As a leader in IT, I have the benefit and the curse of 1,000+ vendors contacting me on a weekly basis. Here are some challenges, issues, concerns and solutions for those selling warez.
Challenges for Vendors
Solving problems I don’t have or that I have nothing to do with..
Dear Howie, As the IT leader for Knowledge Management I am pretty sure you need our UI / UX, AI, IA, RPAi, RPA, Workflow, Branding, Cloud SaaS, CRM, Service Now, Crayola digital art kit. How’s next Tuesday? or Hey Howard (Howie) How-ster.. How-dog… My SVP Fred Mcpuffinstuff asked me to setup a meeting with you to go over your needs in feeding puppies. We are experts in puppies and we know that we can serve all your needs. In fact, we will actually bring you a puppy when we see you and we will serve you puppy for dinner when we go out in town.
Honestly, this is a very annoying at best and creates a situation where it impacts my productivity at worst. You don’t know anything about me or what I do but you never know.. you may get lucky? It isn’t likely..
Talking vs Demonstrating | Demonstrating vs Talking
Tools.. tools… tools.. First they want to talk about the tools but then quickly realize things aren’t simple in the big enterprise environment. Next we may talk about doing a demonstration but because there is a lack of understanding of the environment there isn’t an understanding of limitations. The problem here is that vendors assume that we have 100% access to all of our resources. They don’t take into consideration to ask about controls. They also don’t know who they are speaking with relative to the demonstration. “This is the best bacon your Synagogue orthodox congregation will ever have.” A real world example of this would be security vendors looking to sell me network solutions and wanting to demonstrate intrusion detection software. That’s nice, but it really has nothing to do with me. On the other end of the spectrum, some companies want to sell something that they can’t demonstrate beyond a wire-frame. The reason is that they have the “talent” to build something custom or they have an “engine” to do whatever it is I can imagine. My bologna has a first name.. ♪♫♬
Many companies are just trying to get their feet on the ground. I understand that and in my opinion, there isn’t anything wrong with becoming an entrepreneur. It takes a lot of courage to go out on your own and start a business. The issue is about risk.
A few years ago, I was working for a very large oil and gas company as a consultant. The company had decided to buy software from a very small company. The software worked well but the small company couldn’t keep up with the demand from the large company. At the end of the day, the large company had to buy the small company. This happened because the company was understaffed and the licensing costs didn’t cover the operational and capital expenses. They were successful in their sale but they could not afford to scale and they didn’t understand the scope of business relative to expense in operations vs sales.
Going with a startup or Small, Medium Business (SMB) is fine but we need to work with the companies to understand the risk / reward. If the risk outweighs the reward, it simply isn’t worth it. Many companies try to hide information about themselves but they wind up having to answer these questions with the vendor management groups of large companies. Lack of transparency up front will cost you a sale, even if someone like me loves you.
Issues for Vendors
Misrepresentation of intention
For simplicity sake, I am friendly but not your friend. Many people contact me like we are old friends and served in the armed forces together. Hey man, could you do me a solid and connect me with your CIO? Sure, I will get right on that brother. I don’t mind helping out or talking to people, but if you intention is to simply use a relationship with me that you didn’t have in the first place, it isn’t working out well for your endeavor.
Poor listening skills
Understanding words like (yes or no). Sometimes, people call me and I say “no” because I can’t or it is not comfortable for me. Maybe I say “no” because I don’t want to do it. In many cases, vendors are so persistent and aggressive that they literally can’t understand the word “no.” This doesn’t work out well in the long run because if you had accepted what I had to say, I would be happy to refer you to other people who might say “yes.”
If you can’t listen in the beginning, there is a good change that you can’t listen at all.
Asking for favors
This is one of my favorites. I don’t mind helping people and I do go out of my way to help people. Anyone who knows me, knows that I am willing to help. Often times the vendor equivalent of Wimpy comes and knocks on my door asking for a bunch of hamburgers today that they will gladly pay me back for on Tuesday. Over time, I have learned that they (mostly) take the burger and run. Don’t ask a prospect that you don’t know for favors.
Concerns for Vendors
- Loss of trust
- Loss of sale
- Loss of opportunity for the future
Solutions for Vendors
- Research the company (not the people individually)
- Do your homework.
- Contact the right people in the company.
The secret in successful engagement is to build a trusted relationship up front. Listen carefully to the prospect. Don’t run us over with the pitch. Be honest, open and transparent. If you are dealing with a large organization, understand that you will be putting skin in the game and that an engagement will cost you money. It is an investment for you as much as it is for them.
There are so many stories about vendorzilla situations, that we could probably write a book on it.