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Entries in buyer (1)

Monday
Feb132012

Buyer Beware

Matt Ferm, of Harvard Partners, picks up on the theme around vendors and serving clients and shares his views in this guest post.

Over the past couple of months, I have been shocked by the number of clients claiming their IT vendors don’t care about them.  From “the vendor charges us to have strategic discussions” to “I think my vendor hates me,” there seems to be some type of disconnect between customer expectations and vendor’s ability to deliver.  I am not talking about hardware, software, or project delivery, but rather delivering trust, confidence, and support.

My benchmark for an exceptional vendor experience came from my days managing the IT infrastructure organization at a large Boston-based investment management firm.  I received a call from the regional sales manager for a storage vendor.  He said he was sending over three fully-loaded storage arrays.  I asked why, and he told me we were about to be audited and required to produce massive amounts of email.  He knew we would need the storage.  When I told him I didn’t have budget and couldn’t commit to purchasing the storage arrays, he said “don’t worry about it.”  He knew I was going to be in trouble and did not want lack of storage to be a concern.  He was right.

Tough economic times lead to increased pressure on sales people to either book revenue or move on.  Non-billable time helping customers is no longer viewed as an investment, but rather an expense.  What ever happened to the concept of business development?

As I am always reminded by a good friend, “people buy from people.”

The word “partner” is clichéd, but very apropos.  IT Customers need sales people to be partners.  They need a sales process providing guidance, advice, and honesty along with someone who will escort them into new technologies, processes, and skills.  A sale is the result of this process and not the driver.

Relationships exist between two or more people.  Customers must be open with their sales reps, set expectations for what is expected in the relationship, and occasionally be willing to help the sales person during tough times (“it’s end of quarter.”)  Customers must also find ways to be referencable and help open doors for the sales person.

We recently received the following comment from a client.  “I really have to say that this has been one of my best experiences working with a consultancy. From getting up to speed quickly, being responsive, to your much-appreciated candor and of course the negotiating work with the vendors, you did not slow us down and most definitely added value to the process.”  Knowing that we did the right thing and made an impact is just as important as getting paid.  Not only will this client ask us to do more work for them, but we will be looking forward to it.

My advice to sales people is to:

  • Forgo the short-term sale in exchange for the long-term revenue stream
  • Understand customer need and create a roadmap for evolutionary change
  • Prove you understand how to deliver business value and not just product
  • Have your customer’s back
  • Trade the cost of dinners, gifts, and sports tickets for helpful advice
  • Evolve from vendor to trusted advisor

In the end customers will be happier, make better use of products and services, and sales will increase.  A win-win all around.