Users dogged in software vendors' tactical onslaught

Users dogged in software vendors' tactical onslaught

Aggressive, underhanded and questionable - that's how new research describes the most frequently used sales techniques software vendors use.

Based on a study of end user experiences in 125 organizations across the globe, the research was undertaken by analyst firm Ovum.

In a blunt warning to IT managers the research advises users to learn the tricks of the trade to avoid being forced into a purchase.

Ovum software practice leader, David Mitchell, said the research also offers advice on how to counteract such tactics and advises vendors to implement better practices.

Mitchell said software companies claim they have become customer-centric and that they have left the world of questionable sales tactics behind them. But this is all forgotten, he said, when vendors are under sales pressure.

Alarmingly, every single organization interviewed cited at least one issue with their suppliers.

"These forceful sales practices often result in many organizations being 'persuaded' to spend more than they want and sooner than they want," Mitchell said.

Ovum has even labelled the two most popular tactics such as the "puppy dog" method and "gunmetal in the mouth" approach.

In the puppy dog case, the vendor gives the user organization free software for a trial period.

However, charges are introduced after a set period of time and usually when the user has established a relationship with the vendor.

Mitchell said it is similar to tactics used at the unscrupulous end of the pet trade, which encourages people to buy puppies.

To counteract this tactic, Ovum advises users to define evaluation criteria for the success of the trial as well as any future purchasing arrangements. But this should be done before the trial period begins.

With the "gunmetal in the mouth" technique, the user organization builds up a dependence on a software vendor in a number of mission-critical areas over a prolonged period of time - many years in most cases.

At renewal time, Mitchell said the vendor threatens to remove the software unless the contract is renewed.

He said the contract will be commercially much less attractive than it was before.

If the software has a mission-critical role, Mitchell said the risk can be avoided if the user always keeps a viable alternative.

"Be willing to call the vendor's bluff. There are often significant loopholes in software contracts, such as ambiguity in the interpretation of key terms," he said.

Are you familiar with these tactics or do you have others you can share? E-mail

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