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June 11, 2007

Class warfare among the "working girls"

My good friend Michael Farnum and I had a brief exchange this weekend regarding a post he had on managing expectations with customers. Michael is a straight shooter, who I know takes his responsibility to help his customers be secure seriously.  There is no doubt in my mind that if he did not think he was the "trusted security adviser", he would have a tough time doing his job in good conscience. Michael likes to think of himself as the one "telling the customer the real deal". Michael positions himself and the role of the VAR as the defender of truth and justice, who separates the marketing from the reality and is the only one who tells the customer the truth. All of this in contrast to the vendor, who will do and say anything to make the sale.

I commented on his original article and Michael responded with this article.  Let me summarize my feelings on this and then I will respond to some of Michael's specific points.  To me Michael sounds a bit like an expensive call girl talking down on a lowly street walker.  At the end of the day they are both working girls, who work hard for the money, but they are what they are.  As long as Michael is putting the food on the table by selling products to customers, whether they be from a line card that Accuvant offers or from a specific vendor, he is selling nevertheless.

Lets look at some specifics.  First of all Michael assumes that only someone like a VAR would tell the customer that a case study or lab result are "done in pristine situations". Why would a vendor be disqualified from saying that?  Then he talks about telling the customer the truth about how long it takes to install the product. Do you think a vendor is going to lie about this?  Especially if the vendor is selling install professional services along with the product.  Come on now Michael.  Here is another one, only Michael would be able to enlighten "the naive customer" that trade rag product reviews are often rigged.  First of all, I don't agree with that.  Some awards are certainly rigged, but most reviews are what they are, but the reviewers believe what they have written. Second, most customers are already dubious about reviews anyway. Do you think a vendor would not tell a customer about a product review from a competitor being "rigged".  Same thing Michael.

Michael seems to base his opinions on the low morals of vendors compared to the beatific VAR's, on a bad interview he had with a vendor a while back.  Michael thinks a vendor would try to sell a product that was not a good fit. Now Michael, if Accuvant did not have a product that was a good fit, would you send the customer to EnPointe, Cadre, Fishnet or another VAR.  I doubt that very much. However, just because you don't send them to a competitor does not mean you would force a square peg into a round hole.  You ask what we train our people to do. Exactly that.  Don't waste time trying to make square pegs go into round holes.  Go on to the next opp and hopefully it is a better fit.  Michael, you say that if you sell a bad product to a customer they won't be a customer anymore, in the vendor world it is the same thing.  Most vendor sales people have sold to the same customers over and over again throughout their careers. It is not some sort of pump and dump scheme over here.

Michael here is another example you site.  The vendor who is upset with you for bringing in his competitor in a deal.  Of course he is.  You would be too.  In fact you are upset by it and you even say that your dander was up because the vendor admitted he wanted another reseller in there.  You wouldn't mind the vendor suggesting another reseller? See the point.

Here is the bottom line my friend.  As long as you are getting paid to put products in at the customer, whether you make and sell them or just sell them, you still sell.  As long as you sell, you are as guilty or innocent, moral or immoral as anyone else in the food chain.  When you try to make yourself better by stepping on the back of those you perceive below your level, remember to take a look from on high to see what really separates you. In another words to quote someone else, who really was a on a level above, "let he without sin, cast the first stone".

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