What is it about the tech world that always seems to put us at each others’ throats? FUD is thrown around like candy from a broken piñata. Notable oppositions that come to mind are EMC vs. NetApp, block vs. file, diversity vs. simplicity, an so on. Currently, we have the software-defined networking (SDN) wars: hyper-converged vs. all-flash arrays (AFA). This was going to be a rant post, but Chad Sakac does that so much better than me. If you have a spare hour or so, have a read of his latest post; it makes for very good reading, and considering his role in the hierarchy of EMC, it is remarkably unbiased.

But the fact is, Chad is correct; we do need to increase the intellectual level of our conversations. Too many times, we are told, “The customer will not understand this; we need to dumb it down.” Why? Are your customers morons and idiots? Or perhaps you are selling your products to kindergarten students? I think not, and you are doing your customers a disservice by treating them as such.

My personal opinion is that for many, explaining our products properly is just too much like hard work. Salespeople, marketers, and SE’s dislike the labor required to properly scope the requirements. Further, it is relatively easy for level-one salespeople to have a ten-point bullet list and a bullet-pointed competitive marketing document; it is more difficult to actually learn and understand the product they are selling deeply enough to be able to drive their key selling points home without muckraking the competition. This is not just aimed at sales personnel, but also at marketers, many of whom think that competitive marketing is just pouring dirty ditch water over a competitor’s product with not a thought for how that will look to customers and no consideration for their own product’s unique selling points and strengths.

Here is a quick eye-opener for you: if your slides do not tell me your product’s story and what it does it well, but concentrates on slagging off your competitors, you have lost a sale to me.

Maligning a competitor’s product reminds me of playground-fight, “he-said, she-said” bickering. This is just “tittle tattle,” as my grandmother used to call it. People judge you on what you are, and pulling others down devalues you as a person. You would not openly disparage a fellow human—as you know, that is wrong. So why openly disparage a competitor’s product? If your product is good enough, it will stand on its own values.

You will gain more kudos by walking away from a deal that is inappropriate for your product than you will for shoehorning it in where it will most obviously not fit, for that will only serve for a short-term gain, and believe me, you will not get any repeat business. Further, you will tarnish your own product, as it will not perform as expected. You need to be a customer’s trusted advisor; you will gain more respect if you say that you cannot meet their needs and state why. You obviously cannot mention that your competitors can meet their needs, but you could point them to trusted third parties, which offer unbiased information.

Your marketing needs to be insightful about your product, not disparaging of your competitors. In fact, it is particularly effective to actually mention where your competitor’s product is better, but then explain why it is not an issue, due to your product’s design.

Admittedly, this might not sit well with your Sales VP’s targets, but if you run your messaging campaigns correctly, deals will come.

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Tom Howarth (71 Posts)

Tom Howarth is an IT Veteran of over 20 years experience and is the owner of PlanetVM.Net Ltd, Tom is a moderator of the VMware Communities forum. He is a contributing author on VMware vSphere(TM) and Virtual Infrastructure Security: Securing ESX and the Virtual Environment, and the forthcoming vSphere a Quick Guide. He regularly does huge virtualization projects for enterprises in the U.K. and elsewhere in EMEA. Tom was Elected vExpert for 2009 and each subsequent year thereafter.

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