Stop Hiding the Negatives!

By | January 28, 2015

I was asked to comment on Chad Sakac’s post about not trusting people who *go negative*.  Basically Chad is telling us not to trust anyone that says negative stuff about a technology.  Frankly I think that notion is dangerous and absurd!

NOTE:  I’ve no beef with EMC, XtremIO here. I just think what Chad is suggesting is dangerous!

Sure….. none of us like a vendor, or a friend for that matter, who is constantly negative.  But since when were we not to believe anyone who has anything negative say about something?  As if saying something negative means you shouldn’t be believed.  Dare I say such a tactic is practiced by many religions of the world – and we have a name for that “brainwashing“.  “Don’t believe anything bad any says…. they’re evil and have evil agenda…”.  Okaaaaaaay, walk away quickly!

Sounds scary to me!

It’s vital to know the negatives

Question: Since when did any of us ever make a major decision without an honest evaluation – of the good and bad?

Answer: Hopefully never!

I’m about to move house.  Do you think I’ll be asking the structural surveyor to only report on the positives?  Do you think I’ll ask the drain surveyor to only tell me about the drains that work?  Do you think I’ll base my entire purchasing decision on the positive marketing of the agent selling the house (whose job it is to sell the house for the maximum price)?  What a laugh!

I’d be nuts to do that!  I’ll have an honest assessment of the property thanks!  Warts and all!  To suggest I’d do otherwise is nothing short of wreckless.

So why would it be any different buying a technology solution?  It wouldn’t!

Are You Trying to Hide Something?

I always tend to think that those who want to cover up or discredit *the negatives* are the ones that have something to hide.  It’s just an opinion, but I think it’s one that’s served me well so far in life.

I’m not having a dig at EMC here, I’m talking generally – all vendors, all technologies, probably all aspects of life.  In fact……. go back to my house purchase analogy….  The sellers who don’t want you to look at the negative reports are probably the ones that have something to hide/fear – blocked drains, subsidence, lack of insulation etc…

A Healthy Balanced Opinion

Let’s face it, assessing the positives and the negatives are vital in forming a healthy and balanced opinion.  I challenge anyone to disagree with that.

What?  Are we supposed to just read the positive reports and ignore anything else?  As if!

As a purchasing customer, I would always analyse everything – positive and negative.  And what I’d come out with was a healthy, balanced, well-informed opinion.

What kind of a fool would I look like if I put a recommendation together and my CIO came and asked why a certain negative aspect of a product wasn’t considered or factored into the decision?  Would I be expected to tell him/her that I was only considering the positives?  What a laugh!  Clearly not.

The Morale of the Story…

Let’s face it…… not always….. but too-often…… there are lies, damned lies, and anything a vendor says about itself.  Sad, but known to be true!

So the morale of the story…….?  Leave no stone unturned!

If you do leave stones unturned…. I guarantee there’ll be a venomous snake under there that’ll bite you and you’ll only have yourself to blame.

Don;t way you weren’t warned!  Suggesting you shouldn’t read alternative opinions is dangerous and wreckless.  And I honestly don’t think vendors should be advocating such a practice!

Thoughts and comments welcome – please declare any vendor affiliations.

tech.unplugged

 

20 thoughts on “Stop Hiding the Negatives!

  1. Chris M Evans

    Nigel, all very fair comments. I’d take the EMC discussion a little further and point out how disingenuous this subject is as all vendors maintain competitive info that is used to put their product in a positive light and the competitors in a negative one (I know, I’ve written them!) when talking to prospective customers.

    As you say it’s up to customers to take a balanced approach in their research. Thankfully compared to say 10-15 years ago, the internet provides access to much more (objective) material from bloggers and influencers, so customers can do their homework before calling the vendors in.

  2. Nigel Poulton Post author

    Yep… the internet exposes soooo many secrets. Feels like life before the internet was the dark ages. Now we’re in the light and can find out for ourselves!

  3. Julian Wood

    I still think Chad’s argument is still sound when talking about “competitors” going negative, that you shouldn’t trust them. I certainly don’t think you should discount anyone else from highlighting negatives and perhaps this is what is missing from the Chad style long message.

    I have a similar reaction to FUD. I think the FUD term has been completely distorted and is targeted to any vendor who even mentions another vendor but as is usual its always more nuanced.

    If I’m going to part my money with any solution I want to know warts and all what’s good and what’s bad and absolutely want to compare different vendor products.

    Part of that research is going to be up to me but if I have for example EMC selling me some AFA and HP selling me some AFA I feel it is entirely my right to ask EMC why their technology is better than HP and vice versa. Now here’s where the FUD part comes in. I obviously want to hear how EMC’s product is better and what its strengths are but you know what, I also want to know what EMC sees as bad with the HP product and vice versa…these could be negative things but I’m the customer and I’m asking. They can chose to avoid telling me and keep highlighting their strengths but I wouldn’t mind actually hearing what they know is wrong with their competitor. What if they say for example is something to do with upgrades or dedupe performance that could be important to me.

    Now here’s where Chad’s negative comment comes in, I certainly won’t “trust” what they are saying because of who they are but it gives me another thing to investigate/ask the other vendor to find out if its true because HP certainly isn’t going to tell me the thing that lets their product down.

    Now, if what EMC told me is a lie about HPs product then they are douches and are spreading FUD in the true sense of the word and actually would have harmed their reputation with me. However, if EMC is telling the truth about HP, then it’s not FUD, is it? HP would also then have an opportunity to tell me why it doesn’t matter or how to work around it or whatever sales spin they put on it.

    (obviously we can swap HP/EMC/NetApp/HDS/IBM/whoever here, don’t get picky by the one-sidedness of the example! 😉

    My job as a customer is to find out what’s best for me and its well within my rights to ask the experts (vendors) to guide me through the landscape.

    Vendors hate their competitors talking about them and label it all FUD but customers need to hear some of it to keep the vendors honest.

  4. Nigel Poulton Post author

    Top-notch reply Julian. Pretty much sums up my take on the whole thing.

    I will add that I won’t *trust* a vendor on anything they say, positive or negative. And that’s not a dig at the vendors, it’s just that I’ll always do my own research. I think a healthy X-Files “trust no one” attitude will serve people well 😀

    And the best for of research I know is the POC (though we can’t POC every technology).

  5. Mike Sheehy

    This wouldn’t be a problem if Vendors told the full truth about their products instead of Marketecture and gimmicks. I also think that it’s not the Vendors job to tell you the “weaknesses” of every other competitor’s tech. They should tell you the capabilities, the roadmap, and where it’s weaknesses are and how those will be addressed, if possible. The other Vendor comes in and presents the same information. Now you are an informed customer and based on your business need, you have the information to make the appropriate decision.

    Then I wake up and realize that this will never happen. The fact of the matter is this won’t change. It’s been part of the sales process forever.

    Luckily, we are much more informed and information is out there so I agree, the owness is on the customer to do his/her research and dispell some of the FUD that’s thrown by all vendors.

    Working for a Partner and having several options to provide solutions to the customers, I get to have that full conversation because the number one focus is on my customer and what’s best for them. This is the value, I believe, a partner brings, holistic approaches to solve problems. Many Vendors don’t do that. They are product driven.

  6. Dimitris Krekoukias

    Hi all. Dimitris from NetApp here (http://recoverymonkey.org).

    I think I understand what Chad meant but I also think his post was a bit hypocritical- I’ve seen him in training videos where he goes negative. He just does it subtly.

    If you read that article carefully he did it again – going negative in a subtle way about competitors.

    If I go negative I use unassailable facts and not opinion.

    A negative that’s a proven fact should not be ignored if framed correctly to address a customer’s business requirements.

    For instance, when speaking to customers that want to keep their gear for a longer than usual time (say 5+ years), I emphasize (with concrete, unassailable examples) that many vendors don’t allow major updates to older (> 2 years) products. Instead, they expect a forklift upgrade to provide some new feature like dedupe or vvol support.

    Given the business requirements in this example, this customer should hear how the various vendors go about this aspect of their products.

    Otherwise, ignorance is most certainly not bliss for the customer but rather for the offending vendors.

    Thx

    D

  7. Fred Lherault

    Disclaimer : Pure Storage employee.

    Hey Nigel and all

    Frankly, my advice when looking at buying ANY piece of IT hardware or software from ANY vendor is to try it before buying it.

    By trying it, I mean of course doing a real PoC where you use real workloads/users/data to match the way you would be using it if you were to buy it, not just a fake test with a synthetic benchmarking tool which IMO is a waste of time.

    That’s the only way you will be able to see if it really works in your environment : with your applications, data and users.

    You won’t need to trust any vendor and simply be able to see for yourself the positives and negatives, and whether they apply to you.

    For example you might find that a given feature you were expecting to be a great asset doesn’t work in your environment because of a wrong software version (I’m sure everyone has experienced this at some point.)

    In the same manner, you might find that some expected “negatives” do not apply to you or are not a big deal in your environment…

    You’ll also get useful feedback from users and application owners on what benefits they perceived if any.

    And sometime you will also be able to save your company money if you find out the problem you’re trying to fix is not where you thought it was!
    For example : I personally experienced a PoC last year where we were expecting great results by using flash storage for a critical database server, only to find out that the web front-end was unable to scale and the user experience was not improved.

    Of course you might point out that it’s easy to say “Do a PoC” when you work for a vendor who loves doing PoC’s (that’s one of the things I love about Pure) but I had this opinion when I worked for a vendor which didn’t do many PoC’s and I’d like to think I will always have this opinion…

    To go back to your analogy, wouldn’t it be better if before buying your your new house you could live in it for a month and see for yourself if you actually like living in it?

    Cheers
    Fred

  8. Nigel Poulton Post author

    @Fred

    Totally agree, and yes I’d love to live in a house for a month before buying it 😀

    But…… when doing your initial research on new technologies, you might do a “paper assessment” on more than 10 competitive technologies and then only POC the two *finalists*. It’s during this initial paper assessment that all of the reading of positive and negative opinions holds its value.

    Totally agree that POC is the best way, but customers sadly can’t PoC every technology out there.

  9. Tom Whalen

    Disclosure – EMC Employee

    @Nigel

    My own perspective being a IT customer for nearly 20+ years before joining the manufacturer space, I found the SE or Rep going negative as a distraction and I immediately started to ratchet down my attention to what was being said. It simply wasn’t helpful to me because I need details to enable a good decision to be made.

    That said, details that are put into the context as differentiators where you contrast one feature point over another feature point between manufacturers is very good information to enable to decision to be made. I make the choice which is more important to me without the color of negativity. I believe this is where the ‘going negative’ or ‘don’t go negative’ comes from. It’s at least how I interpret it. I make it a point to tell customers if I’m competing with another manufacturer that all manufactures make good products. They do. My job is to help define differentiators and educate. But I also must do it in a way that doesn’t blatantly throw the other manufacturer under the bus. If I do that, then I loose credibility. So I think before we talk about the perception of going negative or not going negative, I always fall back to the customer’s perception of me doing that. The safe bet is ‘Don’t go negative’.

  10. Edward Newman

    Nigel, I’m an EMC employee first off. I get the reaction that you’re having to Chad’s post but I think in your moving house example you are comparing apples to oranges. If you asked for a structural assessment from a builder selling a house down the street would you trust it? You said you’d get a structural surveyor to do the assessment, a trusted third party. I don’t think Chad is saying not to trust someone like that, but rather beware who you’re getting the negatives from, not don’t listen to ANY negatives at all.

    Just a thought, good post!
    Thanks,
    Ted

  11. Chad Sakac

    Disclosure – EMCer here (Chad)

    Nigel – I think that you might be surprised, I actually agree with your post for the most part 🙂

    @Dimitri – I think this is the essence of your comment… I suppose I should say “thank you” – it’s inevitable that since we’re on opposite sides of the battlefield (and to Nigel’s point, furiously competing in an open marketplace), if I can argue, and debate whilst coming off (to a competitor I’m fighting to beat) as “subtle” – I’ll take it!

    Guys – I’ve updated my post to make it clear, but I want to state it here as well for the record:

    1) Poop flinging is bad whoever does it. I’m not claiming EMC is innocent (I thought this was clear, but some clearly missed it – see comments on my post – so I’m calling it out right up front here, and on the post itself)

    2) I think that poop-flinging is different than debating architecture – and I agree Nigel, we should and DO debate architectural choices that we and others make. When a customer presses one on what one think about someone else, I think it’s fair to share your opinion on architectural strengths and weaknesses.

    Every solution has pros and cons, and ultimately a customer needs to approach their decisions with a high degree of vendor skepticism (only reducing that investigation when they have a real proven track record of being a trusted advisor).

    Debating architecture vs. Poop-flinging – it’s a case of degree. You know poop flinging when you see it and smell it 🙂

    Also, I **AM** saying that people should be VERY skeptical about information provided by vendor A regarding vendor B, as it’s usually tainted, and wrong. I think this is a point you make well Nigel.

    3) Some think I’m saying all this from a “lets all be nice” Canadian perspective, or out of a fear of mixing it up. Not at all! In fact, I smile overtly when I’m in a competitive situation and someone flings poop – because that’s the first step of me utterly, and totally destroying their campaign, and their credibility, and ultimately winning – and winning the chance to be a trusted advisor for the customer. And, to Dimitri’s point – I can do it in a positive way, and doing it subtly – hopefully not crossing an important line and flinging poop (because that’s a loosing strategy).

    Reality is that the market is fiercely competitive. Calling facts for what they are is science. Debating architecture is important. But…Poop-flinging is fundamentally a BAD STRATEGY – whomever does it.

    Thanks for the dialog guys!

  12. Mark Burgess

    Hi Guys,

    A few thoughts:

    1. It is perfectly valid for any vendor to volunteer what they see as the downsides of a competitor’s product and this is only being negative if the information is not true
    2. This information has to be validated by the customer including discussing it with the competitive vendor
    3. If this information is proved to be incorrect then this is only going to damage the vendor
    4. No vendor is going to volunteer negative information about their products (its the law of economics) so it is down to the customer/competitive vendors to extract this information
    5. Ultimately it is all about integrity – customers should want to deal with vendors and partners who will tell them the truth (clearly this does not always happen)
    6. The best way to do this should be for a customer to work with a small number of trusted partners who are able to offer them solutions from multiple vendors and therefore independent advice
    7. The problem with dealing directly with a vendor is that they can only sell you “what’s on their truck” so they have to spin it in the best possible light
    8. My experience is that most customers want to engage directly with the vendors as this is seen as being less risky than working with a partner – which in my view is completely illogical [I work for a partner of both EMC and NetApp so I would say that], but that is what the market wants

    On the subject of “Poop flinging” I have been having an interesting debate that was triggered by Chad’s XtremIO post over at http://blog.snsltd.co.uk/does-the-all-flash-array-really-make-sense/

    I think there is some “Poop flinging” coming from the EMCer.

    Best regards
    Mark

  13. Jimbo

    (HP employee)
    Sometimes in sales you have to go negative. If a competitor mis-represents their product’s features and you find yourself losing a deal under false pretenses – you have no choice. You can keep your mouth shut, lose the deal and watch your customer get screwed, or you can speak up. If a competitor makes a ridiculous claim, i.e., XtremIO has non-disruptive upgrades, they deserve all the negative attention they attract.

  14. Fred Lherault

    Nigel,

    I know I’m going off subject here but if by paper assessment you’re talking about using external independent source of information then fair enough

    Of course there are not many really independent and reliable external sources of information and it is not always clear where the knowledge these sources use comes from (real knowledge or just spec sheet exercise? information provided by the vendors – who might even be sponsoring the paper – or by real customers?)

    I you’re talking about doing a tender, then you’re not really evaluating the products but the cleverness/creativity/level of engagement of the various sales teams who are answering your tender. If they’re good they’ll be able to get a better position in your assessment than their product warrants, and if they’re really good they will have you convinced you BEFORE you even write the tender and as a result it will favour their product…

    My personal opinion is that the traditional process of tenders is flawed because of the above.

    As Mark pointed out, it makes sense to talk to some trusted partners about what they think about the various products, but bear in mind that they will also have a given product they want to sell you

    I’d recommend that as part of any such assessment, you always try to talk to real customers to get their opinion, but don’t rely just on the vendors to provide customer references as they are not going to connect you with a customer that would give a bad review, right?
    I have seen some customers requesting feedback on sites such as Linkedin, or Reddit with interesting results but often all they get is vendors answering their questions which of course doesn’t help. So you want to try to talk to customers without involving the vendors.

    Frankly I think that doing this exercise without being influenced in any way is near impossible, so at the end of the day, once you have shortlisted a few solutions/vendors you should always insist on doing a PoC and trust your own eyes above anything else to see whether positives/negatives you might have perceived really apply to your environment…

    Cheers
    Fred

  15. Nigel Poulton Post author

    Hi Fred.

    By *paper exercise* I mean everything and anything that is not a POC. So read everything I can (positive and negative) and ping any trusted associates who might have experience too (Twitter, email etc). Now I fully appreciate that anything formally written will be biased, but when you’ve been around the industry for a while its not hard to see bias in whitepapers and reports etc. There’s value in them, you just need to know how to filter out the crap.

    At the end of the day, the only truly independent person is me – the buying customer.

    I would always do all of the above before shortlisting for POC. There’s no other way. But you’re right, the POC is the only real way to know.

    BTW. On the topic of calls with real customers…… Ive been on calls with *real customers* who seem like they love the vendor more than I love my wife and kids, and its painful listening to them. I started asking for customers whod had a problem with the kit and could talk to me about how they worked with the vendor to overcome the problem – but even that resulted in calls where the customer lavished cringeworthy praise on the vendor for being sooo amazing at fixing the problem at the speed of light. So while I participate in these types of calls, it’s only because they’re expected as part of *due process*.

    Nigel

  16. Matt

    Nigel-

    Nice post. I completely understand how customers can get infatuated with a specific product, or vendor, or technology, especially if they were the one that influenced the purchase.

    Many in the IT industry think that they will look bad if the product that they recommended, or purchased, turns into a poor decision. Customers will blindly look for positives to help them feel good about a product that may have missed the mark.

    Another thing to think about with start-ups, is the fact that others outside of their organization purchasing the same product, tends to affirm that they made the right choice and that others feel the same way.

    Many times, when a product is introduced that changes the way they work for the better, that wonderful feeling can turn to blind loyalty, and at times “cringeworthy praise” as you said.

    Matt

  17. Ian Noble

    There is a distinction to be made between a negative statement that is a genuine and one that is not.

    Certainly the latter would cause any recipient to reduce their level of trust in the originator.

    The people who are the target of any negative commentary should be given the chance to respond before coming to conclusions, to filter out disingenuous negative comments.

  18. Howard Wolowitz

    Reckless, not wreckless. My spellchecker identifies wreckless as wrong. I say it’s reckless not to use a spellcheck

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