“If You’re Not Getting Shot At, You’re Not Doing Your Job."

Source: Maggie Gyllenhaal, as Rachel Dawes in The Dark Knight, © Warner Brothers, 2008

Recently two large software companies separately complained that I was biased against them in the other one’s favour, which was sufficiently ironic to amuse my British sense of humour. “Biased” is one of the worst accusations you can throw at an analyst, because we strive to be scrupulously fair, and ensure that what we write and say is balanced, and evidence-based. So it started me thinking about fairness, and prejudice versus analysis.

I hear a lot of horror stories from clients about outrageous treatment by software sales reps, so one might think that software marketing execs would be shame-faced and contrite. But, actually, they love their companies and believe that analysts are merely stoking up resentment that wouldn’t exist without us, or that it’s the other guys giving their industry a bad name. “You only hear from the minority of unhappy customers,” they say. “Clients don’t ring you up when they are delighted with us.” This is true, but I speak with hundreds of clients every year, so I think I’d have found more evidence of a silent majority of delighted buyers, if it existed. The problem is that the good corporate intentions don't always translate into sales' behavior, when it's a question of spiff or rif.

Actually, I will admit to bias, in favour of the Sourcing & Vendor Management professionals I serve, not between vendors. I’ll do consulting work for software publishers, but only to help them beat their rivals by being more customer-friendly. I won’t give sellers advice that would be detrimental to buyers. I will praise them when they move in the right direction, such as making their per-user licensing role-based, and I’ll criticize behaviour and policies that I believe are against my role’s interests, such as annual maintenance price increases. And as the title implies, I’ll start worrying when they stop grumbling.

What do you think? Are there any software buyers out there who will speak up for the much-maligned software publishers?

Comments

"much-maligned?"

"Are there any software buyers out there who will speak up for the much-maligned software publishers?"

Hmm, are they "much-maligned" without reason? Certainly the software publishers have a right to a fair profit. Is the ability of a company to donate millions (or billions) to charity perhaps an indicator that "fair" has been exceeded?

Is the fact that they need to hire dozens of support people to fix bugs that crawled out the door perhaps an indication that their quality processes could use some work?

Is the fact that users are fed up with the Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt (FUD) that the salespeople push more than their own products perhaps an indication that the sales force needs some education?

Perhaps they will be less maligned when they get their act together and give me a bug-free (okay, "reduced bug") product at a price that is fair to me and sold by someone who can intelligently tell me why his/her product is better that the other one.

Too Much Profit?

"Is the ability of a company to donate millions (or billions) to charity perhaps an indicator that "fair" has been exceeded?"
No, not in itself, because syndicated businesses like software publishing, magazines and technology research can deliver high value to customers and high profits without compromising on fairness. But having said that, there is a risk that large companies might get so powerful that they could stop delivering that value and still keep the high profits.

The FUD sales approach that you highlight, is it a minority of salespeople who do this, or is it the most common approach, in your experience?