Sunday 13 December 2009

Show Me The Money! (information)

Just a short entry today re a some points to take into account if you're ever (un)lucky enough to be trying to sell anything to me, yes that includes technology, products, services, change or ideas :-

1) I expect you to have done your homework on my company - understand my current suppliers, current products, scale, locations, press releases re plans, priorities & focus. If you don't do this, arrive unprepared, arrive late, arrive at the wrong location or spell the company name wrong then don't expect me to pay full attention.

2) Product positioning, definition, differentiator to other products and overall reason for existence - if you can't explain these points to me in 6 slides and 15 minutes expect to go no further. In effect I expect to be presented with at least the internal pitch made to justify the product's creation. Assuming you manage to do this, I also need to get a clear understanding of when / where this product should & shouldn't be used, and compared to other products from the same supplier. Lastly I expect a clear comparison to other vendors products with a strengths & weaknesses competitive assessment.

3) TCO / ROI / CBA - Total Cost Ownership, Return On Investment, Cost Benefit Analysis are the bywords for technology evaluations and procurement. You are expected to provide customer editable models for your products and suggested architectures, including the assumptions and process/org context these models have been built for. Where you don't know input values relevant to my business then use & identify industry averages for me to edit & refine.

4) I'm not interested in free-of-charge trials, loan equipment or evaluations as sales devices - if you can't sell & prove the value case without this then please hold your breath for an hour and we'll carry on after then... Should you manage to prove value, then I may, at some point in the future, wish to want to validate certain things with either customer reference visits or witness tests in your labs - at your cost.

5) Please understand that any form of change costs money - this will always be factored in to any decision made.

6) A feature does not make a product or a company - look around the IT graveyard and you'll find lots of companies that tried to break this rule. I am VERY unlikely to change product or supplier as a result of a single feature - useful & valuable features will become free-of-charge hygiene factors common across the industry soon enough.

7) I try and measure value & cost over 7 years (to include ingress, usage & egress), not this month's discounted deal - accepting this will be longer than your likely sales role with supplier, please understand you will be impacted by your predecessors sins of the past.

8) I'm more interested in partnership and quality people & relationships than transient discounted deals - trust and credibility is earned through honesty, actions, delivery, quality & consistency.

9) Understand that your sales forecasts, quotas, commission, priorities, timelines, financial period ends etc are of absolutley no interest at all to me

10) Understand that I'll contact you when / if I'm interested or able to - I'm often very busy and if you continually chase, harass me or phone me out of work hours then you'll drop down the list faster than a lead balloon.

11) I make our standards process very clear. If you attempt to avoid or subvert the standards process in any way (including with mngt manipulation, FoC offers,avoiding the truth or clandestine work) then expect your company to be removed from my engagement lists in totality and permanently.

12) If you use FUD or hype expect me to publicly challenge you - also expect me to validate anything you say using me own methods & sources. If you continue expect our relationship to get difficult.

13) I need electronic copies of any & all materials discussed or presented - no exceptions, without this I can't use it as reference material in my internal strategy planning. If you hide behind "it's beyond NDA", or "NDA prohibits" then I'll interpret that as "you don't trust me personally or respect me professionally" and the relationship will be difficult from then on.

14) If I give you questions & actions (and I will, likely lots of lists of questions) then please ensure you deliver upon them or things won't progress well

15) My company is global, I need you to be and to able to map to our account structure requirements globally - service, support, products need to be globally available directly and we need empowered global SPOCs with partners

16) Good enough is good enough - the world is about fit for purpose rather than best of breed or ultimate performance nowadays, let us make the decisions re performance or resiliency by providing all the information

17) I expect industry open performance benchmarks for each product / technology - even if you don't like or believe in them allow me to interpret their use, value, accuracy or relevance.

But most importantly, if you do take the above into account, we will have a good relationship, I will be a loyal customer and together we can do lots of business... And I'll even buy the beer :)


  1. A very sensible and thorough list Ian. However I respectfully submit that items 8 and 9 are mutually exclusive.

    A true partnership addresses the needs of both parties to deliver mutual success. Although that doesn't endorse taking each other for granted, there has to be accommodation for deadlines and success criteria on both sides.


  2. Great post -- should be mandatory reading for anyone working for an IT vendor.

    -- Chuck

  3. Fantastic post, a must read, brings back memories of having been in your shoes as a customer of IT solutions.

    However having also been in Val's shoes as a vendor at one time, I can see his points on #8 and #9.

    Partnerships should and can be two way, however they need to benefit both parties.

    For example, if as a customer I can benefit now and in the future by what your sales quota and plan are in terms of mapping to needs, aligning to a forecasted in time buying oppourtunity vs. the whims of a sales manager playing monte hall lets make a deal, then both parties win.

    On the flip side, the vendor needs the customer to succed so that they are able and ready along with willing to buy again in the future. Likewise, customers should go for the best deal possible however not at the expense of wounding a vendor so much that there wont be any future deals.

    Bottom line, a vendor who knows of expectations such as those in the list and who is willing to do what is needed to win on those terms, that is, know the playing field and rules, can also expect to be given a fair shot at winning!

    Cheers gs

  4. Disclosure - EMC employee here.

    I agree with all the comments in the post.

    I actually agree with Val's comment - things work best when there is a partnership, and partnerships are a two way (or n-way) street. Don't get me wrong, in the end, the customer is the customer - but those things listed in #9 are real considerations on the other side of the table.

    16 makes me cringe as the state of industry benchmarks seems to be all over the place, but I think every vendor needs to step up and prove their mettle.

  5. I'm going to come down right in the middle of the argument over #8/#9. On certain KEY things, it can and should be a strong two-way partnership. Quite honestly, many, many IT purchases (even large ticket ones if they are commodity items) are just us wanting something we can spec out ourselves and needing it for a good price.

  6. In the debate about the relationships between points #8 and point #9. Having been on the vendor partner side of this equation for more than 20 years, I strongly suggest that if you do #8, then # 9 will take care of itself - without ever being a central point of discussion. I have found that trusted and therefore productive relationships, when they exist, are bi-directional. When I have built these relationships, my customers wanted me to be successful and they saw that my success better allowed me to serve their interests. The trick is that for the vendor/partner - # 8 ALWAYS trumps # 9 - always.

  7. Hector Servadac6 March 2010 at 10:42

    I Agree with you in most, but unfortunately it doesn't apply in every country. In some places vendors are merchants from a street market and customers try to get a bargain