Aggravating Vendor Behavior – Ever Heard of CRM?

I got a call a few weeks ago that put me in a slightly cranky, slightly bemused mood. This is not a recent phenomenon – it has happened at every company in my career.

A few of the big-name vendors (including IBM, Oracle, SAP, Microsoft, HP, and others) have no problem peppering different people in a company with requests for basic information (What systems are your running? Do you have a general ledger system? Do you use computers? Do you have a budget to spend money?) – obviously trolling for sales opportunities. I don’t begrudge a company for wanting to expand their markets – but when we are already doing a non-trivial amount of business with them, it’s annoying and a bit pathetic when the different divisions of the vendor’s company are not sharing basic information about their current customers.

CRM systems have been around for a long time – in fact, most of these vendors actively tout there CRM offerings (software for sale, hardware to run it on, implementation services …). Apparently, they do not use them …

One firm in particular has driven me to [what I consider] rude behavior. I have lost track of the number of people I have politely told to stop calling, yet they continue to do so. They are clearly a database-marketing company – I know because I received a “personalized” eMail with COMPANYNAME in the body (apparently a typo in their mail merge shell). The last time they caught me on the phone (this was the cranky/bemused call), I had to tell them to stop calling, and hang up; it made me a bit self-conscious,but they probably get that type of reaction every day.

Now, when noticing behavioral oddities like this, I will eventually do the introspection thing, and empathize with my corporate / business partners when we are developing ideas for IT projects. I derive a lot of value in taking copious notes on all meetings / discussions / eMails / calls, in a journal or diary format. The extra time has paid off handsomely over the years; when I got the eMail last week complaining about a lack of follow up on a key issue, I could quickly find in my notes that I did have a phone conversation with this person, just no eMail. This happened months ago – I had forgotten the conversation as well – but when I could rely on my “personal CRM database” of notes, specific to key people in the organization, to quickly shift the conversation from “what happened, you forgot about me?” to “now we are both on the same page, let’s move forward again”.

This is where credibility is earned, over and over again:

  • I will have no credibility with the technical teams in my IT organization unless I can and do use the tools that they use
  • I will have no credibility with the business leaders in my company unless I pay attention to what they say, and remember it

So vendors should not be surprised when I take the same attitude with them:

  • Vendors will have no credibility with the me unless they can and do use the tools that they are selling / marketing / pontificating about
  • Vendors will have no credibility with the me and my company unless they pay attention to what we say, and remember it

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James MacLennan

... is the Managing Partner at Maker Turtle LLC, a digital consultancy focused on creating value in ways that align with your strategy and drive engagement with employees, customers, and stakeholders. He is an active creator, providing thought leadership through on-line & print publications, and public speaking / keynotes.