IT Managers must think life in the “channel” is easy, we rock up, shout a vendors name over-and-over again and get our deal registration to block out our competitors and bobs you’re uncle, you’ve got an order based on the fact you were first past the post and all you did was repeat a manufacturers name several times. At least, that’s what I used to think when I was an IT Manager. Now I’m in the channel I’m a self-conscious guy, after all, I’m still not too sure what channel I’m meant to be swimming in.
When you’re a smaller company in the channel, you’re at a disadvantage in the fact that we don’t have a huge call centre of people constantly calling companies, harassing their IT Managers and repeating manufacturer’s names over and over again. Then they’ll quickly register an opportunity with a manufacturer and block anyone else – just on the off-chance that the IT Manager was actually listening to the manufacturer and product name being repeated over and over again.
That would be all okay – but you see, it happens to us too and we get even more useless people who haven’t got a clue what we want on the phone. In terms of pecking order, those who call out to IT Managers have a little more brains about them than the ones calling IT Resellers. This week we’ve had conversations with distributing companies that want us to use them again, after we’ve placed business elsewhere – all we asked was a named account manager that wasn’t a moron who could turn around quotes quickly and accurately. Believe it or not – that is actually a big ask in technology distribution, we got someone whose sum total of IT&T experience was a few months in sales and prior to that working as a Barista in a Coffee Shop.
We consider that a reasonable request. Unfortunately, the bigger companies who don’t need the consultative sales – the guys who shift large amounts of boxes, who place their orders with spreadsheets get the people who aren’t idiots working with them, even though all they’re doing for their commission is calling off spreadsheets – where’s the sense in that!
IT Managers also have an advantage in that they can create a voicemail box to directly dump sales people from resellers into. Hey, I’ve done it too. If you also have a bit of spare time set up a complex IVR for people doing surveys! There is a large amount of people in this world that I have come to the conclusion do not want to work for a living, they do not want to do what you’re asking them to do – and no matter how much you tell them what they have to do to get your business, they’ll just repeat products and manufacturers names and not have a clue about what they’re selling. If you’re in IT – whether you’re sales, answering phones or any function you need to understand the technology on at the most basic level, you should know what it does and how it goes together.
As a bit of a side note – this week I went looking for a car, pulled up at a dealership and couldn’t find a parking place. The dealer had parked cars for sale in the customer parking places. I asked a mechanic where I could park and he told me to drop it into an area in front of the cars where he was taking one out of. So I did, then walked into the showroom – had a nice time looking at cars, thinking to myself, this is great – nobody had given me the “can I help you” routine. But I wanted a test drive, so I asked at reception for one of their slimiest salespeople who turned out to be in a meeting, at the same time another mechanic asked me to move my car and didn’t tell me where to park, so I drove off.
Making money, engaging with customers – none of it is hard. Customers want to spend their budgets, they just don’t want to be ripped off and have to deal with a painful sales process.
Maybe I have a short fuse, but when you’re spending significant sums of money like you do on cars or computer equipment, you expect people to do the bare minimum to help. I also had an incident of a company who didn’t supply their bank details on their invoices or statements this week who started sending me warning letters – I contacted our sales contact who got completely confused until I stated I was absolving responsibility of payment onto him. I mean, surely if you want to make it easy for people to pay, so that they have no excuses and don’t put your invoice to the bottom of the pile you can put your bank account details on there!!
Anyway… too much of the IT industry now is taken up with people whose understanding goes only as far as sales and marketing and their knowledge of IT, well, they can use Excel proficiently to know which number they’re responsible for and when it heads in the right direction, then everything is A.OK. They have no understanding of business either – they were probably useless front line people who were moved up the chain to get them out of the way. Dell this week have particularly annoyed me to the point where I closed our direct account with them under protest.
My preference as an IT Manager and now a Director of a Reseller is to deal with people, deal with people I understand, build relationships, common ground – and I’m sorry if this offends anyone. If I can’t have a conversation about the state of the local area then I’m a bit stuck – I did well to cope with other Europeans – at least I’ve travelled to most places in Europe and want to travel to a few more, but now I’m expected to create a rapport with someone in Hyderabad who I can’t understand (I’ve also had to just Google that to find out how to spell it properly and where about in India it actually is – I’m still not sure). My view of Indian call centres are that it’s the people trying to sell me some sort of insurance when I’m having my dinner. A relationship is just not going to happen. If most multinationals are bringing their B2C call centres back into EMEA, why on Earth are Dell taking this move with B2B. Especially when they’re saying that the channel is where they’re going to be swimming too.
Whilst my peers swimming in this channel thing we’re all in have (in some cases) their junior people dealing with their relationship with Dell, as a smaller company, this is strategically important relationship to us – to the point where I actually give a damn and companies like Dell making changes in a draconian manner is taking liberties with my business. Dell has not only helped me build a business, but build a career – I cared about my relationship with Dell, but they didn’t care about theirs with me. Unrequited love perhaps.
You see, many companies claim to put a lot of effort and care into understanding your business – but at crunch times, episodes like this, to me, highlight that they have no understanding whatsoever.
HP this week have been rubbing their hands and said all the right words, too early to tell they will deliver or whether it’s bullshit bingo. However, I like that they have a process and there is some degree of rigour – I feel after being a Dell guy for fifteen years that I’ve just got divorced and I’m running off with a cougar.
You know, I could be dismissed, put down as an annoyance, a guy having a rant and all sorts of other derogatory terms. But this is my business, and I don’t like other people taking liberties with it –especially if they claim to understand what’s important to me. You know what too – if it’s important to me, I know I need things to work in a certain way, in order to deliver what my customers want too. It’s a virtuous circle, I don’t treat my customers like idiots, they don’t treat me like one – I expect no less from my suppliers. After all, as a supplier if we can take the time to understand our customers, why can’t our suppliers? Probably because they’re too busy obsessing about their Excel spreadsheets and forgetting they’re in the technology business.
So my fellow IT Managers, if you think this side of the fence is easy – think again! To give you a high quality service, we’re battling hard to get things done properly.