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When Bad is Good

June 27, 2011

More than 80% of the senior IT decision makers I’ve talked to have said that when they are getting ready to select a vendor and purchase a product, they want to talk to a bad reference. “Bad” as in a customer where things didn’t always go smoothly, who had rough patches with the vendor or product.

A bad reference is important to the decision maker because it shows how the vendor responds when a project hits a rough patch (which is going to happen). Also, IT decision makers want to understand the full picture — including the potential pitfalls — as this reduces their risk and makes unwanted surprises less likely. They want insight on where a product is strong and where it’s weak —  and all products have strengths and weaknesses.

The funny thing is that a bad reference, or simply one who discusses the bumps in the road of a project or product along with the highlights, could actually win the deal for a vendor. But IT decision makers can never (or very, very rarely) find a vendor reference who is teed up to share the full story.

The vendors, understandably, won’t offer “bad” references. Ultimately, they should. What vendors should understand is it’s the references who are willing to talk openly about shortcomings along with all the good stuff that will truly leave an impression on their potential customers. In fact, it’s a breath of fresh air, not something to fear.

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