Databarracks' technical operations manager runs through his dos and don'ts for resellers who are pitching for his business
What does your company do, and what is your role there?
Databarracks is a UK specialist business continuity and disaster recovery provider. I am in charge of internal IT management as well as the management and purchasing of the infrastructure we use to provide services.
What traits do you seek in your IT suppliers?
They need to not be too pushy, to take the time to get to know us, but in a sincere way, rather than just trying to get through some preamble before they get to the pitch.
The suppliers we've used for years are genuine and it doesn't matter how big the order is. It can be big now and small later but every order is treated with the same level of attention and care. A lot of the time we will use a supplier for something small, but because they have impressed us, we go back to them for more.
Suppliers that go the extra mile to be available also stand out to us. We work 24/7, and often keep quite odd hours, so being responsive at those times definitely helps. It's always good to know that an enquiry that is sent late at night will get picked up and actioned first thing in the morning. It helps get things done!
What are your main dos and don'ts for resellers and other IT suppliers when they are selling to you?
Don't push us for meetings just to hit your quota for that quarter or push sales numbers in the short term because it wastes our time and ultimately damages the relationship in the long term. Instead, understand our needs and advise accordingly. We recently had a change with a supplier where we couldn't buy directly from them anymore and had to start working through an aggregator. The salesperson started immediately upselling lots of useless items. It felt as though he was selling for the sake of selling, rather than trying to make our existing set-up better. We don't use them anymore.
Also, try not to make initial contact without understanding what we do. I've had suppliers get in touch to try to sell us services that we actually provide. That's a bad start.
How can IT suppliers best influence you early in the sales cycle?
Asking the right questions helps. Getting us the right information too, even if this means going away to check with technical experts and calling us back later. Also, if you make a mistake, that's fine, it happens to all of us, but how you deal with it is very important. Take ownership of the mistake, fix it, and make it right. We respect that approach. Otherwise, we can't rely on you.
Do spam emails or cold calls ever work?
It is very rare that an email will get my attention. Sometimes it will work, but more often this is by fluke. I get too many emails to pay any cold approaches much attention. Similarly, I rarely take a call from someone I don't know. The bad calls hurt the good ones, and all too often I am left hearing from someone who sounds like they're reading from a script. It makes it easy to switch off.
Do you generally prefer to procure as many IT goods and services as possible from a single supplier, or work with multiple specialists?
We prefer to work with multiple specialists. One shop rarely has it all, and if they do, they probably won't have expertise in everything. We sometimes use the big shops which are great for quick, transactional purchases, but when we need advice or assistance, they don't have the necessary expertise and do not provide the necessary care and attention. It helps to have multiple suppliers because if there is a delay in an item that we need urgently, we can go to another supplier quickly. It also helps us to keep prices competitive.
How much of your time is spent helping business leaders drive business outcomes, versus running the IT department?
The ratio is probably around 50:50, depending on which hat I'm wearing at the time and how many hours I'm doing that week. But even in the ‘keeping-the-lights-on' work, there's always room for review and improving how we operate in the future.
We hear about the increased prominence of the CMO and line of business in IT decision making. How much are executives and staff in your business now involved in IT purchasing decisions?
This tends to depend on the particular system and the amount of integration. Some things may be entirely through the line of business with IT providing audit and evaluation for access control and security for approval, but when systems need integration, IT is involved throughout.