Normally I wouldn't write anything about this... Heck, normally I wouldn't even say anything, but this has got me so annoyed and worked up, that I can't NOT say anything. This here, is *THE* reason I hate and despise sales and salesmen. Be prepared for a rant.

Because of the nature of things, I have to speak in anologies. So while I think I've got a good one worked out, you'll have to forgive me if it seems a bit strange. So here goes...

I have a customer, who has recently gone and upgraded their equipment. This upgrade was certainly well past needed, and everyone was looking forward to it. It's like they were running their operation with a little Geo Metro. What they needed was a small, well planned fleet of Trucks, Vans, and SUVs. They were sold (and purchased) a Space Program. The true level of overkill on this sale is difficult to image without making a very wild comparison, and this is close as I can think of. This single sale netted the sales guy a "Salesman of the Year" award. In my (strictly personal) opinion, this is the kind of overkill and greed sale that should get salesmen fired. Allow to explain further...

First off, I need to say that this isn't a case of mere overzealous upselling; I am all up for upselling, and do expect/urge sales to upsell as they can. A good upsell for my analogy would be maybe including a couple Semi-Trailers in the fleet. The problem here is that his far beyond mere upselling... Admitedly, I wasn't present at all duiring the sales process (and good thing for the sales guy as I would have said something about how overkill this is), so I can't really comment on the true reasons they ended up with such overkill (was it the sales guy pushing it? Or did they set their mind on it and not settle for anything less?), and I won't go there. But in my mind, a truly ethical salesman would (and should) have stopped this sale.

This sale, I would say is a pure greed sale; selling THE BIGGEST AND BADDEST (and of course THE MOST expensive) solution that addresses the customer's "needs", while ignoring their TRUE needs. Going back to my Space Program analogy above... We could say that the set of "needs" would come from the upper-management types who involve in "line items" and "deliverables"... "We need a solution that is redundent, X percentage uptime guarantee, and capable delivering excellent customer experiences," or some other equally vague statement that can still be "checked off". These "needs" are what the upper management wants, and anything that meets all these needs is all on the table. These needs are created by people who, in the end, won't actually have anything to do with the installation, maintenance, daily usage, or any REALLY TECHNICAL knowledge of what's truly going on. Their "true" needs, however, are only ferretted out by talking to the "hands-and-feet" of the operation: the engineers who will actually perform that work. These TRUE needs will typically fall in line with the upper "needs", and since these guys know the uppers' perception of things, and how they PERCEIVE the environment (which can, and often DOES differ from technuical truth). In speaking with the engineers, you can (and will) discover these differences. One of these TRUE needs of the customer is to have a rock-solid environment, in familiar territory, with an ease of use and maintenance. This sale addresses all of the "needs", and none of the TRUE needs. In their new setup, they will be blazing new paths, and going "where no man has gone before", and there are no guarantees in uncharted territory.

So what does one do in this situation? In a truly perfect world, a fully ethical vendor would return the sale, and get someone else to sell them what they truly need. But this is a far from perfect world, and NOTHING gets to this worldwide corporate level by being fully ethical at absolutely all times. As mentioned before, this single sale got the Sales guy the "Salesman of the Year" award... He DEFINITELY won't get behind the idea of reselling them lower stuff. Neither will the sales team as a whole.

But what do I care, right? It's not like it's any skin off my back... Either way, I am here to offer support, so whether it be supporting this product with this issue, or another product with another issue, I will be supporting something and solving problems. Well, the thing is I actually (somewhat) care about this company, and more importantly, it's reputation. And this is where this sale will REALLY hurt us all in the long run, and this is my real concern.

One of the primary disconnects is in the level of technology. In my analogy above, I compared their needs with a fleet of cars/trucks/SUVs, and what they purchased with a Space Program. In truth, there is similar "jump" in technologies... You're not JUST getting a bigger badder payload, but you're jumping from combustion engine technology to rocket technology. The problems you will encounter, the troubleshooting steps you would utilize to resolve them, the ways in which you would approach the problem... EVERYTHING is different, and I doubt that they fully realize/understand this fact.

What's likely to happen is that the customer will experience a number of issues, and slowly start to fully realize the complexity of the solution they have. During this whole time, they will likely have nothing but complaints about the stability of the product (or lack thereof), the complexity of the product, and the perceived lack of effective support. And I'm not just being all doom and gloom here, this exact scenario has been seen before! At some point, the customer's complaints will become so serious that only then will anyone broach the subject of MAYBE they got the wrong solution, and start to propose what they truly need. We will surely accept the appropriate returns, and provide them with what they need, but it won't be done until some possibly irreperable damage has been done to both the company's reputation, and relationship with the customer.

Is there another way? Is it truly so hopeless? Is there not a way to both educate the customer as to what they truly have, as well as keep our reputation and good relationship with the customer? I absolutely do think we can; we can absolutely educate the customer AND keep our reputation and relationship. All we need to do is TELL [THEM] THE TRUTH. Tell them they have rocket technology and not combustion engine, help them understand how impactful this will be to their environment and their troubleshooting and "disaster recovery". Tell them they'll be blazing new paths with us, and breaking new grounds. And once they grasp this, allow them to decide whether or not they want to continue breaking new grounds, or whether they want to return to more familiar territory, and return the devices for more familiar technology. Myself, I would love to pitch this to the customer myself, but since this involves people and forces far beyond my control and pay grade, I can't "just do it".

But then again, who knows... Maybe this just might end nicely for everyone (there's a reason I'm paid to do, not question what I'm told to do). Only time will tell...

Feel free to share your similar sales stories below. What would do you in either situation (salesguy and customer)? What HAVE you done in similar situations?