Recognising Showstoppers

I have a friend selling from his recently adopted New York base data mining kit for sales people.  He’s been peddling this kind of stuff (aka ‘BI’ for the tekkies out there) since 99.  He’s sold oodles of it in the meantime, and learned a fair bit about qualification.

As he regaled me with tales of his view over Vermont ski slopes as he took a cheeky Friday afternoon off a couple of months ago, we got to talking about any differences between UK & US IT outlooks.  Apparently Americans are not the dynamos Hollywood would have you believe and are a fairly change-averse crew.  One example he passed on was where a VP Sales of a $20m wholesale/distributor was brought to virtual tears in one meeting when he wanted my mate’s simple BI capabilities.  The CIO apparently acknowledged the solution was good but as they’d invested in SAP to do everything, they were going to give it a chance.  Everyone knew nothing would ever progress; no sales solution would be forthcoming from SAP or anywhere.  It was likely the final prompt the VP Sales needed to seek a career elsewhere.

This situation is commonplace.  I’ve come across it myself several times.  The most ridiculous was probably with a firm in the UK called Rigby Taylor.  They sold stuff to garden centres.  I did a presentation to the Board and other senior managers.  Plates were spun, bikini-clad babes sawn in half.  After I left, I learned they had a discussion, and everyone agreed to buy my software, at the time around GBP30k.  Not bad margin for a couple of meetings in those days, but more importantly, a cracking solution for the sales team that’d benefit heaps from it.  A few days later I wondered why no installation date was on the delivery tekkies whiteboard.  I called up.  Finance Director, an old school chap named Bob, had unilaterally decided he could produce what we were offering with a pair of bellows and quill.  Their Chairman (“we voted in a Board meeting and all agreed to buy it”) even shrugged his shoulders at me in equal exasperation.  Six months later, they’d moved no farther forward and the sales guys were apoplectic.  Bob’s (in)actions had introduced political recriminations that meant those guys probably haven’t bought anything new ever since and no doubt been in steady, terminal decline.

There comes a point when the benefit of experience outweighs the gung-ho exuberance of smashing down walls and finding back-alleys.  For my pal, it is every time he comes across someone changing, or still implementing, a new ERP system.  Despite all the compelling reasons this makes absolutely no difference, the amount of time it takes to pursue and educate is not worth the revenue of the result, when so much opportunity resides eslewhere without such a constraint.  The message is simply know what holes you beneath the waterline, I.D. it early and steadfastly walk away.

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