Avoiding Snake Oil – Part 2
TRANSCRIPT: Because there is so much snake oil out there today, you have every reason to be skeptical, so, assume the worst. So, how do we stop snake oil? Well, there’s three ways – you shop around, you ask around and you wait around.
I’m telling you to ask the salesperson who you suspect of selling you snake oil to give you the names of their two best competitors and why. These types of questions will catch the salesperson off guard and they’ll blather on about two competitors who, I can probably guarantee, are better than the salesperson’s own company.
You also want to ask around. This means you ask the salesperson to give you the names of five former customers. You don’t want their references. You want the names of five people who’ve left their business because you want to call them and find out ‘why’.
And, finally, wait around. If the company that you suspect is selling you snake oil has too few customers, tell them, “listen, come back when you have 500 customers or 100 customers” – whatever number will make you comfortable.
So, what does Big Business or a Fortune 500 company do to avoid being taken by a snake oil salesmen? Well, I was ecommerce director for a Fortune 500 company and we had snake oil salesmen coming at us all the time. The way we were able to stop it was – number 1, we didn’t overbuy technology and we certainly didn’t overbuy marketing. We only bought what we needed and we knew what we needed because we used constant measurement and we held the vendors accountable to the promises that they made during the selling cycle. In fact, during the selling cycle, we asked all the time, “What’s the ROI, what’s the benefit?”, and then we made the vendors put the ROI or benefit in writing, in the agreement.
Number 2 – we made vendors prove it. We made vendors prove their value to us with things like free trials and pilots Just because you’re a small or medium size business doesn’t mean you can’t ask for free trials. If the product is really good and it’s as good as the vendor says it is; they are going to give you a free trial. They are willing to give you thirty days free because they know you’ll be a customer forever.
Number 3 – we also asked for references. Not the five references every salesperson has in his or her pocket; we wanted fifty references or a hundred references and then we decided which three to five customers to call and find out how good that vendor really is.
Finally, the best way for a vendor to prove, beyond a free trial, is to allow us to have a month-to-month agreement. Never make us sign something long term. There is no reason for you to sign something long term with technology and service today because it just gets cheaper overtime.