7 common lies told by enterprise software sales people

7 common lies told by enterprise software sales people

Summary: Ever meet an enterprise software salesperson you could trust? While such paragons of virtue exist, they seem the exception rather than the rule. Here are 8 common lies used by some way too many enterprise solution providers during the sales process.

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8 common lies told by enterprise software sales people

Ever meet an enterprise software salesperson you could trust? While such paragons of virtue exist, they seem the exception rather than the rule. Here are 7 common lies used by some way too many enterprise solution providers during the sales process.

      Also see: Sales-driven IT failures

The lies are drawn from Confessions of an Ex-Enterprise Salesperson (free download), by Doug Mitchell, who founded RentalMetrics, a management consulting firm for the construction equipment rental sector, after working for years in the enterprise solutions business. Doug told me he wrote the book to "break through the hype" surrounding enterprise software sales.

Lie 1. My solution is the one that best meets your needs

When I said, "My solution is the one that best meets your needs," what I meant was that I'm going to do my darnedest to shoe horn my product into your world so that you'll buy my stuff versus the competitors.

You [shouldn't] buy products because they have this or that. [B]uy them because of what they'll do for you and the ecosystem you operate within.

Key questions to ask the sales person: What 3 companies are your fiercest competitors and what would they say they do better than you? The last time you lost a deal to your competition, what were the main reasons given?

Lie 2. My solution does not require much of your company's IT resources

When I said, "My solution does not require much of your company's IT resources," what I meant was that with a 95% degree of certainty, your IT department will be the biggest roadblock to success that we'll encounter in this project.

Key questions to ask the sales person: When (not if) you run into smoke screens, road blocks, and obstacles thrown up my IT department, are you prepared to deal with them and how? If we cut through all of the crap, how much time does it really take to deploy this solution, excluding training?

Lie 3. My solution is supported well

When I said that, “My solution is supported well and my company hangs its hat on the best service in the industry,” what I meant was that when you call, a human will pick up the phone and get on your problem right away, delaying someone else’s due date for customized solution delivery.

The bottom line with custom software in the enterprise is that it breaks. How many times have you rebooted today?

Key questions to ask the sales person: Do you have an automated system or a human system when I call your support line? What bug tracking or trouble ticket solution to you use? What your average time from call in to resolution? What is your process for escalation?

Lie 4. My solution will save you time and money

When I said, “My solution will save you time and money,” what I meant was that your company will probably achieve enough Return On Investment to pay for the solution…but you’ll end up using 10% of what the solution can do and end up frustrated after the honeymoon period.

Most enterprise solutions have evolved because complex businesses have insisted that new features be built as a condition of sale.

Key questions to ask the sales person: What percentage of features in this system do your clients typically use? If I want to reduce the training required by half to save money, will you let me?

Lie 5. That will take 2…maybe 3 weeks to develop

When I said, “That will take 2 maybe 3 weeks to develop”, what I meant was I really don’t know how long your customization will take so I’m throwing out a number that will get you to bite…not balk.”

If the delivery dates of complex customizations seems unrealistic…even to you, they probably are.

Key questions to ask the sales person: What is your process for documenting change requests? If your development efforts fall behind schedule, what’s my compensation?

Lie 6. Here are my prices

When I said, “Here are my prices”, what I meant was “My price is totally flexible and within reason I’ll probably say yes to lowering them because we need your upfront money and recurring revenue more than I need my pride.”

Pricing enterprise solutions is far more art than science. Often it’s more about discovering the target’s pain tolerance.

Key questions to ask the sales person: How much does the solution cost? What’s the typical payback or return on investment you’ve measured when companies like mine have deployed your solution and can you provide me case studies?

Lie 7. Here are my contract terms and conditions

When I said, “Here are my contract terms and conditions”, what I meant was “This is pretty much a boiler plate agreement that no one reads so if you challenge some terms…you’ll probably get what you want.”

[M]ost enterprise solution firms don’t even know what the terms in their own contract mean. If something appears strange to you or is unclear, challenge it. Don’t be afraid.

Key questions to ask the sales person: Is this agreement flexible and negotiable? What’s the one contract term that clients challenge the most?”

THE PROJECT FAILURES ANALYSIS

If you're contemplating an enterprise solution, read Doug's book to help protect your own hide from evil, miscreant, and wayward sales people. I really enjoy how his sardonic humor matches the subject matter. For example:

On lying:

Is lying requisite? No. Sales people are not lying, they are simply framing the truth in a way that closes the deal and provides a big payday [for the sales person].

On enterprise solution (ES) pricing:

The ES is often quite expensive to buy upfront. This upfront price loading is where the ES software company recovers the immense cost of sales associated with the ES including commissions, bonus payments to company officers, investor dividends, and really nice cars for the President.

On the subject of enterprise sales people:

Better enterprise solution selling organizations send two people on the tactical assault mission: One suit. One techie. The suit acts as translator when the techie...lays out something intelligent for your consumption. That back and forth tech translation orgy is meant to disarm the prospective buyer or baffle him sufficiently into writing a check for the panacea product that will make his boss happy with him...or close out the never ending 6-Sigma project from hell.

My take: Doug's book will help you recognize and avoid common tactics frequently perpetrated by sales people on unsuspecting enterprise buyers.

Topic: Enterprise Software

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33 comments
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  • The Truth Is Out There

    Great post and great e-Book! Its about time someone told the truth about enterprise sales!
    isaac@...
  • Observations

    Here on ZDNet I've posted:

    "The normal condition of software is broken."

    The author states:

    "The bottom line with custom software in the enterprise is that it breaks."

    Solid observation on his part.


    Quoting:

    You [shouldn't] buy products because they have this or that. [B]uy them because of what they'll do for you and the ecosystem you operate within.

    [End quote.]

    Of course "this or that" are what do things for you, so the statement is confusing.

    More important, "what they'll do" is the result of optimistic imagination before purchase. The author couldn't resist a sales pitch even now.


    Quoting again from a question for the salesperson:

    When (not if) you run into smoke screens, road blocks, and obstacles thrown up my IT department, are you prepared to deal with them and how?

    [End quote.]

    The salesperson might respond, "Expect you to be in charge of your IT department?" but probably will not. The customer and salesperson have a shared assumption that IT is a foreign, potentially or actually hostile lump within the organization.

    And they're discussing IT... obviously outside the presence of IT.


    Quoting one last time:

    When I said, "My solution will save you time and money," what I meant was that your company will probably achieve enough Return On Investment to pay for the solution; but you'll end up using 10% of what the solution can do and end up frustrated after the honeymoon period.

    [End quote.]

    First comment, someone selling a basic product has a compelling advantage.
    Second comment, ROI is apparently intended to mean, The software does something that you'll like. If there were defined purposes, those purposes would be met or not, and meeting only 10% of them would be considered a failure.
    Anton Philidor
  • Observations again, no bracketed B this time.

    Here on ZDNet I've posted:

    "The normal condition of software is broken."

    The author states:

    "The bottom line with custom software in the enterprise is that it breaks."

    Solid observation on his part.


    Quoting:

    You [shouldn't] buy products because they have this or that. Buy them because of what they'll do for you and the ecosystem you operate within.

    [End quote.]

    Of course "this or that" are what do things for you, so the statement is confusing.

    More important, "what they'll do" is the result of optimistic imagination before purchase. The author couldn't resist a sales pitch even now.


    Quoting again from a question for the salesperson:

    When (not if) you run into smoke screens, road blocks, and obstacles thrown up my IT department, are you prepared to deal with them and how?

    [End quote.]

    The salesperson might respond, "Expect you to be in charge of your IT department?" but probably will not. The customer and salesperson have a shared assumption that IT is a foreign, potentially or actually hostile lump within the organization.

    And they're discussing IT... obviously outside the presence of IT.


    Quoting one last time:

    When I said, "My solution will save you time and money," what I meant was that your company will probably achieve enough Return On Investment to pay for the solution; but you'll end up using 10% of what the solution can do and end up frustrated after the honeymoon period.

    [End quote.]

    First comment, someone selling a basic product has a compelling advantage.
    Second comment, ROI is apparently intended to mean, The software does something that you'll like. If there were defined purposes, those purposes would be met or not, and meeting only 10% of them would be considered a failure.
    Anton Philidor
  • Lie #2?

    What, exactly, is meant by Lie #2? Taken verbatim it's quite insulting. Are you saying that IT is typically a roadblock to ES adoption? I hope not. IT is a critical partner to success in any such project, and if we're doing our job right, we're helping business groups cut through all the other lies.
    moebiusloop
    • Truth

      Another thing that's insulting about this article is that all the links to it say, 'Enterprise Software Lies,' so once again, zdnet is spreading anticompetitive propoganda, and whatever they say in this article will be taken as gospel against *all* enterprise level software.
      Spiritusindomit@...
      • The reality

        It is often a road block in adopting new solutions. Not the organization as a whole, but certain silos within the organization can, and usually do, throw up road blocks during planning and implementation. These can be reasonable or just turf protection, but they happen.

        I have been through it too many time on both sides of the table. The reality is that someone in IT will likely be a cost increasing factor during implementation through scheduling delays and/or re planning a deployment to match "the way things are done here."
        philpenn
        • You said it better than I did

          Thanks for jumping in. To repeat my comment, it doesn't happen everywhere all the time, but IT roadblocks are not at all uncommon.
          mkrigsman@...
        • OMG - that last line "the way things are done here."

          Hit home -
          We are for the most part in the ERP landscape a SAP Shop - ERP, SCM, HR, BI, CRM, and Protals. A lot of the implementation was just as you described - nicely done. But that last line is the nail on the head. W/O change management that will be a huge road block. Brought back some memories with that phrase.
          ItsTheBottomLine
        • Not just IT

          In my experience an ineffectual manager can screw things up far more than any IT department ever could. It's not fair to point the finger at IT, some managers are much worse at introducing barriers to success - and end up making everyone look bad.
          pwnz0r
    • This does happen

      None of these lies occur all the time in every company out there. However, it's all too common for IT departments to act as a roadblock, rather than a partner, to the business.

      Please don't take offense; the comments obviously don't apply to you and your department. On the other hand, this does apply to many organizations.

      Thanks for sharing your comments.
      mkrigsman@...
      • Unfortunately he's right...

        As some of you know with SAP you need the business to be involved with some ID, because it so configurable (also a weakness). Our CIO and IT were roadblocks because they were a "back-seat" to the overall project at first. It went in and only 3 months later than target, and was mostly on budget, but IT was a roadblock and Turf was the biggest thing.
        ItsTheBottomLine
        • Gee I wonder why?

          Look when you install a major IT system like SAP and deliberately back seat your IT staff don't expect them to be greatful. This is one of those business items that supposedly good business folk never seem to get. Your IT staff are supposed to be the people helping you with your information needs when you by pass them you've tossed out one insult. The second insult usually comes when they start asking questions about the system they will have to support but haven't been trained on...for some reason suits always see this as a "roadblock". The fact is that when you suits do this to your IT staff you do nothing more than make the people who compose your IT staff insecure. When people get insecure they get conservative in their actions. From the IT perspective you're changing technologies and have decided IT doesn't need to be part of the decision or implementation. Which means to the rank and file tech is their job is gone. Gee I wonder why you get those road blocks when you tell your IT department they're too unskilled to do their jobs.

          I've been on both sides of this and a successful implementation project always works with the existing IT staff not around it. As a newbie consultant I worked in environments where we were brought in to by pass the IT department and those projects were always less than a full success. Those projects where consulting worked for and with IT tended to be exactly what the companies needed and you had people capable of supporting the project and happy users.
          maldain
      • it's not that widespread

        Thanks, I don't take it personally. I just think it isn't so prevalent as to qualify being on the Lie List. During my 19 years in IT, I've seen it way less often than some folks here imply, especially in the last 5 to 7 years during which IT became much more of an equal business partner and therefore collaborates with business groups rather than conspires against them. I do agree that it is a problem in some cases, especially the turf protection syndrome, but it's not the default reality.

        Sales people, on the other hand, are universally evil and only want to sell sell sell. J/K
        moebiusloop
    • IT will get the blame.

      If the enterprise software implementation team misses its installation date, they will be the first to blame IT for not giving it enough support. This seems to happen even if IT bends over backward to make the implementation a success.
      leobrown
      • You're right

        Good IT departments can be the fall guy for a lot of wayward deployments. (Speaking from my experience) When IT departments are truly in sync with business operations, there is no "blame game" because the CIO/IT Director/IS Manager is business oriented and has open lines of communication with the process owners/managers for which the solution applies.

        IT is a great punching bag in organizations where IT is the mysterious group of people that make you unable to download music or load your own software into the laptop.

        Culturally speaking, few IT departments have the ability to help the 80% understand why things are the way they are...why security matters...why everyone doesn't just get 2 x 24inch flat screens because they're cheap...why they just can't "get a blackberry" immediately. That's where the "5 percenters" come in. Those IT leaders seem to bridge the gap between tech and non-tech to create harmony.

        Those folks are golden and few (again..in my experience in small/medium/large companies).

        Take care!
        mitchgroup
  • RE: 8 common lies told by enterprise software sales people

    OK, where is lie number 8?
    BigRed_32399
    • That there is an 8th lie; performance always falls short.

      And sales people always promise more than they deliver.
      Anton Philidor
  • Here is number 8

    Hurry! You'll get this discount only if you sign before May 31st.

    Truth: OK, May 31st is when the fiscal year ends and the rep wants a bonus. But he will also want it at the end of Q1, etc. Don't hurry.
    Dario Cukier
  • Cross-platform system and Linux

    (bashing java ahead).

    If you are buying a system, then the System (and the hardware) are tied all together.

    Some salesman will say that a cross-platform system are easy to port and change of system, IT IS NOT TRUE! a system will work on several layers and every layer in some major or minor degreed with depend on the system, for example the system file, the way to connect to a database, the localization, the date and time format and several other aspects.

    Also, there are not gaining to change platform, even if the target is a free operating system. Usually changing platform means to change almost everything (even IT staff).

    Cross platform works on a level of developer not at level of customers.
    magallanes
  • How are direct sales cycles in Entp SW different that say HW, Elec or FMCGs

    Michael,
    While this e-book and post is written in a very witty manner it belies the fact that these are "framed truths" (as you called them) that occur in all sales cycles where direct sales reps are involved. This is because its a competitive situation and the reps are incentivized on sales they make happen. They know that the buyer is going to make a purchase and if they dont provide the most attractive solution the next one in line will. I can take all of these 7 "framed truths" and apply them to a car and large screen LCD TV purchase I made some time back or the HW I was trying to purchase for my company a few years ago. The HW rep would always tell me they were the fastest, low cost, most efficiently serviced product on the planet, whenever I would walk into an electronics store for looking at and trying to decide on an LCD TV the rep out there would latch on to me and try selling me the TV where he had the largest margins. This was knowing well that I had specs and consumer report printouts from the web in my hand already and a lot of what they were saying contradicted with what I had at hand.

    The question is should direct sales reps in the enterprise SW industry be incentivized differently (maybe on customer sat) and should the software industry as a whole do more to educate and inform their prospects and customers about the buying process.

    So far I've not met a single sales rep ever in any industry who says;

    - My product/solution is not the best and does not meet your needs
    - My product/solution does require a lot of your company???s resources
    - My product/solution is not well supported
    - My product/solution will not save you time or money
    - My product/solution will take years to deploy
    - We dont provide a price list for our product/solution
    - We dont have any contract terms and conditions for this product/solution

    So why would an enterprise sales rep be any different??
    Darayush