No thanks I don't want to look at your ITSM product

ImageWhen it comes to ITSM products (whether software or consulting or content or training) I'm reminded of the old postcard vendors of Cairo during WWII, or the "Rolex" sellers of New York, or the hash-or-houseboat sellers of Srinigar, or the tart-touts of Bangkok - they're everywhere, on every corner. As a high-profile blogger, I get this constant stream of "hey buddy/mister/falang, wanna buy an ITSM?". In the past when ITSM vendors asked I've politely looked (or found excuses) because I know how your product is like your baby: you are immensely proud and nobody dares tell you it is ugly. Actually most products are like most babies: they aren't ugly, they just look like every other one (my dad reckoned all babies look like Winston Churchill). But from now on I'm going to adopt a simpler answer: when I need something, I may look at your offering. Right now I don't, so I won't, thanks anyway.

ITSM products are breeding like flies. Every man and his dog seems to have something or will soon bring it to market, or needs funding for a great idea. As an ex-vendor I feel sorry for most of them, as they have no idea of the pain and frustration, and unremitting grind, (and the costs!) of maintaining and supporting a product that is in the wild. Not to mention the futile door-knocking slog of trying to sell the thing.

There is no way that I am going to gain awareness of all the products out there. Besides, I'm getting so absent-minded that in six months time I'm just as likely to attribute what I saw to your competitor's product as to yours. And as a jaded ex-vendor there isn't a chance in hell that I am going to get enraptured by your baby and shout its merits from the rooftops. If your product is truly the revolutionary transformational game-changer you tell me it is, LOTS of people will suggest I look at it not just you, and then I'll know.

So I'm really not interested in looking at your offering right now. Your product has no interest or value to me until I have the context of some requirements. When the time comes that I or a client of mine have a need, then we'll research what's available to meet that need. Right now... no thanks.

There's a second reason I don't want to see your product. I fancy myself as something of an expert in HOW to sell IT products, and especially how to demo them. Too often I feel like Santana having to listen to someone's kid play guitar, or like Hitchcock watching home movies.

Most IT sales people are level 1 selling. They tell me how shiny it is. This doesn't work for used cars or houses or software or fish. Level 1 selling works for nothing except for Apple products, which the market seems to buy because they are shiny. Actually that's not true: lots of consumer devices especially gaming and PC stuff, but also kitchenware, tools and of course cars, are bought on an "ooh shiny!" features-first basis. Sometimes so are IT products but the staff buying ought to be fired. Level 1 ITSM sales people sell by accident, despite themselves. Even a blind squirrel falls over a nut every now and then.

And the demos. Oh the pain of having to watch most demos. Truly awful. I call it the GUI-flick-flick, or nowadays the HTML-flick-flick. Whatever, you flash through screens/pages so fast only someone already expert in the product can follow what is going on. It's is like trying to watch the three-thimble trick, but it communicates less.

So I don't need it, I don't want it, and I can't bear to watch. OK?


A wise old man once taught me... its the problem stupid!

In a previous life while a product manager a very wise and very old man (Ed Johnson of Dallas TX) stood before the national sales force and explained how they might laugh today, but they would respect him in the morning (!). His mission - to simplify the hugely complex 'solution' based sales strategy of our 'service driven operations' product portfolio, and by doing so help better qualify prospects and shorten the sales cycle.... hhmm..

His opening questions to the sales team, who had been dragged screaming to the venue and persisted in conducting sales prospecting during Ed's prologue.... with an obvious air of "I don't want to be here"...

1) "How much of your product do you need to show a prospect if you don't know their problem?"
2) "At what point in your sales pitch do you demo?"
3) "How lengthy are your demos?"

Ed waited for an answer. The silence was as they say deafening. He summarized what many would like to have said, but for some reason didn't:

1) "all of it", or at least as much as is needed before they recognize something or show interest
2) "as early as we can", oh and thats why we need expensive pre-sales subject matter experts
3) "a minimum of three hours", depending on #1

Ed's sales best practice guidance and preferred answers were:

1) "none"
2) "avoid if possible, or only to close the deal"
3) "as long as they need to be to illustrate how the key problem (singular) identified is addressed"

He then spent two days rebuilding the sales process for a product set that included configuration, SLM, Finance, Asset management, Helpdesk, change management and a few more.... oh it was not ITIL compliant - it was actually around 1992 and ITIl agnostic!!!

Needless to say the whole approach changed - successfully by returning the focus of all concerned to the needs of the customer, and trusting that if you made a difference, you made your number...

Thanks Ed - it was a treat to behold....

the best demo is no demo

My demo training course says the best demo is no demo, and the second best demo is one screen and takes 1 second, but you'll talk to it for 10 minutes

sales demo = implementation method!

Well, we've just bought an ITSM product from a vendor who's name should Best reMain Confidential.

Their (apparently tried & tested) project implementation approach fixates on a HTML flicky flicky demo that bounces from screen to screen faster than a 1990s nightclub strobe light. I've got a good handle on the theory but when this joker demos his product with incomplete or zero data, meaningless metadata and finishes every comment with "well, you can customise it as far as you want, but we recommend that you stick to out of the box ITIL", it irked me no end.

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