The Vendor Pitch Revisited

What's gone wrong, and how it might be fixed

June 13, 2008

3 Min Read
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Certain spiritual traditions hold that developing patience fosters enlightenment. If so, lots of storage vendors are providing ample opportunities that I'm failing to take advantage of, miserably.

In my line of work, vendor presentations are a day-to-day staple, one reporters share with analysts and would-be customers. The "pitch," as the vendors describe the preso, is adapted to fit each audience. For me, it usually takes the form of a conference call accompanied by a previously emailed PowerPoint deck.

Simple, right? But a lot can -- and lately, it seems, does -- go awry. I'm sure I'm at least partly to blame, but in the spirit of fairness, I've listed a few "dos and don'ts" that IMHO could benefit everyone. Here goes:

  • DO minimize the number of conference call participants. There's no reason a briefing has to have more than three players -- the listener, the speaker, and maybe one passive vendor acolyte (for editors, that's usually the PR rep). More is definitely not merrier.

  • DO provide slides or written backup for each phone call. When the deck isn't ready or there's no preliminary release or backup material at hand, the presenter is in control, but the listener can get resentful.

  • DO supply vital details. Without pricing, availability dates, competitive analysis, or customer testimonials, a presentation has limited value to reporters, analysts, or end users.

  • DO limit the time of each call. Thankfully, most suppliers are willing to tailor their speech to fit a listener's time. But the audible intake of shocked breath at such a request shows that many presentations are set for over a half-hour -- by which time many reporters turn into deaf pumpkins. Keep it short. You can always have a follow-up call.

  • DON'T treat the listener like a student or employee. Some vendors simply want to scroll through slides at their own pace, even if they say, "Feel free to interrupt." Some pretend not to hear a question. Some say, "Got that?" after each slide, as though speaking to a subordinate. All of it gets a raspberry.

  • DON'T use the speaker phone. Vendors love speakerphones, perhaps because it gets more people on the call while allowing them to control the "message" from a remote office. Unfortunately, what passed for acceptable audio quality in 1994 no longer cuts the mustard. Usually, these sessions wind up as a chorus of anonymous voices or just plain screaming matches -- to say nothing of the pathetic stage-whispered side conversations that somehow get passed along despite the technology. Forget it.

  • DON'T have participants use cellphones. See reference to audio quality above. And bluntly, anyone who can't take the time out for a call isn't worth mine.

  • DON'T try to control the message. In-house performance tests, commissioned survey results, and "coin operated" analyst comments fall into this category. Nobody believes them, so why waste time on them? An example: This week, a storage supplier decided to release a product, but only provided press folk with access to customer tesimonial through selected analysts. In my view, this kind of filtering says you really don't have a testimonial or you've got something to hide.

I could rattle on. But I've taken enough of your time, right? Catch you on the next call.

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