Top 5 ways to piss Mike off

Submitted by Mike Rothman on Fri, 2006-09-08 14:58.

As an analyst, talking to vendors goes with the territory. They are trying to pitch me on why they are great, and I'm always looking for additional data points to keep me in touch with the market and validate the information I'm getting from the end user side.

Most of these discussions are interesting, some even enjoyable. But then there are the ones where I want to slit my wrists halfway through and wish I had become more adept at gracefully bowing out and moving on to my next thing. I had one of those meetings this morning, and it made me think about 5 things that vendors do that consistently piss me off. This joker made every single one of these mistakes.

  1. Be enamored with your technology - This guy today was in the authentication business. And he proceeded to launch into why his technology was great before telling me why customers care about what they do. Before you tell me about bells and whistles, you are better off making sure I understand that there is a need and that I agree with that.

  2. Show me a meaningless demo - Once I couldn't get my arms around why his technology was different, he figured he'd launch the demo. Bad move. Besides the fact that the demo was crappy, I still didn't understand his differentiation. Any demo should map both the user and administrator experience. Show differentiation, make it clear how the stuff works and how it is integrated into a customer's environment.

  3. Name dropping - There is a high likelihood that I know more people than you do. So dropping names just annoys me. I don't care if a Fortune 10 bank stopped by your booth and is "very interested" in the technology. Half the time I don't even care about folks that have WRITTEN YOU A CHECK. And if you sell an enterprise product, don't make your customer references about podunk hospital of Topeka. I'm only interested in references after I get a feel for your value.

  4. Talking at me, not with me - I've been doing this a long time. You probably aren't going to tell me much I haven't seen before. Leave the PPT at home unless you are unable to tell your story (and then you should be looking for another job, no?). I like to have conversations, not listen to 30 minutes of you showing me crappy, incoherent slides and waxing poetically about how great you are.

  5. Not taking feedback well - I appreciate that a vendor takes time out of their day and talks to me. So I try to add a little value and provide some constructive feedback on positioning, pricing, messaging, etc. I've sat where you are sitting and I've pretty much screwed everything up twice. So maybe I can make a suggestion that will help. You may not agree with me and that's fine, but at least listen and be respectful. Let me make my points, you may even learn something. Ultimately, you may think I'm an idiot and disregard everything I say. I'm OK with that. But I will remember if you are rude about it.

Now those 5 things are pretty consistent. But what made my meeting this morning unique was the sheer lack of class this guy showed. At one point he questioned my integrity when I disagreed with him, basically asking if I was on retainer with one of his competitors. I'm not, though I do consider some folks with the competitor personal friends.

And then he had the gall to ask if what he was telling me was going to go straight back to the competitor. To be clear, an analyst with a big mouth that doesn't know how to keep a secret is not going to be in this business for very long. At this point, I said goodbye because there were too many potential weapons within grasping distance.

But that wasn't enough for this ass. He had given me a white paper early in the meeting. Then this guy storms up to me as I'm talking to someone else across the room and asks for it back. It's pretty rare that I am speechless, but this was one of those times. I was happy to give it back because it was going to be filed in the circular bin anyway. And any other response would have probably landed me in jail. But still, to interrupt another conversation I'm having to do something petty like that was the straw that broke the camel's back.

So the wonderful thing about having a blog is that I get to share these stories. And hopefully you can learn from my pain. Now I'm going to go enjoy my weekend since I've gotten this off my chest. I hope you do the same.


Submitted by Ken Camp (not verified) on Fri, 2006-09-08 16:16.

So I'm just guessing you won't be writing a white paper on the technology for this vendor next week. hehehe

Thanks for posting this, Mike. You aren't alone in that pain.

Submitted by wpn (not verified) on Fri, 2006-09-08 17:00.

The other thing I hate is vendors who call for me and lie to the administrative assistant about why they're calling.  "Oh, no, this isn't a sales call; we just need to verify some information."  Like whether we have any budget left that they can possibly get their hands on.  If I end up talking to them and find that they've lied to get my call, I make it clear that they've just blown any chance they ever had of doing business with me.

I've stopped returning calls from any vendor who can't say exactly why they're calling and prove that they already have a relationship with me -- as in, "You started a pilot of our product X and we'd just like to know how it's going."  I don't want to hear "You stopped by our booth at X conference," especially when I know it's a lie (I keep the literature from every booth I visit).  I don't want to hear, "We'd like to show you our unique, wonderful, all-encompassing solution."  No, thanks -- if I met with every vendor who asked me to, I wouldn't get any work done.

Another thing -- I hate getting tons of vendor calls when all I did was download one white paper off their site.

Enough ranting; I feel better now.  Thanks, Mike.  :-)


Submitted by joat (not verified) on Sat, 2006-09-09 07:41.
How about:
  1. Insisting that all questions be held until the end (fine for in-house policy briefs, not fine for demos)
  2. Talking faster to avoid answering a question
  3. Eating while presenting
  4. Using the restroom afterwards (at the same time as potential customers) and not washing your hands!!!!!
  5. Ignoring a request by a senior customer to not intentionally confuse/interchange terms for the sake of product promotion
  6. Stubbornly refusing to acknowledge that your customers are likely to be much smarter than you on any given topic
  7. Inserting your own opinions into the presentation

I've seen all of the above. #4 and #7 are the most annoying. #5 can be very entertaining if it involves a large team of presenters and it involves multiple "stops".


Submitted by Stiennon (not verified) on Mon, 2006-09-11 08:56.

Sounds like you had a bad Friday Mike. I hope your Monday morning works out better. Just one question. Why would you want a vendor to spell out the "need" for their solution? I always tell the presenter to skip the part about data leakage events, rising cybercrime, Hippa, GLB, SOX, 1386, etc, etc, etc. Although for a new company I like to hear about the backgrounds of the founders, the investors, and the early customers (Visa? bank of America? no big deal, they buy one of everything. Disney? Very big deal. They do exhaustive selection.) Then I like to dig into the details.



Submitted by Mike Rothman on Mon, 2006-09-11 09:49.
To me it's a credibility thing. I'll give a vendor maybe 1 or 2 minutes to go through why they were founded and what problem they are solving. I am not so arrogant (like some other analysts I know) to think I know everything, so maybe there is something I'm missing. Usually not (which is why I give them maybe 2 minutes and rarely get passed 1), so after that I know whether I'm dealing with a shyster or someone credible.
Submitted by wpn (not verified) on Mon, 2006-09-11 13:55.

I think Stiennon is right: I also hate vendors who try to plug their ware(s,z) by claiming that they will help me comply with some new regulation. For one thing, most of the bills are so vague that you could plausibly claim that a 1950's Hoover vac could be used to comply with them; they don't get into any technical detail at all. For another, it's insulting to my (alleged) intelligence to make that claim without even asking what I'm already using in-house. And I'm tired of hearing media headlines recycled at me for every sales pitch. Yes, I know there's identity theft. I know there are terrorists. I also know there are many viruses. Thank you.



Submitted by Amrit (not verified) on Tue, 2006-09-12 18:13.

Personally I just want to hear why they think they are different and what need they are trying to fill that is apprently not being filled, really want details about the technology. I do not want to spend 5-15 minutes listening to why they think finacially motivated cyber crime is a problem, or that some regulation is driving security spending on SIEM or log management.

but the one thing that really drives me crazy is when the vendor says "Good question" - instantly drops their credibility down three notches...

Submitted by SamVR (not verified) on Wed, 2006-09-13 15:13.

That seems nitpicky to me. Saying that is just a polite form of conversation, not a suck-up.

But wow, Mike. That really seems like an arrogant guy!

As for the other comments around the sales calls - don't forget that all of you work for companies (even if it is your own) that require sales. Unfortunately, the mistake many vendors make is having low-level, uneducated salespeople with uncertain people skills make high volumes of cold calls - even worse, follow up on attendee lists from trade events (even though they were not there, or are not given any coaching or background). Many of these folks get paid on setting up appointments, which worsens the experience...

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