From the 'I'm glad I'm not a Vista salesperson' files

From the 'I'm glad I'm not a Vista salesperson' files

Summary: I feel for the folks hawking Vista right now. There are too many conflicting pieces of information coming out of Redmond to figure out what to tell customers -- especially business customers -- who are wondering when/whether to upgrade. Consider the evidence.

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TOPICS: Microsoft, Windows
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All the recent career advice I've received from Mac zealots has really got me thinking about my future. (The "go back to baking muffins and taking care of the kids" e-mail from one reader definitely gave me food for thought.)

If I ever decide to hang up my blogging hat, there's one job I've already ruled out: Windows Vista sales/marketing. (Actually, I should make that two jobs ruled out: The other is working at the Genius Bar at an Apple store.)

I feel for the folks hawking Vista right now. There are too many conflicting pieces of information coming out of Redmond to figure out what to tell customers -- especially business customers -- who are wondering when/whether to upgrade. Consider the evidence:

Exhibit 1: The "Don't Wait for Vista SP1" fact pack. APC Magazine has the skinny on a new set of marketing materials Microsoft is circulating among its OEM partners that they can use to convince customers that they shouldn't wait for Vista Service Pack (SP) 1 to deploy. "To help partners and customers get the real story, Microsoft has created a comprehensive set of fact-rich materials illustrating how Windows Vista is ready today and tomorrow," according to the blurb for the fact pack. (My ZDNet blogging colleague Adrian Kingsley-Hughes has more on the fact pack.) Many business users -- in spite of Microsoft's proclamations -- have a policy of waiting for at least SP1 for any operating system before upgrading.

Exhibit 2: How to downgrade to XP is at the top of Microsoft's "Top 5 Licensing Questions." In a posting to Microsoft's UK Partner Team blog, a Microsoft employee lists the five questions most often asked last month via the "Ask Partner" Hotline. The most commonly asked question was "What downgrade rights does Windows Vista Business have?" (Not a question you want to hear asked if you are trying to convince customers that upgrading, not downgrading, is the way to go.) The second most frequently asked question: "What media and key can I use when downgrading?" Again, not exactly a resounding endorsement of Vista from volume licensees.

Exhibit 3: Vista is still a work in progress. Microsoft released Vista to manufacturing in November 2006, seven months ago. This week, we learned that Microsoft has decided to head off more messy, protracted antitrust litigation by agreeing to make changes to Vista to accommodate third-party desktop-search products. (All those new Google lawyers and lobbyists in Washington must be a formidable bunch!) Microsoft will deliver some of the required changes via Vista Service Pack (SP) 1 -- a first beta of which some of my sources were expecting to see this summer, but now may show up any time between now and December 31 (based on what Microsoft has told federal regulators).

Unlike "Marketing Pilgrim" Andy Beal, I don't think Microsoft wants to postpone SP1, at this point. I think the company realizes its attempt to get customers to change their SP1-waiting ways hasn't worked. All the Vista SP1 secrecy has backfired and drawn more attention to the whereabouts of the Vista update.

What do you think Microsoft's Vista marketing team can and should do to end customer confusion and uncertainty around Vista? If you were a Vista marketer/salesperson, what would you be telling customers, at this point?

Topics: Microsoft, Windows

About

Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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28 comments
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  • Goodbye, and good luck

    If I were a Vista marketer/salesperson, what would I be telling customers at this point?

    "Adios. I just got a job at the Genius Bar in an Apple store."
    Userama
    • If I were a Vista marketer/salesperson

      I'd be telling my customers get Ubuntu Linux, it's free in more than one meaning of the word, it's secure and it works.
      tracy anne
  • Vista Ultimate nothing working for me

    I use quicken for my banking stuff. I get a error telling no internet found but if I click ignore twice it connects to my bank no problem. Quicken support doesn't seem to care just saying it works on vista.

    My Sound Blaster Audigy card drivers make cracking sounds must be the beta drivers.

    I also had issues with games etc working great the first time only to have the EXE file crash next time I wanted to play.

    I am staying with XP where everything works. XP may not be pretty like Vista but I have no issues!
    Randalllind
    • VISTA Migraines

      I have been operating on VISTA since i bought a new P.C. in Feb. 07. I have had nothing but one problem after another. Everything from compatability to right simply put crashes of my whole system. I have had to start from scratch 15 times so far and it still isn't getting any easier. I bought the computer but can't run on the system that i want to run on which is XP. Is this even legal because as even Microsoft says we lease the software that we run on and if i was told in the beginning that i could only run my new computer on VISTA i would never had made the purchase.
      johnkobi3@...
      • you can buy XP

        Go to http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16832116059

        buy that but you will have to buy something like a USB pen drive or memory stick. They can't sell it by itself.

        You just have to check all your hardware and make sure you got drivers for everything. Before you format and install XP make sure you can get motherboard drivers like your network card etc drivers.

        You got until end of the year so hurry.
        Randalllind
  • Why does Microsoft even have a sales and marketing dept?

    Ballmer could sack his entire Sales and Marketing dept and I doubt it would make much difference. HP, Dell, Acer, Lenovo, etc, etc do all the selling and marketing. They spend the marketing and advertising money, not Microsoft.

    Sales of Windows just track what the hardware OEMs are doing. Very, very few people actually *buy* Windows. Most buy the OEM PC with Windows instead.
    bportlock
    • Think Again, The Sales Force is What Built the Monopoly

      Let me qualify to the poster to whom I'm replying that I am not calling you stupid, because even during the early years of my stint with MS, I thought the same way: The products sell themselves and the sales force is really a group of lottery winners (to fall into so much cash for something that seems so easy).

      While it is true that non-business consumers typically get Windows pre-loaded on a new PC, the vast majority of Windows desktop licenses (excluding servers altogether) are sold to corporations and other business customers. Managing these accounts is the job of the MS "sales force" (aka account executives). It is their job to do whatever it takes in the local community to see to it that the management and executive teams of major customers (essentially all of the top 2000 companies in the US ) is comprised of the those most friendly to MS (ie a track record of spending lots of money with MS).

      The account executives and their helper consultants (MS's MCS division) engage in elaborate business intelligence (using open source intelligence mechanisms) and "education campaigns" (aka disinformation campaigns) in order to keep key customer managers (those with budget authority) limited to known "Friends of MS". Inside MS, execs and sales and consulting personnel unviersally refer to customers as being either FOM or EOM (Friends of MS or Enemies of MS). EOM's soon find life very difficult and so the monopoly is preserved.

      The DOJ trial, as well as countless books and business press articles have partially documented the "persuasive ability" of the sales and consulting force of MS. They truly shape American business far beyond the obvious.

      --Doug Hettinger
      dhettinger
      • Thanks for the insight

        It obviously looks very different from the inside than it appears from the outside. Your summary of how corporate spending is "managed" is most illuminating.

        However, is it really "Sales and Marketing" in the usual sense of the phrase. You used the words "Account management" which I would suggest have a slightly different connotation.
        bportlock
        • Sales & Marketing vs Account Management

          That is a valid question. Sales and marketing are actually viewed as distinctly separate activities in alot of corporations - also at Microsoft. Marketing focuses on the management of perceptions of a product or category or even entire organization. Account executives are versed in talking points around the products but usually know very little about a particular product. Their focus is on managing perception among customer managers with budgetary authority and "persuading" these same customers to buy all the software they can afford on their budgets. You know the old line: "Nobody ever got fired for buying MS software". Internally, this is a favorite phrase of sales and consulting personnel - as it is obviously veiled threat. The other one that is big right now is the one Ray Ozzie likes to say: "Never Underestimate the Power of the Network" which, internally, is understood to mean that if you can replace independent managers at customers with what are essentially MS-appointed purchasing representatives, the sales process becomes alot easier. Why bust your behind trying to win on the merits when you can simply promise a 200k job at MS to the manager once the purchasing cycle is over and the company realizes they've drastically overspent on software?

          --Doug Hettinger
          dhettinger
  • Just like the vinyl record industry

    They still sell turntables (a few) and
    people still "collect" records, but when
    is the last time you actually heard a
    vinyl record playing?

    Microsoft's original method of marketing
    is responsible for their success, plus
    the fact that they had the right product
    at the right time to satisfy public
    demand.Times are a-changing. Their
    methods are failing. They are running to
    and fro, and around in circles. What to
    do? What to do?
    Ole Man
    • Vinyl Records still in use! Hello?

      When was the last time you heard a vinyl record playing? You must be 65--like me. A lot of DJ's are making $60,000 a year playing retro media like vinyl. As an audio engineer, however, you couldn't get me to buy a $1200 worth of turntables to make scratchy noises that we worked for years to eliminate. The Recording industry has failed for 8 years to respond to marketing mp3's until just recently they woke up. And it was the marketing model that did it.

      If Microsoft doesn't wake up and smell the roses, they will find out like the recording industry that you can't count on any well-established idea to always work. I have unloaded two betas of Vista and went back to XP Pro, and I couldn't be happier. You can't call me a luddite for choosing not to go through the idiocy of another complicated operating system just to do what I am already doing quite well thank you!
      DJ Dr. Disco
      Doc Disco
  • Vista sitting on the fence

    It's a tough sale because Vista's just different enough to alienate certain users yet not different enough to really make people curious. It's sort of the worst of both worlds really. This is a common theme I've been noticing at Microsoft, this "play it safe yet be different" attitude which doesn't seem to please anyone.

    Take all of that and couple it with the fact that there isn't a charasmatic figurehead in the lot and you have very weak marketing. On the other hand take Apple's style of marketing and while there is a lot there I disagree with I do back the one vision, one spokesman, one direction theme of Jobs. You get the sense that everything is pointed in the exact same direction at Apple while Microsoft seems like managers running around in circles with spears in their hands, doing nothing but hurting each other.

    Not a good time to be a MS sales person, that's for sure.
    MaxPerino
  • Understand the MS Sales Approach and You Understand MS

    During the early years of my stint with MS, I thought the products sell themselves and the sales force is really a group of lottery winners (to fall into so much cash for something that seems so easy).

    While it is true that non-business consumers typically get Windows pre-loaded on a new PC, the vast majority of Windows desktop licenses (excluding servers altogether) are sold to corporations and other business customers. Managing these accounts is the job of the MS "sales force" (aka account executives). It is their job to do whatever it takes in the local community to see to it that the management and executive teams of major customers (essentially all of the top 2000 companies in the US ) is comprised of the those most friendly to MS (ie a track record of spending lots of money with MS).

    The account executives and their helper consultants (MS's MCS division) engage in elaborate business intelligence (using open source intelligence mechanisms) and "education campaigns" (aka disinformation campaigns) in order to keep key customer managers (those with budget authority) limited to known "Friends of MS". Inside MS, execs and sales and consulting personnel unviersally refer to customers as being either FOM or EOM (Friends of MS or Enemies of MS). EOM's soon find life very difficult and so the monopoly is preserved.

    The DOJ trial, as well as countless books and business press articles have partially documented the "persuasive ability" of the sales and consulting force of MS. They truly shape American business far beyond the obvious.

    --Doug Hettinger
    dhettinger
  • What would you do? hmmmm......

    "<i>What do you think Microsoft?s Vista marketing team can and should do to end customer confusion and uncertainty around Vista?"

    Announce an actual release target for SP1 I'm sure would go far since its obvious thats what many are waiting for as well as getting some actual goodies out for the Ultimate people who foolishly paid the "Ultimate" price.

    <i>"If you were a Vista marketer/salesperson, what would you be telling customers, at this point?</i>"

    Ladies & Gentleman, this is Linux, it's fast, flexible, and secure. It can run on both your old and new hardware so you won't have to worry about doing a massive and expensive hardware upgrade just to run it. Also, we do sell license's of Novell's SUSE Linux that we will allow you to trade in for your Vista ones at the door on your way out of this meeting.We are sorry to have misled you with all the FUD, and that we tried convincing you Vista was a Viable and reliable OS......Thank you, this meeting is adjourned.
    ;D


    devlin_X
    devlin_X
  • Reassure Them That Rebate Checks Are In Mail...

    ...and that they will be moved to another company to act as a loyal, ask-no-questions MS purchasing representative as a reward for blowing a ton of their company's money on garbage. For those of you who have looted three or more companies and are no longer viable, MS has a 200k position in Redmond to reward you.

    --Doug Hettinger
    MicrosoftTalkingPoints_com
  • I think Doug is right - and it is account managing

    In the dim dark past I was a systems programmer on IBM-360 computers for a county government in Maryland. Our IBM sales rep was my trouble shooter. If I had a problem he was right there for me helping find the problem and fixing it. He did the same for all the county governments around Baltimore and for the city of Baltimore as well. The result was that when it came time to get new or more equipment, he got the contract and the sale. His account managing was the sales tool for a very profitable relationship and he made a ton of money and all from managing his accounts. That is why I think account managing IS sales - you manage it so that when it comes time to buy they know where to go to buy it.
    rhomp2002@...
  • No Sense Waiting

    The enterprise I'm responsible for is plunging right in.

    I started using Vista on my machines at work and home as soon as it RTM'd in November. Bought a work laptop with Vista on it a month or two later. Bought my wife a desktop with Vista on it a month or two after that. We're now deploying it within our IT department, and have started distributing Vista-loaded test machines out to various sites.

    For us, it just works. We've had some problems with some older hardware and software, but that's no surprise; it's unreasonable to expect to progress technologically while maintaining 100% backwards compatibility.

    Wait for SP1? I see no real benefit for us. Vista's issues are with legacy programs and equipment--they're not general reliability issues. So waiting for a service pack isn't going to help.
    ParrotHeadFL
    • Ok, tell us what Vista does that XP can't

      I can't see what benefit you could possibly envision unless of course you are in some way "connected" so dollars would enhance sales of Vista. If waiting for SP1 isn't going to help, then why is the United States Government refusing to use Vista ? Must be some logical reason why so many are less than impressed by your evaluation of what it will do but I still can't refer to anything in specific as you never stated what Vista does that XP can't. Now before you go off and tell us about Directx 10 or some ridiculous story about the newest Windows player, I've gone to some lengths to see what that was all about and there just isn't any soap on the end of that rope. If it works for you, I think you should stick with it considering the number of dollars you spent, it leaves little choice. For those that may be a little more frugal with their dollars, it's time to move on to something
      else like Mac, Linux or Unix and if that doesn't warm the cockles of your hearts, then stay with XP as there is NO real reason to spend your money like a fool on fire for something like Vista.
      intrepi@...
      • it can cause more people to swear

        It can cause massive amounts of hair to suddenly show up on the floors of IT offices all over the world.
        It can make grown IT Administrators cry. It can suck up tremendous amounts of ram and still want more.
        It can show you pretty pictures while you plan the demise of the CEO and planning staff of Microsoft.
        ITdaized
      • Vista vs. XP

        If you want to know the differences between Vista and XP, they're documented. Greater control via Group Policy is one of the big benefits for us, as is Vista's security model.

        Cost isn't an issue for us. We're not paying to upgrade existing machines from XP to Vista; we're just getting new machines with Vista. It doesn't cost us any more money to do this.
        ParrotHeadFL