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"HERE COMES THAT BUS I'M GOING TO PUSH YOU UNDER" - A LESSON IN PRODUCT KNOWLEDGE

I'm sure by the time I'm finished writing this blog post it will feel more like a rant than my usual posts.

Yesterday I found myself explaining to 2 different vendors and the dealership they are doing business with how their products work. This isn't the first time this has happened, I get calls from dealers in a regular basis looking for help or insight on how the technology they're paying for actually works. Yesterday's discussion came out of a request that came across my desk back in March. A vendor, we'll call them "Brochure Pros", reached out to us to help them get links placed throughout our clients used car inventory that resides on one of our website products.

We audited the request and informed them that they would have to contact our client's used vehicle inventory vendor; we'll call them "Super Huge Autofeeds". You see we built the site, but we don't offer used vehicle inventory syndication or services. We worked with Super Huge Autofeeds and acquired a feed that we pull into our framework, pretty straight forward. Because the feed originates from Super Huge Autofeeds and their servers my dev teams have no control over how the feed displays, acts or the content within it. We can only control where we place inside our website. Therefore Brochure Pros needed to engage Super Huge Autofeeds to get their links into the feed that resides on our site, again pretty straight forward. This is what we communicated to them in March.

Jump to December 1, I open an email from Brochure Pros asking us if we've made any progress on their ask from March. Tactfully I recommunicate what we told them exactly what was communicated in March. Awesome though that a company is comfortable with their staff taking 8 to 9 months to follow up on things if they are unsure of next steps or outcome. The "rep" from Brochure Pros emails me back (and cc's my client) to let me know that because I'm able to place the feed on my site I'm able to implement her request of a adding their hyperlinks to each listing in the feed. Seconds later a second email comes through with a correction that yes in fact they see that the feed is not generated by my company and therefore we can't manipulate or add content to it. Thank-you Brochure Pros for reading our original email in March, and helping us all avoid this very conversation...

This is where it gets good. Brochure Pros asks me for help, do you have a name at Super Huge Autofeeds that can help them with this issue. My client at the dealership gives Brochure Pros his sales rep's name at Super Huge Autofeeds. Fortunately the rep from Super Huge Autofeeds brings one of her techs into our conversation. I think to myself, "good they sort this out on their own", not so fast Brent you're not free of this yet. Some 30 minutes later the Brochure Pros rep emails me (and everyone else now in the conversation) that after speaking to the rep at Super Huge Autofeeds that it is still in fact my problem to fix. Wow...

I take a deep breath, move away from my desk, walk a bit and have a glass of water. I may or may not of, during this time, cursed a blue streak to myself up and down the hall. So I put my handy screen shot tool to work to capture the feed in action on our site and also grab a quick shot of our code to once again state that the fed is simply a link provided to us by Super Huge Autofeeds. I ask both parties if their developers are using some new fangled "ninja code" to manipulate structure and layout of data through a simple hyperlink when they themselves don't have access to the source code or the server. If they are pass it our way! We're all about learning new things. Silence from both parties.

One of 2 things happened here, the first was that common sense finally made it to the party and Brochure Pros can work independently with Super Huge Autofeed on a solution to the original ask. I'm guessing they both went for the second option of finding someone else to blame for why this has taken months to sort out. Just a guess...

Vendors don't send reps out into the dealerships if they don't have the fundamental knowledge of your products, how they benefit your customers and technically how they operate. Too many times sales reps are selling things into dealers that they don't understand only to have issues arise that they cannot amend without pointing fingers and dragging other parties into the conversation. It's embarrassing really; I personally wouldn't send someone to one of our clients who didn't completely understand our products. We owe it to our dealers to ensure that this exists through our entire operation.

I know this won't be the last time that I'll be involved in a multi-vendor conversation like yesterday but I'd like to suggest this for when that does occur:

- Please read each other emails and requests from start to finish
- Go to each other's corporate sites to understand what we each do and find live examples of our products in action
- Bring the issue/request up internal with your technical teams, get their POV, their the experts!
- If we have any questions ask them right away with the parties in the conversation
- Step back from the issue at this point and assess the best vendor to address moving forward
- Don't cc your clients into your internal threads amongst the vendors - it's petty and you could end up looking silly at the end of the day

Personally I think this will save everyone time and energy.

I'm still trying to figure out how to get back the 90 minutes of my time I lost to this yesterday.

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Comment by Tom Gorham on December 2, 2011 at 1:26pm

LOL, Brent, there's always that uncomfortable moment when you're explaining to a sales rep why his product is worthy and he is learning it for the first time.

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