The Vendor Dilemma

I was at a conference (note, this post has been purposefully delayed an unspecified amount of time because I am not interested in shaming the specific company nor causing any negative press for the conference, this is just me getting some thoughts out). There was one time slot where I wanted to take a break from talks, so I headed over to the vendor area. The room wasn’t very busy since most people were in talks, so I figured this would be a great time to talk to the vendors and ask a lot of questions. I was surprised, though, at how difficult it was to get any vendors to talk to me.

There was one booth in particular that had a product I had heard about and wanted to learn more about. I run a consulting firm, and this was a product that I thought a lot of my customers might be interested in, so I would not have been one sale for this vendor rep, but potentially many sales. I walked up to the booth where the two male vendor reps were both doing things on their phones. I stood there for a while. One looked up at me, and then went back to his phone. A male conference attendee was slowly walking down the row. The vendor rep looked up again, said hi to him and asked if he’d be interested in hearing about their product. The attendee said no, but I said I would be.

The rep then gave me the most dumbed down explanation of their product that I could possibly have imagined. He even mentioned that they had pretty colors on their graphs to make them easier to read. I tried to ignore that as I was genuinely interested in getting some questions answered about their product. I asked a technical question about the product, and the rep sort of stared at me for a minute, and then kept talking about the reporting. I asked the same question again, and the rep then asked me what I did. I said I am a programmer, and I run a consulting firm. He then asked if I was a project manager. By this time, I was really annoyed. I said, “No, I’m a programmer. I write code, and I run a consulting business where I hire other programmers too.” The rep switched gears at this point, and started some high pressure sales tactics to try to get me to sign up to help my “team of developers” because I should “make sure my team has the tools they need to do their jobs”. At this point, I walked away.

I have gotten some follow up materials from this company. Their product still looks pretty cool, but I just can’t get beyond the way their rep treated me. I know I should contact the company and try to find someone else to talk to about the product to get my questions answered. I should let them know what happened, but I’ll be honest – I’m really, really tired of doing that. I’m burned out. I don’t have the energy right now to educate any more companies on how alienating developers that don’t fit their “mold” hurts their company and their sales. Haven’t we come far enough where companies should be figuring this out on their own?

Do you manage booth staff or dev evangelists? I really encourage you to get some “mystery shoppers” to stop by your booth and give you an update on how your staff is treating people who come to the booth. Don’t rely on your insulted customers to help you out. Do the leg work to find out yourself. The aforementioned company lost me as a client and because of my position as a consultant, has actually lost about ten to twenty potential new clients a year since my clients would be the ones signing on. Make sure you aren’t losing clients because your staff is not respecting the visitors to your booth.

3 thoughts on “The Vendor Dilemma”

  1. Ugh. Unfortunately, the company in question may not even realize the problem if it’s just the one or two booth guys. (It may be a main office problem, too, I don’t know.) You can only correct a problem you know about, which is why reporting it to the company is important. It’s not fair, it sucks, but it is sadly the status quo.

    The “mystery shopper” idea is excellent. White hat hacking your own booth. 🙂 I’ve passed this article on to our event people as well. Thank you for writing it!

    1. True, but it’s also not my job to help them manage their staff. I see your point, and I will usually contact the companies because I don’t want these experiences happening to other people, but I also think it is important to not shift responsibility for fixing this issue onto the people who are being mistreated. It’s really nice of us to let companies know, but companies need to be monitoring this so they can correct the behavior, not waiting for alienated customers to do it for them.

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