Things I Hate, Episode 1
Brought to you by the Impediment-to-Sales Sales department
It was not long ago that I was sitting across a conference room table from our [insert large software vendor of choice here] expecting to have a conversation about the features and benefits of upgrading one of our major software packages to the newest version. This was our internal mail system, and as we had quite a few interconnected systems and sites, along with what we already knew of the major architectural changes in the new version, we knew the upgrade wouldn’t be easy. So, we acquiesced to our salesperson’s requests and set up the meeting. That was our first mistake.
After the requisite initial pleasantries were exchanged, we began discussing the product in question. We weren’t sold just yet on actually doing the upgrade, so one of the first questions we wanted answered was basically just a simple “Why do we want to upgrade?” In other words, we already have a working system, so what does this newest version bring to the table vis-a-vis new features, benefits, manageability, etc. Asking this question–and expecting a clear, useful answer–turned out to be not only an exercise in futility, but also mistake number two.
“It allows you to create pockets of collaboration by leveraging out-of-the-box, paradigm-shifting, synergies of strategic planning.”
But what does it do?
“The new version better leverages vertical interest segments in a transitory user base, which represents a shifting paradigm in strategy-focused mind-share and thought-leadership.”
The conversation went on like that for a bit before we finally decided to cut our losses and move on to some other topics around our upcoming license renewal, etc. As it turns out, substantial pockets of the sales-force at certain large software vendors seem to be trained in a language that sounds a lot like English, uses a lot of interesting words strung together in fairly obscure patterns, and in the end almost exactly fails to communicate anything at all useful. The unfortunate thing is that this was supposedly the expert in the product line who could answer our questions–he was brought along to the meeting specifically to speak “engineer-to-engineer.”
Now, I am not only a network engineer but also the IT Director for a multi-national manufacturing firm. I am used to straddling the line between engineering and management, and actually pride myself on being able to communicate complex engineering principles to c‑level executives in a way that makes sense, and accomplishes something. I don’t think that I’m so far gone on the engineering side that I have to have a team of PhDs come in every time I want to learn about a product. That said, I do expect that my time will be respected and when I want to know what your product has to offer that you will take the radical step as a vendor of bringing along someone who knows what the hell they’re talking about.
The moral of the story is that we did not then, nor have we since, upgrade to that new product version. Not out of spite or any bad feelings for the vendor as a whole, but simply because we finally found the answers we needed from a combination of white papers and some peer groups with whom we maintain relationships with. For you vendors who can’t seem to articulate what your product actually does without using a hodge-podge of terms poached from a buzz-word bingo card, my general gut reaction is that your product is probably not unique or helpful in any meaningful way–and that is not the first impression you as a vendor or salesperson want to make. I suspect I am not alone in that feeling, either.