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February 29th, 2012:

Internal Pre-Sales

I’ve long argued that there needs to be more movement between vendors and users; I think that there is immense value, especially for vendors who can sometimes be isolated from the trials and tribulations of the end-user. And at times, as an end-user it is useful to understand the pressures and the reality of the vendor world. I like to say that ‘I may take the piss in some of my requests but I do know of what I ask…’ But of course having worked both sides of the fence, I would say that!

However as we move to more service focused IT delivery organisations; perhaps there is real value having worked in a vendor in a pre-Sales capacity; especially if you have learnt to use ears and mouth in the right proportions. Do we need a new role of ‘Internal Pre-Sales’ and is it really a new role?

Unfortunately, I think that the answer is for many organisations that it is a new role but it shouldn’t be. Learning to listen to customers should not be a big surprise (although even amongst some vendors, you’d think it was) but it is debatable whether we would be in the situation we are today if we had all been a bit better at listening and grokking what we were being told.

Listening to the problems and the desires of our users is what we should be good at and unlike a vendor, we potentially have the whole paintbox to play with; we are not stuck with EMC Blue or IBM Blue or HP Grey etc. We can build our service offerings out of best of breed if we want.

Yet we often carry on like the most arrogant vendor in the world? Why is that? Is it learnt behaviour from our vendors or have they learnt it from us? Hard to say!

Our Design and Architecture teams should be doing this but often they are too busy playing with the latest toy and failing the Business. This is not any individual’s fault but a failing in a culture which is very introspective and often closed. Too often we focus on telling each other how cool a technology is as opposed to listening to the Business about a cool problem that technology might help them with.

But we can learn to sell and market; our business is our Business and we should know our verticals better than anyone. Marketing should not be a dirty word; selling should not be anathema. Funnily enough, I think if we got better at it, I think that the vendors might concentrate our selling to us rather than our Businesses. We should have the advantage and the vendors should want to partner with the most likely winner; it makes more sense that way!

[partially inspired by Chuck' Blog here and riffing on the theme of needing different people for today's IT world...thanks for inspiration Chuck]