Jason Corsello blogs about a public FUD skirmish between two vendors in the workforce management space.  Observing the legal filings, CEO statements, and other skirmishes, Jason writes:

One thing I do know for sure....our enterprise customers despise when one vendor bashes another.   Frankly, its bad salesmanship, and more often than not, comes across as an act of desperation.  Enterprise customers are not dumb and mudslinging is not only bad practice but ultimately insulting to your buyer.

As I have advised many of my vendor friends, the best practice in any competitive sale is to compliment the other vendor and their product.  Not only does it show the confidence around your product but shows the high standards and culture of your own company.
I wish it were that simple.

Many IBMers have a strong belief that you should never talk about the competition in a sales situation.  The problem is that, like in politics, when the other side doesn't play by the same rules, a vendor ends up in an awkward place where they are being sucker punched and not responding.  And it would be one thing if the competition simply stuck to the facts, quite another when it's all FUD and lies.

Long-time readers of this blog know what I mean.  When I started blogging five years ago, one of my motivations was to help get the word out about what Lotus was doing, what we stood for, and where Notes and Domino were going as products.  There was a lot of confusion in the market, some of it obviously self-inflicted.  But the stories I heard from customers, which they claimed originated with my competitors, were way beyond simple sales comparisons.  They were downright plain lies.  Some were personal attacks against me and my colleagues.  Some were so unreal that I was amazed that customers asked -- but ask they did.

This "tradition" seems to continue to this very day.  A few weeks ago, I started getting inquiries from Lotus salespeople about our roadmap and commitment to Notes.  Apparently, customers were being told that Notes was old, that IBM wasn't going to keep supporting it.  More than a few said they had been told explicitly that Notes would be sunset in 2010 -- big companies, in healthcare, pharma, manufacturing. [Note: No truth to this, the current public roadmap has new releases through 2010, with standard support through 2015.  And Lotusphere will be held through at least 2015...]  Anyway, in at least one case, the customer who asked confirmed that the source was a competitor.  I have no idea why they would have any credibility in talking about roadmaps -- three+ years between product releases, no public announcement of next major releases of key products, and a history of requiring more than a software install to upgrade to a new version.  But talk they do, and somehow, customers believe it -- enough to ask us, or worse, enough to make a decision without asking us.

From time to time over five years, I've been criticized for attacking Microsoft on this blog.  I don't have any regrets over doing so, because it's been clear that otherwise I'm fighting in the dark, one hand tied behind my back.  Over the last few years, I have attacked MS far less often -- only when they deserve it.  Each time I am criticized for this approach, I receive dozens of comments, e-mails or IMs supporting me.  

That doesn't mean I take every punch.  In e-mails with Sean Burgess over the weekend, I commented on an observation he blogged last week that I really liked.  I chose not to link to it, feeling that, while he made a great observation, it would be seen as an unprovoked attack.  Instead, I commented in e-mail to Sean, to which he replied (quoted with permission):
You are definitely in a tough position when it comes to calling a spade a spade when it has to do with MS.  If you say nothing, it looks like you are not willing to go up against them.  If you call them out, you are MS bashing.  The fact that MS does it their bashing behind closed doors through their sales reps doesn't help your situation at all.  IBM's sales reps are trying to play by a set of rules that the opposing side tends to ignore.  Unfortunately, when that happens, the side that cheats usually ends up winning.  Let's hope this is one of those times that it doesn't.
I'm not playing to lose.  Over the last four years, the Notes/Domino business has grown significantly, as have Notes/Domino resources in development, marketing, partner programs, and sales.  Nobody is here to take a sucker punch and fall away.  IBM's customers, and the market, are, in my opinion, better off for it.

Link: Jason Corsello - Human Capitalist: Truth, Lies and Vendor Mudslinging - SuccessFactors Sues Softscape >  (Via Jeff Nolan)

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