Buying Software – Secrets they don’t want you to know: The “guarantee”

I’ve been in application solutions for manufacturing since the 1970′s.  I’ve sold mainframes; I’ve defined packages for sale on Minicomputers; I’ve been in marketing and support; and I’ve spent years working alongside customers installing and supporting MES systems.

It really irks me when I see an otherwise very intelligent customer get bamboozled by marketing hype, and spend millions of dollars on the wrong solution!  So I am breaking with the magicians’ union (so to speak) and will share with you over the next several blog posts some of the secrets that, once you know, can help you make better decisions on software solutions.

I will share with you strategies and anecdotes that may help you in your decision process.

Certainly if you are dealing with a smaller company, you are important to them.   I can tell you that every customer that QIC supplies is important to us.  Our large multi-plant implementations are extremely important to us.  Our single plant, single line customers are just as important. If we guarantee something, we will make good.  We can’t afford to lose the customer, or go to court.

But when you are dealing with a huge vendor, the same is not necessarily true.  If you have invested millions of dollars and years of employee time in a new ERP system, are you really going to sue the huge multinational software vendor that guaranteed it would work?  They have deeper pockets, specialized software savvy lawyers, and probably have covered themselves 10 ways in the various correspondence and contracts.  And you have a business to run, and a disaster to recover from.  Unless you are hooked on the principle, you will back off and lick your wounds.

I have heard so many stories about software purchases, ranging from misleading information to outright lies and impossible guarantees.  And it happens to everyone.  When we upgraded our CRM software, we upgraded from a package we had been using successfully for 10 years.  We upgraded to get 4 new features that were crucial to us.  We were guaranteed these features worked great.

What happened?  The features were there, but didn’t work properly.  We paid the support fees because the next release was going to fix the problems.  We stopped paying for support when the 4 calls we made about these problems were still open issues years later!  Now, almost 10 years later, apparently the next release fixes two of the issues.  We are changing to another CRM that has the functionality.  We went from a huge supporter of the software to its biggest detractor… but that doesn’t help us with the solution.

Unfortunately, some salespeople lie. In our experience, the leaders in software seem to be “fact challenged” more than many of their competitors.  Maybe this is how they got big? Or maybe it is because the salesperson at the huge software company does not have the intimate product knowledge found in a smaller company.

Is there a solution?  Sure, and ths is how you can reduce the risk.   You need to know your supplier and trust them to have your best interests at heart.  Deal with salespeople who will still be there AFTER the sale, and not fob you off on “a team of specialists” (which is a euphemism for “got your money, goodbye”).  Look for answers like “I don’t know, but I will find out for you”;  “what do you mean by….” ;  and “there are a couple of ways we can address that”, and “No, I am sorry we don’t do that”.   These all indicate that the salesperson knows your issue, knows her product, and wants to be sure that her information is correct.   The most dangerous words you can hear are “Sure, no problem”….  “that is coming in the next release”….

Or my favourite from a software demo given to a candy company “pretend your candies are car parts…..”