help me yoda please

Continuing the theme of help from last week’s blog where I categorised the type of help that seems to be common at the moment. Whilst like I always say, no business and no person is perfect, being a boutique IT consultancy allows us to give that care and attention to our customers that I think is sadly lacking from the world these days. Over here at Unleashed I have some particular issues with the way help is given to us…

I frequently have this particular issue with our vendors and I have to admit the guys at Cisco UK sometimes seem as equally frustrated as myself. It all comes down to the 80/20 rule, you’ll no doubt have heard of that it’s also called the Pareto principle. It’s a business school thing, you’ll tend to cover off in the first semester. 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. So in business 20% of your customers will provide you with 80% of your revenue or profit.

This has an absolute dire effect in business. It is such an over simplification that salespeople and business manages fresh with MBA’s believe the bullshit and implement all sorts of cost saving and restructuring measures in order to take advantage of something they’ve learnt.

In a static world the 80/20 would probably provide an adequate snapshot. However, what happens if you have customers who only spend with you as a second choice supplier? What happens if you have a small but rising star of a customer who needs your support to grow quicker? What happens if five years ago there was a big falling out, but all the main antagonists from the supplier side are now gone? Well the answer all of those, nothing happens.

The company using you as a second choice when their main supplier has no stock, keeps spending elsewhere. That rising star, well they’ll struggle on for years more without your help then eventually will go with your competition because they managed to get only slightly more help of them than you. You may be lucky, you may be their second choice supplier. The company who fell out with you, well nobody sorted their issues and their team has less churn than yours and still doesn’t want to come back.

For you see, customers also use the 80/20 rule. 80% of suppliers are useless!

What we find is that the best account managers, the top people are placed with the companies shifting millions of pounds worth of kit. It’s the IT distributor’s equivalent of an MP’s safe seat. They’ll put their best people on accounts working for the likes of BT Dabs. Everyone else, well you can have the young apprentice whose former experience in IT sales was working the cash register in Costa coffee. The top guys in distribution get their commission and hit the targets.

I actually dread to think what happens to the young apprentices too – your ex-Costa Barista probably doesn’t last long, their supposed mentors are getting rich from their big accounts and don’t help. Customers leave in droves to find the 20% of suppliers who aren’t useless and nobody bats an eyelid because those 80% of customers that you trusted to your junior sales staff weren’t important anyway!

The large IT companies like BT Dabs and the ilk – all those with vast marketing teams, so many people they have to invent roles just to give people titles. Well, the IT distributors and manufacturers offer them all the help. They have got to the point where they don’t need the help and it actually is more of a distraction to accept it, whereas the other 80% of struggling customers who need the help are searching amongst the 20% of suppliers who aren’t useless in order to get some help.

The moral of the story, of course is to deal with people. Sell the vision and hope you’re dealing with an organisation that looks at you for what you are and where you’re going and doesn’t want to fit you into the 80% or the 20%.