I really think TopGear were onto something with ‘The Stig’, if you’re going to do something a bit different and change the way things are done – for instance the format of test drives on TV car shows – you need to invent a new word or bring one into the common vernacular. Rather than a ‘racing car driver’, they have a ‘tame racing car driver’ and (usually!) all aspects of their personality and identities are removed, to focus on what is actually going on with the car.
Not that I want to remove anyone’s identity or personality, quite the opposite. However it’s not lost on me as a former IT Manager and dealing with a lot of sales people trying to sell to me constantly, that the way things are sold in the IT industry both in the past, currently and with no real reason to think otherwise – in the future, are fundamentally the same as they’ve always been. I ultimately don’t know any decent IT Manager who responds to tactical sales, they ultimately find people who they are comfortable with and deal with them time and time again, if they are let down, they change. Otherwise your working life would become as stressful and annoying as the process of buying a car from the greaseball salesman at your local car dealership…
Like anyone else, I can’t really stand being lied to, in my career I’ve had salespeople through my door faking technical knowledge beyond their abilities – I tore them to shreds after toying with them. (If you’re working with IT users all day, you’ve got to get your kicks somehow.) There’s never credibility face lost in someone saying, ‘I don’t know’ and ‘I’ll have to find out’ – as long as they don’t do it too much and get back to you quickly on it, the confidence will remain. However, I won’t hide the fact that some salespeople did get the better of me and I ended up buying solutions that even though, weren’t disastrous but it became apparently that I was lied to.
My other pet peeve is a sales person playing the game of information poker. They know exactly the weaknesses of their solution, organisation and in many cases where their solution becomes unviable. They’ll even have a gut feel whether it’s applicable to your organisation, but they’ll still keep trying to sell to you regardless without letting their weaknesses slip. They leave it to you to do a lot of work to get the information you need, in order to make an informed decision.
Now I’m in the Value Added Reseller (VAR) market, turning to the dark side – I can also tell you it gets even nastier on our side of the desk too. A few bad apples, who perhaps didn’t make it as customer facing salespeople end up working for manufacturers and get equally aggressive with us when we challenge whether their solution is the most appropriate for a client’s particular requirements and they find out that we always offer options – across the manufacturers.
I am pleased to say that many of my suppliers and manufacturers are readers of my ramblings on this blog and also share my belief in how I want to do business. Therefore they do business in the same way that I do and don’t get uptight when I explain one of their peers perhaps has a better solution for a client in whatever scenario we have to solve a problem for.
I am also in the nice position to be setting the rules and culture of Unleashed and therefore the staff we recruit are also selected for ability to subscribe to our own code of ethics and the Unleashed way of doing things. In an older blog article, I said I had named our salespeople Technology Consultants on purpose – they are there to develop solutions and present options and assist you as IT professionals in making decisions. I wish that we could use a term like ‘The Stig’ for what we do – because we do feel it is completely different and needs a new word to explain it properly. Plus I’d also get to have a Clarkson like build-up: ‘some say he falls asleep to the sound of a 28.8k modem, all we know is he’s our tame salesman and we call him the…’ which ultimately would be pretty cool!
Information poker at Unleashed is strictly forbidden, in-fact; we lay the cards face up on the table and discuss with you the merits and pitfalls of everything we do. Even during installation time, we work collaboratively with IT managers and part train them on the install if they so wish.
I was talking about my grand tour in my last blog article and to be completely honest, I really enjoyed it. I have been out this week doing consultancy and even speaking to more potential clients; I have really enjoyed that too. People who know me, know that I’m not normally that cheery, so there must be a reason! I ultimately enjoy going into different businesses and seeing how things are done, I was lucky enough to have a factory tour the other week at a client where I’ve always wanted to have a look round. It gives us grounding on what they do, better than constantly talking about their IT and what we can sell them, I ultimately love the variety of British business and enjoy speaking to IT Managers and understanding what their battles are. My favourite thing is actually telling them, that during this time of a recession that their problems are no worse to any other IT Manager we meet and develop solutions for. There is often visible relief at that statement alone. I feel it’s our interest and enthusiasm for other people’s business that makes us who we are.
One of our former employees said to me once, that we want to have the relationship with customers where ‘they make the tea and we bring the biscuits’ and this has really stuck with us at Unleashed. I may not have a name for our tame salespeople (well they obviously have their own names) but I think nothing signifies how we like to work more than that statement, there’s no pressure, no hard sell, just tea and a chat and we can learn from each other and see if there’s a relationship to be had moving forward.