“Round up the usual suspects.” Casablanca, 1942

Problems with Hosting Sales and SEs

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In my professional life, I do a lot of research on behalf of clients.  Sometimes, this involves me contacting service providers and getting quotes and then comparing pros and cons of all the options.

Most of the time, it’s a fairly straight forward process.  I send them a list of requirements, specs and questions, then I get back a quote with a document detailing answers to the questions.  If the list needs clarification or the vendor has questions for me before the quote, I get on a call with a sales person/sales engineer, and I explain further what I am looking for.  Then a couple hours later, I get a quote and I proceed on to the next step.

I’m going to pick on Armor (which used to be FireHost) specifically here, because they were the most recent offenders who broke the above process.  This is not to say that Armor might not have some good points to them, but I could, and still may, write an article about all the things I find wrong with that company, as a person who has worked in hosting for almost 16 years.

Back to the fact that I contact a lot of vendors on behalf of clients, I really get annoyed when I feel I have sent a pretty clear RFP, and get a one-line response asking for a call.  No pre-lead questions or anything just “Can I get you on a call with one of our SEs?”. {side note: SE means “Sales Engineer”} At this point, I would have normally written Armor off as too much hassle to deal with, but because the client had at one point spoken highly of FireHost when they talked with them in the past I knew I had to get a quote from them.  I called in on the number listed as the direct line of the sales person.  I was placed on hold while he tried to get a SE, and when he got back on the line, I was told he was not able to get someone and that he would like to schedule a call.  To cut to the chase, when I got on the call with the SE, I was told a lot of “We don’t do that.” and “That is not something we allow.”, but I still needed a quote from them.  So, I gave them specs for stuff that fit inside of what their requirements were (which is a bit backwards), and asked when I could expect the quote.  Again, to skip over the really frustrating bits, I had to call back twice before I got a quote.

The customer had, as expected declined Armor’s quote.  It was way higher than all the other quotes by at least 20% and didn’t do everything they needed.  Two weeks later, I got a call from the sales person, and I had told them that the quote was declined by the customer, and wished them better luck next time.  I continued to get calls and emails “following up” on the quote every two weeks for about 2 months.  Each time I tell them the quote is dead, and they should stop contacting me.

The take-away from this really boils down to a few things.

  • When responding to an RFP, DO NOT RESPOND WITH A ONE LINER.
  • If you need to get on a call with a potential client, and you need resources with you, schedule a call, don’t leave it to a whim of the potential client.
  • Read the RFP
  • Ask questions to show you read the RFP.
  • Don’t leave things as “We don’t do that” or ‘We don’t allow that”
    • Either provide an alternative option or explain why you have the limitations in place and why it makes things better.
    • If it is purely a limitation on the environment, own it.
  • Listen to the potential client.
    • Give Feedback
    • Ask questions to show you are paying attention.
    • Recap
  • Don’t promise a delivery time you can’t meet
    • A potential client should not have to chase down a quote.
  • Most RFPs do not allow for resubmitting, so make your first one count
  • Don’t let “Good follow-up” turn into harassment
    • If the client says the quote is dead/rejected, don’t respond back asking how the quote is doing.
    • If you want to keep avenues of communication open, offer training/white papers on why your product is great for X, Y and Z use cases.
    • DO NOT SPAM!

Now I really had a hard time deciding if I wanted to mention Armor by name in the post, but I felt it was important to show that this wasn’t a small company just trying to get by.  Armor has grown to be a powerhouse in its own right.  The issues listed here are not specific to them though.  I have had similar issues from Rackspace and others, they just happened to be the most recent offender.

With all that was said Armor has some good strength.  They have a really good marketing team.  You cannot search for terms they hold as their core market without finding them on the first page and several articles talking positively about them.  Their support team is great, within the realm of what they know.  This is part of the reason I got so many comments from the SE like “We don’t do that” or “We don’t allow that”.  When the potential client knows more about how your environment works than your S.E., Sales person or support, you run into issues.

 

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