Tech team to salesman: Persistence isn't always a virtue

The fifth time is not the charm as two unfortunate techies get drawn into an overly aggressive ERP sales pitch

In 2005, fresh out of college, I started working for a custom manufacturing company as the applications developer/help desk tech/network administrator. I developed an application that ran one of the manufacturing division's inventory and job control systems; did time and attendance for the entire organization; and was the sole IT employee in the company. Therefore, a few years later when it came time to replace the company's aging ERP system, as "the computer guy," I was put in charge.

This meant not only writing business requirements, developing an implementation schedule, and managing meetings between warring department heads, but also researching different vendors' products and handling many phone calls with salespeople.

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We were a custom manufacturer with some of our own product lines, which meant that we juggled a number of conflicting requirements and I had to consider vendors from every end of the ERP spectrum. The larger ERP vendor salespeople would fly in and take as many "stakeholders" and "decision makers" as they could out to lunch followed by a software demonstration, while the salespeople from smaller vendors would be relegated to making conference calls and balky Web demos.

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One smaller ERP vendor had apparently assigned our account to a young, eager MBA type, "Jim," who seemed to think that even though the company's software didn't meet two of our non-negotiable requirements, he could still win my business. When I explained this to him on the first call, he said they didn't usually do customizations but offered to explore our needs. Knowing that a customization on the manufacturing requirements would probably lead to pricey complications with other areas like accounting or inventory, I politely told him that my company couldn't use his product. I figured that was the end of it.

Busy with doing research on other vendors, as well as running help desk support, network administration, and software development, I filed that vendor out of my mind, so I didn't remember Jim immediately when he called back two weeks later and asked if I had given his software some more consideration. We went over our requirements list again, and as expected, Jim's vendor couldn't meet two non-negotiable requirements. I told him yet again we couldn't go with his product, and we weren't going to consider the customization and tried to get off the call as politely but as quickly as possible.

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