Let’s do some math. You manage 1,000 nodes in three locations within one city. Figuring a three-year life per node, that comes to something like $700,000 per year for PCs, maybe $30,000 per year for file servers, $10,000 per year for concentrators, routers, and so forth, and maybe another $25,000 per year for your WAN. Add sales tax and do some rounding and you’re spending a million a year.
Of course, your bosses selected you on the strength of your skills in product selection, negotiation, and contract management.
What? Nobody ever trained you in these skills? You can bet your adversaries, professional salespeople, have had a lot of training. In fact, they have well-defined tactics for dealing with you. People in sales do what it takes to make the cash register ring.
So look out for your own best interests. That can mean neutralizing the more unscrupulous tactics many sales professionals use. You don’t believe they play hardball? Here are some steps taken from the marketing strategy of a major manufacturer in our industry. The strategy assumes that when the customer chooses a competitor’s product, it’s not because that product has superior technical features or a lower cost but because the sales team made “marketing errors.”
To remedy these “errors,” the sales representative and his or her manager will pay a call on the decision maker, asking for specific details on why the decision went against them. Then, within a few days, they will call on the decision maker and his or her manager to refute the decision. If cost is one of the reasons, the salesperson might say something like, “Don’t expect to get something for nothing.”
The next call goes to the manager without the decision maker present, with the sales manager trying to discredit the decision maker as having made errors, losing track of the business purpose, and becoming emotionally involved in the decision.
According to the document: “An important part of this strategy is to occupy management’s time, to worry the recommender and evoke displays of emotion from him, thereby giving proof positive of his loss of objectivity.”
This same marketing document describes the “Three ‘S’ tactics:” scare, stall, and sell. Included under scare is “May jeopardize your job,” “May try to get you fired,” and “Go over your head to your boss.”
When their management explains to your management that you’re just an overgrown tech weenie who doesn’t understand the business issues, do you think you’ll win by hauling out your Request for Proposal and walking your management through it?
Nope. You’ll win if, when you announce your decision, you remind your management of the facts of life: that you’ll have one winner and four losers, and that at least one of them will try to go over your head to discredit you, your process, and your decision.
Encourage your management to say it has been fully informed about your decision. Ask them to express complete confidence in it. Ask them to note that the sales force failed to get the company’s business and clearly has an axe to grind.
Then, when a sales representative calls your boss, you have some assurance he or she will answer the telephone with a clear head and perspective.
When they call you, make it clear that if they accept the loss gracefully you’ll welcome them into the next competition, but if they try to go over your head you’ll make sure they never get a dime of business from your company as long as you’re there.