Enterprise software: are customers being pressured so vendors can make their numbers?

James Governor calls enterprise software sales a "pathology." ZDNet colleague Michael Krigsman calls it "ugly enterprise software sales tactics.
Written by Joe McKendrick, Contributing Writer

James Governor calls enterprise software sales a "pathology." ZDNet colleague Michael Krigsman calls it "ugly enterprise software sales tactics." Either way, both are calling enterprise software vendors on the carpet for foisting expensive solutions on customers that may not need all that application power.

The instigator in this thread is Forrester's Ray Wang, who admonished vendors to "stop pushing products that clients don't need." At a time when businesses need to wring as much value as possible out of their IT investments, Wang says vendors are instead are getting obnoxious with their sales approaches::

"At this point in time, clients really need their vendors to propose options to help theme save money.  Clients seek assistance in reducing their cost basis of running their software. Though in some cases, new products may help clients create operational efficiency or meet regulatory requirements, clients increasingly report their sales people pushing a number and not a product that meets their needs."

The feeling seems to be that vendor sales reps are under a lot of pressure to make their numbers, and are riding roughshod over customers to get there. "Aggressive tactics are the norm," Governor says.

Here's how "good" enterprise software vendors should act, Wang says:

"Despite the pressures to meet unrealistic revenue forecasts, clients should expect their vendor sales teams to take a solution selling approach to identifying options to reduce costs.  Those that fail to do so will face a wrath of rebellion when clients have the opportunity to take action.  The good news, vendors who understand how to craft real solutions that provide ROI and immediate impact, have already implemented programs to provide assistance. Examples include improving existing peer forums, renegotiating existing terms, offering more entry points to support and maintenance options, assisting with vendor financing, and lowering cost of usage and ownership.  Kudos to those vendors!"

Of course, as the economy recovers, enterprise customers will hold a special place in their hearts for vendors that act as mutual partners, versus aggressive panhandlers.

Governor says enterprise customers should get aggressive as well. They can pay more attention what their developers are saying, to help avoid buying software that will end up as shelfware. Also, many open source solutions may be just as good as their commercial counterparts. And take advantage of the cloud. "Focus more on work and less on dog and pony shows. If its going to take 18 months to decide what platform to adopt you’re doing it wrong."

UPDATE: I also heartily recommend active involvement in user groups. Enterprise vendors listen very carefully to what these groups are telling them. I work closely with SHARE (independent IBM systems group) and OAUG (Oracle Applications User Group) in my industry research work, and I know for a fact they have IBM's and Oracle's ears. Collaboration with like-minded people is a force to be reckoned with!

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