The sport of vendor meetings

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The last two weeks at work, since returning from vacation, have been quite full. My days have been regularly booked back-to-back, and as well, there have been a number of meetings with vendors.

Generally these meetings are, for me, about getting product information. The vendor no doubt has their own agenda. It never ceases to amaze me as to why they all want to meet with me.

My last one was on Friday, from 1:00 – 3:00 in the afternoon. I had started the day doing my e-mail at about 4:00AM so I was reaching the end of my useful life. The presentation included a number of very technical people, who naturally ask technical questions. These questions covered a number of different aspects of the product, but after a while, I started to notice a pattern.

A sequence would start with what seemed a fairly general question, and then it would follow a trail that had two characteristics: first, it would proceed along a path that would lead to a very different place from the original point (some might call this digging into a rat hole). Second, each step along the path would be successively more detailed and more narrow than the previous.

I began to think that there might be some sport here. How far off course could one lead the discussion and to what ridiculous end could one go before the sales team flipped out?

What databases do you support? All the big ones: DB2, Oracle. Do you support MS-SQL? Yes, and Sybase too! How about Informix? Yes, we support any database that uses standard SQL. Do you support Access? Well… we could, but we don’t have any customers that use that database; we generally sell to larger companies that have large volumes of data. So you mean you could support Excel too? *pause*

Or

How many services do you have defined? We have 487 services. What’s an example of a service? Add customer. Is that a service or an operation? Well, it may depend on your definition. Is it a single WSDL file? Yes. Do you support standard WSDL? Yes. Can you include our data definitions into the WSDL via XSD? Yes. Of the 487 how many are composite?

And it just goes on and on. In my opinion, a successful sales team has to be staffed with people who are incredible patient, very positive and optimistic. I don’t think I could do it, unless I understood the sport.


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