Monday, March 14, 2011

A Tale of Two Companies

This week is about the right way and the wrong way to interact with a prospect.  We recently looked at Rain King for data intelligence and they did an impressive job in dealing with us, especially after a rocky start.  Boris and I went to RSA and I talked with Data Thingies mainly to chat with an old friend there.  The follow up from deep within his company was not impressive at all.

We've been considering sales databases and Rain King was suggested as an option.  (odd name and silly logo but still worth a look).  I took their online challenge and entered a job title on their web site and waited for a response.  Several days passed with no response, then almost a week later I got what I would consider a lead nurturing email talking about this or that - not a response to my challenge.  I sent a grumpygram back to the sender saying I was less than impressed.  Within 5 minutes I got a reply assuring me it was not their normal practice and promising corrective action, which followed in a few minutes.

About an hour later I got an email from their CEO, Bill Kapner, assuring me this was not their standard level of service.  He also followed up later that same day to ensure that I got what I needed.  I did.

Before the demo, the rep, Josh Shaw, contacted me and said he'd checked out our web site and was confident they could help (of course he can, he's the sales guy).  During the demo, he showed that he had indeed done his homework because everything he showed us was in the context of a similar customer: the things they searched, reports they pulled, usage, etc.  It was relevant and the features were directly related to problems we wanted to solve.

We bought two days later.  Executive involvement in the process, fast follow up when they promise it and a rep who takes more than a passing interest in what we do will carry the day every time.

Contrast that with Data Thingies (not their real name):

My company MAY be a potential partner but it's not a priority.  It will take a chat with my friend who works there for us to know the way forward.   He lives in the same city so we will get together on a Friday when he doesn't commute.  No hurry, we'll get to it.

Then comes the follow up email from the inside guy who got the lead list dumped on him.  Yikes!  I would slap myself if I ever sent something this bad.  To whit:

Subject: Next Generation Technology in Sensitive Data Security
"Thank you for taking interest in Data Thingies at the recent RSA Conference in San Francisco.  My name is Fred and I am contacting you on behalf of Data Thingies.  My goal is to present a Next Generation software technology to you and your staff.  We protect large volumes of sensitive data throughout your enterprise database environment."
Boris might think the email subject line is cool but I certainly didn't.  That first paragraph is a corker.  Not only does it not make any sense, why should I care what his goal is, especially when he obviously has no idea what we do our why we'd be interested?  I only opened his email because I was stumped for an idea for this blog and wanted to see how he thought the phrase "next generation" was going to be effective.

Fred then went on to give a description of his whole product line, a quote from Gartner, a link to an interview with a Doctor Somebody and attached a white paper - all on a first contact email.  And all without taking a moment to look at our site to have a CLUE about what we do.

The sad part is his second paragraph had the money line in it:  
"Data Thingies helps companies like Amgen, FaceBook, University of California at Berkeley to fundamentally change the way they secure sensitive data."   
Okay, so he capitalized Facebook wrong but the statement is provocative, tells what they do and elicits the response, "How do you do that?"  That should have been his opening statement with a link to his white paper and a promise to call the day after.

This is clearly an example of Product Marketing not arming their sales team with the right tools - or just not arming them at all.  Fred had to Make Stuff Up (MSU) on his own and went for the cool sounding, everything and the kitchen sink approach.  As Nature abhors a vacuum, Sales abhors a marketing tools vacuum and will MSU so they can at least look like they are trying to make their numbers.  The result will not always be this ugly but if you are a Product Marketer, why take the risk?

And if you are a sales guy, take a moment to look at the web site of the lead so you can at least sound intelligent in your first contact.

Key Takeaways:
  • Following through and doing your research can and does make up for an initial flub.
  • Executive interest in ensuring the UX doesn't hurt, either.
  • Not arming your sales people with the right tools will result in them making up their own stuff - and it's not their fault.
Next Up: Zero Motorcycles Rocks

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