The six most infuriating tech sales styles

Meet the vendor reps that IT execs love to hate

When Craig Urizzola's company decided to make a seven-figure investment in a new ERP system, he contacted his local reseller to order hardware to run it on. "We told them exactly what we wanted and said, 'We don't need SANs or clustering or any of that,'" says Urizzola, CIO at Saladino's, a food service distributor in the US. "But their proposal came back with SANs and 10 more servers than we asked for. They just don't listen."

That IT salespeople just don't listen is a familiar refrain from technology buyers. But despite your complaints, you know that you can't quite live without them. You need them to execute transactions and help guide you, to offer advice and recommendations, and to give you a heads up about forthcoming products that may solve real business problems.

Unfortunately, although technology has made quantum leaps over the years, salespeople haven't changed much. And today, as ever, too few of them act as honest advisers and problem-solvers. Too many are dime-a-dozen drones who stick to marketing scripts and are more concerned with selling what they want to sell than they are with selling what you need to buy.

We spoke with seasoned IT executives to uncover the sales archetypes that drive them crazy. So bar the door, unplug the phone, and read on.

The Yes Man

This person oversells his product, promising you the moon and delivering nothing but trouble. When pressed on whether the product can solve your problem, he says, "Sure! It will do that and unify all your systems and make everything run nice and smooth. And by the way, it also cures male-pattern baldness." (We're kidding about that last one. Sort of.)

The sales rep simply might not know whether the product meets your needs, but he's afraid to admit it, so he takes the easy way out, which is to nod and say yes to whatever you ask.

"A lot of salespeople pretend to know our business, but they end up giving us something we don't need," says Joshua Koppel, assistant director of IT at the Chicago Department of Revenue. He adds that salespeople frequently gloss over or altogether miss compatibility and integration issues. "We end up tweaking and tweaking, and that costs money," says Koppel.

Sometimes the yes man is just trying to hit his monthly quota. In that case, he's often hard to find after he makes the sale.

The Armageddon Evangelist

"Some [salespeople] present the doomsday approach, like you need to buy their service or product or something bad will happen," says Katie Goodbaudy, technical support specialist at Airgas Nor Pac, a subsidiary of Airgas.

In IT, that's called spreading FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt), and it often involves allusions to a competitor's products or some nebulous security vulnerability. Goodbaudy says she does her own due diligence to make sure her company is protected from security breaches and other threats. And she's wary of salespeople trying to upsell her by mentioning trumped-up security weaknesses.

But Saladino's Urizzola says he can understand how some IT buyers might fall into the scare trap. "If you don't know what you're doing, you might spend a lot more money than you have to," he says.

The Stalker

Sure, salespeople need to be tenacious to do their jobs. After all, their pay is usually largely based on what they sell. But this guy goes too far every step of the way, from sticking his foot in the door to forcing a sale. And in the process, he ends up alienating potential customers.

After being harangued by a persistent wireless service provider, Goodbaudy says the only thing on her mind was "What can I say to get this guy off the phone?"

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