What IT professional worth his/her salt wasn’t glued to the VMA’s…but I digress.
Life of a Salesman
It’s just like the good old days - six countries in five days! I was in Europe last week for customer meetings; another chance to test the temperature in this very important market, inspect the troops and try to add value to some major sales opportunities. This used to be my regular beat when I ran EMEA for Brocade. AMS, MUN, LHR, FCO, FRA and CDG are TLA’s (three letter acronyms) that any seasoned European traveler knows all too well.
The response we are getting from our largest customers in Europe – the big Telco’s, banks and manufacturers – is that the desire for a credible alternative to Cisco in the data center is strong and getting stronger. This has been a key part of our strategy – to leverage the reputation and deep understanding we have built over the last 12 plus years in helping customers create and manage mission critical storage networks and to win the chance to offer a very credible and compelling alternative to the incumbent LAN vendor – “Gotta love it when a plan comes together!” John Hanibal Smith of A-Team fame (stay tuned for more mercenary/arms-dealer references; click on A-team for more info).
O Customer, Customer, wherefore art thou Customer?
I know all companies say this, but at Brocade we really do work to build a strategic partnership and trusted advisor relationship with our customers. In Europe, as elsewhere around the world, I am continually inspired and delighted by the ability of our sales teams to gain the total trust of their customers – to be viewed as an integral part of the IT planning and architecture teams, to be called on for advice on new technology and products – even if they aren’t from Brocade! Really, you cannot buy this stuff!
Some companies have grown too big and are too bureaucratic to care about what most of their customers actually need vs. want they want to sell them. Continued growth past a certain stage requires laser-like focus on the “Top 20” and if you’re not there, forget it. Oh sure, every salesperson listens to the customer but does the company really hear and act on what they are saying? At Brocade, though growth has been steady and revenue is in the billions, we haven’t quite reached the point where our survival depends on “trickle down” solutions development.
Tasmaninanian /taz-mane-UH-NAYN-ee-un/ -noun, A person employed or greatly influenced by the organization that owns most of the commercial real estate on Tasman Drive in San Jose, Calif. and that takes its name from the suffix end of the city of San FranCISCO. Not to be confused with Tasmania – the origin location of Tasmanians (I can hear the howls of abuse from a certain section of the population of Oz).
Most recently this habit of listening and not hearing in “Tasmaninania” has resulted in the creation of hundreds of committees being formed so that fellow Tasmaninanians can listen to each other drone on about the merits of products and technologies which range from set-top boxes to those fancy video conferencing thingies you see on “24”. Then of course there’s the ultimate “science project” UCS – but I think I and other Brocade bloggers have said enough about that particular adventure in Tasmaninania.
It seems the only people Tasmaninanians listen to these days are other Tasmaninanians. Why else would you focus on delivering technologies that are such a lock-in even Houdini would have a hard time escaping their chains. To say that Tasmaninanians are “listening to their customers” means something different today than it did when they first started saying it back in the 90s. At this point, they see everyone as their customer, and many of those customers have competing interests and core values. Effectively, they are acting as an arms dealer while the customers, and whomever else the Tasmaninanians can bring into the fray by pursuing “market adjacencies,” battle it out. (Tony Stark is a cool arms dealer )
There’s been plenty of juicy customer feedback on this trip so far that supports my view that Tasmaninania has forgotten who the customer is.
Those were simply Business as Usual, now we get to the special ops section.
THE MAGIC DEMO - Here's a classic from the sneaky vendor bag of tricks. Whatever your company needs, their enterprise software package can deliver it -- and they've got a sweet canned demo and an impressive collection of PowerPoint slides to prove it. Just don’t ask for a POC to prove it in your environment.
UNDERBID THEN OVERCHARGE - Hand in glove with the fake demo is the deliberate underbid. Enterprise vendors come in and offer an extremely tempting price to a customer, with every intention of making up the difference in additional charges after the contract has been signed.
THE BILLING “MISTAKE” - Sometimes it's not what you bought that cost your company money; it's what you didn't buy but got charged for anyway. In the telecom industry alone, 7 to 12 percent of all charges are a mistake, according to Aberdeen Research. There's an entire industry devoted to finding errors in telecom bills and collecting a percentage of the money recovered.
THE FORCED UPGRADE MARCH - A subtle transition. One day you're a valued customer; the next day you're a cash cow ready to be milked. And one of the most common ways to wring more money out of you is coercing you to upgrade, even if what you bought is relatively new.
Now every vendor in the IT market has been guilty of one or more of these “dirty tricks” at some point in their past. The vendors to watch out for are the ones who commit these despicable deeds on a regular basis – like the folks from Tasmaninania for example.
All I’m saying is choose carefully when selecting an arms dealer… I mean network vendor, and make sure that your interests and theirs are aligned. Go beyond the golf outings and fancy dinners that accompany the first few dates and ask yourself, “Who is the real winner here?” If the answer is slow in coming, you’ve probably spent too much time on Tasman Drive, I mean Tasmaninania.
I took a backward step last week on the weighing scales by adding one pound during my one week trip to Japan – no excuses I ate healthy food – not too much sake! Just forgot to exercise. I’ll have to work extra hard this week to atone for my slackness.