Bring a techie along in a sales pitch

Have been busy these days participating in vendor sales pitch and presentations. Some good, some bad, some ugly. Three of those are really bad.

  • This vendor was short listed for a RFP. It came on site to do a presentation, which was the key to decide who gets the deal. Representing the vendor was an account executive, who seems to be confident. Two engineers called in from their headquarter. One was a senior engineer, the other one was pretty new, who has recently joined the vendor. The AE started the presentation, which looked very generic and did not appear to be tailored for us. Five minuets into the presentation, the senior engineer left the conference without any advanced notice. During the Q&A session, the junior engineer was either not able to answer the questions raised at all or answered them inadequately. This turned into a disaster. Of course, you can guess the result: they didn’t get the deal.
  • This next one is from an established security product vendor. The presenter wasted 20 minutes talking about its position on Gartner’s magic quadrant. As if by locating on the upper right corner would guarantee a sale. Unfortunately he was tortured literally with quite a few technical questions. Obviously, as a tenured sales guy, he wasn’t able to answer the questions. And he doesn’t have a sales engineer to back him up either. When you heard too many “That’s a great question’ and ‘I don’t know the answer'”, you kind of wondering what this guy was doing here to waste everyone’s time.
  • The AE for this other vendor actually wasn’t that bad. The big issue was that the engineer bailed on her in the last minute. We told the AE that we will have technical questions and she replied that she would bring a technical colleague along. But she wasn’t able to. That turned out to be a big mistake. As the AE could not answer the technical questions and to add insult to injury, she also gave the wrong answer for another critical question. The product itself lacks a few features, but the demo/presentation itself was the real killer and this vendor was counted as part of “due diligence”

What these three have in common is that all of them did not pay enough attention to technical questions. In addition, no adequate feedback has been seek from the audience. Only half heartedly asking “do you have any questions?” without genuinely wanting to answer questions won’t cut it, period.

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