requirements of your district, it’s important to seek the right information in order to fully understand the differences between trade in partners and make the best choice based both on experience and payout.

Here are seven tips to ensure your search or RFP uncovers the best partner:

1. Give a complete overview of your e-learning environment, including the technology you use, how often you refresh devices, and the quantity, generation and type of devices you’re looking to trade in. Be as specific as possible to weed out unqualified vendors.

2. Require that vendors process all of the devices themselves. Some trade in vendors will simply broker the devices and sell them to another company for refurbishing. This becomes a problem if data on the devices isn’t properly erased, or if unlocked devices are sold and new owners start contacting the school for help. One way to determine if a company will refurbish the devices themselves is to ask for the number of W2 employees each vendor has. A broker will not need a full-time staff for refurbishing. Likewise, it is important to ask if the vendor employs temporary workers in sensitive positions, including device pick up and refurbishing, which are parts of the process where data can be compromised.

3. Provide an honest assessment of the status of devices, and ask for a detailed grading scale. Look for hidden deductions, costs, and other items that may result in a lower payout than you’re expecting. Also be upfront about things that can impact the buyback process, including resource limitations, timing, and location of devices.

4. Offload the things that take up your time. Many schools remove asset tags, erase hard drives, and sort devices by condition, which is time consuming and not always necessary. By including these things in the RFP you can take this burden off your shoulders and it may not impact your payout dramatically. Other time-consuming items that can be requested of the winning bidder include: serialized certificates of data destruction, onsite pick up from one or more locations, and removal of engravings.

5. Include questions that can gauge a vendor’s experience and ability to deliver.Look for a vendor with deep Apple experience who can provide valuable counsel on the best time to refresh devices, has insight into Apple’s sales structure, and maintains solid relationships with Apple sales reps. Also, set a schedule for deliverables that must be met as part of the RFP so vendors can assess if they have the bandwidth and resources to complete your project.

6. Ask for proof that all broken devices are removed from Apple School Manager and recycled. If these devices are sold for parts your school is at risk of being contacted later for help in unlocking a device.

7. Require 25+ references, along with the value of the trade in. While you probably won’t call all the references, only a solid buyback company will be able to provide 25 or more positive references.

A thorough approach to seeking a sellback partner—whether done as part of a formal RFP or not—will evaluate vendors based on what’s important to individual school districts, so schools can find the best match, not just the best price.

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