Dear Vendor …

Mark Gibbs writes an open letter to all vendors who don't get it and explains the errors of their ways and what they need to do if they want to get our business. Will any of them pay attention?

Dear Vendor,

Really? Is that the best you can do? Are you really that lame? Yes, I'm talking to you, vendor X.

I just looked at your Web site. I downloaded your white papers, read your virtual product sheets and looked, to no avail, for your price list. For heaven's sake, I just watched your online video! You know, the one where you, for want of a better term, "demo'ed" your product! What's the word I'm looking for … ? Oh yeah. LAME!

You sounded like a wuss. You sound like you're on some kind of medication. You sounded like you'd rather be doing anything else other than pitching your product. And you sounded like you were making it up as you went along. If you want to sell me you're going to have to do a lot better than that.

Come on! Let's get real. It's not that hard! If you aren't excited by your product then why should I be excited? If you can't give me a succinct, interesting elevator pitch (I swear, I'm getting off when we reach the 10th floor), don't expect me to give a dang.

Look: Everyone in IT is constantly bombarded with pitches. "Read my white paper." "Read this half-baked review by someone who has no idea that a review isn't about regurgitating a press release." "Read my Web site." "Read what this overpaid analyst has to say about me." Me, me, me. Get a grip!

You know what? Your Web site stinks. Yep. It really does. You don't explain what your product really does. Sure, you use the industry standard buzzwords. You have a big analyst opine on your "magic". But really, are you telling a story I give a rat's anything about? Nope.

How about what the analyst really had to say? You think that is the same as showing that your product actually works? That showing that someone, somewhere, has bought off on it in a big enough way that they have actually made a real commitment to it and got value from it?

Don't just wave your marketing hands at me. Don't assume that your language and mine are the same, that when you explain that your product is "an integrated, real-time, global solution to intrinsic variability in zippydoodah dynamics", or whatever yuck-speak you think defines your industry, that I will actually believe that it means something in the real world of IT. It won't!

Here's what I want … First, explain what you do. Don't talk down to me. You've got to understand that I've been around the IT block a few times. I know this industry. And don't assume that your terminology is understandable outside of your niche. Sure, I just might need what you offer, but if you don't speak in a way that I understand then I'll be tuning out faster than you can say "bankruptcy."

Next, give me an idea of what your product actually costs.  Don't try to get me to fill in forms to generate a lead (I'll probably lie anyway).

And don't try to use the "it depends" argument; I know what that phrase means. It means: "We're going to try to screw every cent out of you that we can" and at that point, you have just lost most or perhaps all of your credibility. That's assuming you haven't already killed off my interest with your pathetic explanation of whatever it is you think you do.

If your pitch is really interesting then I might hang in there while you beat about the pricing bush, but if that's the case then you'd better have a killer product. If you don't, well, I have real fires to put out and, as far as I'm concerned, you can go up in flames and good luck to you.

Let's be clear about this. My time isn't just valuable; my time is the stuff that animates the universe. Well, at least my universe. Want my attention? Show me what you've got, what it really costs, and be good and be quick about it.

Theoretically yours,

A Potential Customer.

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