Death of a Sale(sman) – Sales (under)Engineer

As a manager, part of my job is dealing with vendors and finding the best deals to make my budget go as far as possible. In this ongoing series I will be giving some highlights from sales experiences showing exactly how the possibility of a sale was won or lost and tips to salesmen and women out there.
As is the case with most any company these days, especially those that deal with digital media production, storage is always a hot topic. I am constantly contacted by every level of sales about this, from local reseller to national VAR to direct sales from an OEM. The problem is storage is really expensive. We’ve been around the block with multiple vendors and are currently looking into different models which include building the SAN ourselves on whiteboxes from Supermicro and running an open sourced storage system. If you’re interested in that, we’re looking to base if off of the same type of setup as BackBlaze uses (seen here).

In a recent encounter that was setup by our favorite VAR, a particular sales engineer was pitching me on storage from their company. I won’t say who, but they’ve recently flip flopped on a few major decisions about their place in the consumer PC and mobile arena. This particular sales engineer was telling me all of the benefits of their system, none of which blew me away. After a little bit of productive back and forth I brought up cost because, let’s face it, all decisions ultimately come down to cost. Just like I expected it was high. I then asked him bluntly, “Other than enterprise hardware and software support, what sets your solution apart from me doing it myself for 10% of the cost or your system?” He was a bit taken aback, and told me quite simply, “That’s not possible.” Um… Isn’t this guy supposed to be a storage engineer? Shouldn’t these guys not only know their systems but any other solution out there? (a topic I will touch on in another post) If nothing else, it would allow them to spread the FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt) about these types of setups. I was suddenly curious, what kind of credentials did this guy have to tell me I’m out of my mind? If he didn’t know some of the basics out there, how could I trust him to fully understand his products and answer my questions properly? Well, that and the fact that he basically called me a liar who didn’t know what he was talking about. It didn’t take long for them to stop calling me, especially since my sales guy at the VAR that setup the meeting wasn’t too happy with what they did (instead of telling me it wasn’t possible or questioning my knowledge, he just asked if I could explain it or send him articles which I happily did).

Hot Tip: Do not rule out any of your competition, especially open source in the case of IT. Know your product and be able to compare it to them. For better or worse, no one cares about things everyone can do, be ready to tell me what differentiates you from the rest. If there is an alternative out there with a massively lower price, you’re going to need to reference those differences to justify my expense.

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