Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Even an Evangelist can Fail

12 days since my last post and I have been busy.

What with a book deal, clients moving to LotusLive, other clients firing their IT staff and having us take over, LCTY Miami and Boca Raton websites and registration and invites to do plus normal business, and yes The Admin conference coming up I have been busy.

However, the truth is I was floored by a client that decided to migrate to Exchange and then to the MS cloud for Exchange and really was put off for a while.

We had wondered why we got the cold shoulder and no replies to emails or calls when we were supposed to be signing on renewals and 2 projects.

Well now we know the outcome, but the why is what bothers me.

We did a session with them on Cloud Computing which at the time had a minimum seat requirement. In retrospect this may have been one of the nails to this coffin.

Mysteriously the Websphere leader was on vacation, across the world, for a rather long time.

The Sametime staff, which we were helping get Sametime 8.5 setup also stopped calling us for help.

While we never sat still and let the client go away, we had begun to wonder about them. We had meetings with them and IBM and executive management seemed gung ho to move forward.

What we also found out is the executives have a monthly gathering with other executives. Nothing wrong with that, except some executives are vendors. In this case a rather large vendor who has moved away from IBM in favor of our friends in Redmond.

You can guess the next part.

Miraculously this other vendor has convinced the client to go with them "because everyone else does and if IBM isn't ready for you now, when will they be". Edited based on comments: to include "" and change, them, to you. More details in comments.

FUD of the highest order!

But sadly, and keep this in mind everyone, even with a strong relationship and honest discussions, the CEO mandated a change and nothing we could say or do would change the order.

The seat limit is no longer for LotusLive and because of that we have made great strides in selling it to other clients. In fact the same presentation and discussions we had with this client, we have had with others who are moving to LotusLive.

While this was not a competitive discussion, although I did cover MS and Google as well, it was an opportunity that I had to provide greater leadership and evangelism and evidently failed in my efforts to help the client bring our and their excitement to the CEO (who I have yet to meet or talk to, which was a point of issue for me given the level we were working).

The jury is still out but we believe these points are important:

1) If you are working with a CXO and don't meet or even talk to the CEO you may have a problem later on.
2) Honesty is still the best policy. Yes, it has caused me to lose jobs, clients and other projects because I was either too Lotus happy or not enough when discussing problematic situations. However, I'll be tarred and feathered before I will ever pull a Microsoft Consultant stunt. This is when on the eve of a contract completion they say, usually at 4pm on a Friday, we need more time, resources, money to finish something we promised you would be done in a week but it takes 4.
3) Clients don't lie to you, they just don't tell you the whole story. Spend more time with them to learn all you can and ask more probing questions. (In this case we have known them for 5+ years)
4) Do not let any vendor, IBM included, have a meeting where they do not work with you on topics. Naturally you can not be or even know all your clients meetings, BUT you should know about the ones between your client and the vendors you are buying software and hardware. If the customer just bought a hammer, why would you continue asking them about a slightly different hammer if not to drive them crazy or upset for making their choice?

While we bounced right back and got some other deals, and that eased the feeling of failure, it doesn't cure it. It's been a very long time since I lost a client this way, going back many years, and you always remember the ones that got away.

On the bright side, learning from it, I have submitted an abstract for MWLUG on this subject and competitive discussions which hopefully will be accepted. Suggest you submit some sessions as well.