Honesty in Sales

One of the most effective ways for me to evaluate vendors is to speak directly with a representative. This saves a lot of time and effort spent picking through the fluff to try to get to meat of what you’re after.

When I approach a sales person, whether it be over the phone or in person, I get right down to the point, explain what I’m looking for and declare my budget. Generally, we’ll know within 5-10 minutes whether or not we’re wasting each other’s time.

Today, I placed such a call, intending to reach a representative I’d previously worked with on an unrelated project. The rep was no longer with the organization, but I decided to press on with the next available person. Our conversation went something like this:

I opened by explaining my requirements and budget to the sales rep, we’ll call him “Don”. Don explained that he had both on-premise and SaaS offerings. I expressed interest in the later, and asked what pricing was like. Instead of responding appropriately, he continues to pitch me the on-premise solution. I ask again, how much his solution costs. He dodges the question again, this time going into more detail about the application’s features. I ask him a third time, and he finally confesses that the cost is 4 times greater than what I’d already defined to him as my budget, but he wasn’t finished.

There was also support, training, and another feature I listed in my requirements which he had previously claimed was a ‘standard’ feature, was actually available only at an additional cost. After all of the ancillary fees, the total solution came to just over 5 times my stated budget.

At that point, I was ready to end the call, but decided to entertain the SaaS offering. I was equally disappointed there as well, the cost still being well above my constraints. I explained him that my budget was neither negotiable nor arbitrary, so he played the quality card.

While his product was good, he could not identify any direct competitors (which there were many), nor could he articulate what was so unique about his product that warranted a premium price tag. I let him go at that point and moved on, but invited him to talk to his superior and see if he could come back with an offer that met our requirements.

Within an hour, I had a quote from him that equally insulting – the price had not changed, and he even went so far as to say (in not so many words) that we weren’t big enough to bother with, and that he was puzzled about how we came up with such a low budget for this project. He even went so far as to infer that our constraints weren’t realistic, or that we hadn’t done our homework.

Two calls later, I found a solution that offered all of the functionality Don’s product did, but at 1/3 of our budgeted cost per user. It included:

  • Free support
  • No multi-year contract
  • Setup in minutes instead of months.

It was clear to me based on Don’s attitude and pricing that SMBs were not one of their target markets, and that’s okay. A Mercedes is not for everyone! Whether the car can park itself or make julienne fries, these features mean little to a person looking to get from point A to point B, and can’t spend an extra $35K to get there.

While Don didn’t have anything that could help me today, his behavior guaranteed that I would never do business with his firm again, either in this, or any other organization later down the road. I can only wonder how much this kind of carelessness costs organizations every year in damaged reputations and missed opportunities? I replied to his email with a lengthy explanation of why I we weren’t going to do business in hopes that he might learn from the experience. I hope he does.

What kind of experiences has everyone else had with dodgy vendors?

Introduction

NOTE: This post was written as an introduction to my previous blog on the now defunct IT Toolbox website. The title of the blog at the time was “IT Champloo.”

In 2018, I decided to create a personal website and move everything over. This post is preserved here for posterity.

Having worked in IT for nearly 15 years, I’ve acquired a wide breadth of experience in a number of businesses ranging in size from under 20 to over 20,000. Some of the industries I’ve worked in include education (K12 and higher ed), corporate, SMBs and private consulting.

I’ve acquired Masters Degrees in Networking and Communications Management and Project Management along the way, and while I can never pay back the debt I owe to all of those I’ve learned from, I hope that this blog will help me pay forward to those just beginning their journey.

Chanpuru (sometimes written and pronounced champloo) is Okinawan for “something mixed,” which describes their culture and traditionally relaxed attitudes toward people and food.

Since this blog represents a diverse mix of IT topics in a relaxed, open-minded setting, the name, “IT Champloo” seemed fitting.

My blog topics will include personal experiences, market and social commentary, reader questions and feedback. As of 12/8/2010, I’ve also introduced a new theme where I will conduct interviews with important players in the IT Industry. Thanks for reading!

~ Yousef Alahmad

Slipsteaming Drivers into Windows Setup CDs/DVDs

NOTE: This post was written almost 10 years ago, and republished here for posterity. As such, no attempt has been made to update the links or information below.

I recently had to repair an installation of Windows Server 2003. Unfortunately, Windows Setup was unable to automatically detect my RAID controller, and while you can press F6 during setup to provider a 3rd party driver, this won’t work for computers without floppy drives.

One solution is to “slipstream” the drivers you need into your Windows Setup media. Slipstreaming is a technique used to insert additional drivers, updates and service packs into your installation disks. This can be done manually by manipulating installation files, or by using a 3rd party tool such as nLite (vLite is the Vista version), AutoStream and PE Builder. I personally prefer nLite because it’s free, relatively easy to use, and works with a wide range of Microsoft OS’s. Best of all, you can also use it to remove unwanted or unneeded components, tweak system options, or set preferences in advance to create an unattended setup disk. Here’s procedure I used:

  1. Download and install nLite (https://nliteos.com/download.html)
  2. Copy the contents of your Windows setup CD to a folder on your hard drive (e.g. N:\Windows Setup Files)
  3. Start the nLite application, the click Next to advance to the source file screen
  4. Browse to the files you copied above, click Next again. nLite will detect the OS type, then click Next again to proceed
  5. The next screen gives you the ability choose a previous configuration if you have one, or you can click Next again to skip it and start fresh
  6. The next screen allows you pick and choose what features you want to manipulate, I chose “Integrate > Drivers” and “Create > Bootable ISO”, then Next to take you to the Driver selection screen
  7. Click Insert. If your driver directory comes with multiple .INF or .SYS files, you should select Multiple Driver Folder, otherwise, you can use Single Driver
  8. There will be a pop-up window prompting you to select a driver and a mode. The options are Textmode or PnP. Anything that you need to pre-load prior to installation should be installed as Textmode. NOTE: Be sure to use “Textmode” for any drivers windows will need to begin setup! I chose this option for my RAID controller drivers.
  9. Push Ok > Next to proceed, and when prompted, choose Yes to start the process
  10. When done, it should display the create window. At this point, you can create an ISO or burn the image directly to the CD There you have it!