The second presentation was to the Service Provider Executive Forum (SPEF) and unfortunately, it’s very easy to describe. The vendors attending SPEF are the ones who sell scanning services, document storage, printers, copiers and scanners. SPEF was one of those conference-within-a-conference deals, and my presentation was part of a ‘User Feedback’ panel.
I worked hard on this presentation. It was a good presentation. It just wasn’t the message this group wanted to hear. I’m sorry for that, but I don’t have a great history with this industry. My message wasn’t a feel-good story. I talked about why we don’t use many of these services, and how our most recent encounter has gone somewhat off the rails. I had hoped that the organizer was right when she told me:
“They will appreciate your candor“
Here’s a tip: if you ever hear those words, run. Drop everything, don’t tweet about it, don’t snap a picture, don’t think twice – just run.
Our story in a nutshell – we are small. This industry’s story in a my-opinion-nutshell – they are commodity brokers seeking a sale at any cost.
The best analogy I can come up with is that buying these services or products is like buying a digital camera; they all take pictures, they all have good battery life and they all let me move pictures to my PC, tablet, Cloud storage, etc. Once I decide the few, somewhat unique features (zoom, video, and form-factor) that I want, it comes down to picking the one that’s most comfortable.
The problem – that we have experienced – is that some salespeople want to be the mystic swami in your life. They don’t want informed customers. They don’t want to hear your story; they want to tell you theirs.
My presentation carefully presented our position, our real-life experience and then I took “questions” I put that in quotes because most of what I heard were not questions per se.
Why didn’t you buy a scanner? Scanning to SharePoint from dedicated scanners seems to provide more robust options than scanning from multi-function copies (MFCs)…who knew? More importantly, who cares? The fact of the matter is that we don’t have a space for a dedicated scanner, nor do we have the volume to justify one. In addition, we only want to have to learn how to use one device.
Why didn’t you do an RFI first? Seriously, an RFI for two MFCs?
You’re ignoring the money you could save by outsourcing all the scanning to us. I reminded this person that I had explained the very, very high cost of teaching someone how to classify and index our documents.
Finally, a white knight emerged. Addressing the audience, he said:
“What I’m hearing is that you guys are saying that Dan is a dumbass“
His point was that I failed to engage with them according to their preferred sales method. Apparently, from their perspective, that was my mistake.
One woman came up to me afterwards and said “I don’t think you’re a dumbass, but this managed metadata thing sounds like a unique requirement.” I reminded her that it’s a mainstream feature of a major product. I didn’t invent it; I just want to use it. More importantly, it was a written requirement that we were willing to explain.
One guy followed me to my next presentation, all the way telling me that if I had done an RFI he would have been able to explain why we needed a scanner. I explained, again, why we chose MFCs over a dedicated scanner.
He turned up again later as I was boarding the bus to the conference social event. He started telling me about the features of the scanner. The one we don’t want – as if he thought that if he gave the same pitch often enough I might just buy one. My friend (who sells a high-end ECM product) said:
“This guy sells hammers. You have a screw, but he still has to try and sell you a hammer.” He added, “It’s a sales technique we call show-up and throw-up.”
I’ll leave you with the message in my final two slides. When we look for vendors to help us, we look for a vendor who will:
- Be a business partner with us
- Let us do the portions of the project that we feel we need to closely control
- Accept that we know our business and know enough about yours to evaluate you/your product or services as compared to others that are available
- Think long term; think beyond this sale and this commission.
Oh, and don’t lie to me. I can handle the truth.