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How to detect a toxic customer (softwarebyrob.com)
293 points by swombat on Dec 9, 2010 | hide | past | web | favorite | 114 comments



This detection process doesn't detect toxic customers, it detects corporate customers at large companies.

It's fine for a small startup to cater to small startups, but the big companies have big budgets, and eventually, you'll be making 80% of your money off of them, so learning how to deal with them can be helpful.

1. Big companies often have purchasing departments actually do the purchase. They are trained to expect discounts and the people in the purchasing department know a lot more about asking for discounts than they know about software, because that is their specialized role in the organization. If you politely tell them that you have one price for everyone, they'll still purchase, because the purchasing department ususally doesn't have the power to stop the purchase.

2. Those 80-question checklists usually come out of the following, typical corporate process:

* A team of people identifies a need for software

* The team meets to agree on everything they need

* The junior person on the team is tasked with evaluating 12 possible products to see which one is best

* That person makes up a spreadsheet and sends it to each of the vendors hoping that they will do his homework for him

* The vendors who have decent presales support or sales teams fill out the spreadsheets by marking everything as "Yes" or "Yes with a footnote" and get the deal.

This also explains the "multiple questions that can be answered from a website" -- it's a sign of a person who has been put in charge of evaluating multiple products, not a sign of a toxic customer.

3. Multiple contacts through multiple channels are usually the sign of multiple interested parties at the client site. You can't sell to big companies without touching multiple people. One of a salesperson's most important jobs is helping the customer themselves get organized and make a purchase. A good salesperson helps the person who wants your software navigate their own corporate purchasing politics.

Summary: while it's fine to turn away truly toxic customers, and you are welcome to decide that you'd rather sell to the starving startup founders on Y-combinator who would rather spend 2 hours scouring your website than deal with a salesperson, the corporate customers turn out to be remarkably price-insensitive, once they make a purchase they will keep paying you maintenance for years long after the product is not even in use, and they're just as likely to leave you alone as the small guys, but they do have "multiple stakeholders" and if you want to sell to them you need a process that matches their reality.


Star that bit about helping customers get organized (and relatedly, providing ammo for your internal champion, like PPT which he can take right into the meeting where he asks for budget to purchase you): it is some of the most important inside sales advice you'll ever hear.


Although I generally agree with your comment, I disagree that the process only detects large corporate customers. In fact, I've seen plenty of small customers who for whatever reason act like a large corporate customer, but instead of bringing 80% of revenue end up bringing nothing more than support overhead.

These are also the guys who either slander you online or at least threaten to do so. These are also the entitled customers who tend to think you have infinite resources to throw at them. In my experience, large corporate customers were more understanding to having to draw the line somewhere than small irate ones.


My impression of the original article is that it suffers from overrationalization. The author knows, from empirical observation, that toxic customers exist. And he feels -- possibly accurately, but possibly due to the awesome power of hindsight -- that these customers should be detectable in advance.

And that may be true. But if so, it's not a scientific process. The warning signs do factor into it, but in the end it's a matter of gut feeling. (Perhaps because it's not necessarily the case that a given customer is universally toxic, it's that they don't fit you, your company, or your product.)

But it's always embarrassing for an engineer to write a blog post like "how to detect toxic customers by going back and forth in conversation, trying various rhetorical strategies that you make up on the fly, and occasionally closing your eyes and trying to use the Force". So instead the author tried to invent a nice, rational checklist. It has the virtue of looking scientific. The only downside is that it may not actually work very well. It's not what the author is actually using, either. You can't do sales, especially corporate sales, with an algorithm unless you're willing to leave money on the table, maybe a lot of money.


Gut feeling is the only real way of separating things out.

Asking huge numbers of questions can be a sign of a customer support nightmare or a person/company/entity doing their homework. Following up can be a sign of high expectations or them being keen to make a decision asap. Asking for a discount is sometimes a buying signal. Conversely, whilst rudeness isn't a good thing, some of the customers that will be a really bad fit are the ones who are really making the effort to be polite and charming.

The one almost universal red flag would be constant inappropriate reference to price. Asking for discounts is to be expected. Asking if there are cheaper, slimmed-down alternatives, or freebies for volume purchases is reasonable. Constantly referencing the price whilst raising unrelated issues or requests is a sign that something's amiss. Whenever you hear something like "I'm surprised to hear you haven't added xyz considering you're charging £xxx" or "so before I starting paying £xxx, would you...?" it's a pretty good sign that they're either rationalisig a decision to not spend the money with you or have an inflated sense of how far up your priority queue their spending pushes you. Then again, you can suspend that rule for businesses that are likely to pay enough to push themselves up your priority queue too..


I think it's a little bit disengenious to post this, because http://www.joelonsoftware.com/articles/CamelsandRubberDuckie... covers this just as well, but hints in the opposite direction, viz:

"There's no software priced between $1000 and $75,000. I'll tell you why. The minute you charge more than $1000 you need to get serious corporate signoffs. You need a line item in their budget. You need purchasing managers and CEO approval and competitive bids and paperwork. So you need to send a salesperson out to the customer to do PowerPoint, with his airfare, golf course memberships, and $19.95 porn movies at the Ritz Carlton. And with all this, the cost of making one successful sale is going to average about $50,000. If you're sending salespeople out to customers and charging less than $75,000, you're losing money."

In this case, the software is lower than $1000 - so he needs to detect and avoid time-guzzling corporate buyers, even if they are likely to buy something.

Or, to setup corporate pricing. But you can't recommend the 80 question answer approach at this pricepoint.


This is a valid point. However, our product (small business invoicing software) and price point ($300) mean that we don't sell to enterprise customers. We don't make a product for this size business, nor do we have the price point to support the sales effort required.

We receive maybe one inquiry a month from a large customer and they actually tend to be some of the most reasonable prospects we come across. Very rarely do they show disrespect, ask for discounts, contact us over and over again, etc...

Though it's not critical to the discussion, the person I mentioned in the post was not a corporate customer. They were a very small (less than 5 employee) firm who happened to be exhibiting these toxic/large company traits.


Spolsky's comment is way overrated. He's only addressing the 80 questions bit. In that case you just need to add enterprise pricing to cover that sales cost. I'm guessing for a $9990 license (keeping it within a single manager's pre-authorized budget) you will feel quite happy filling in the little Excel cells for a couple hours.


You've really only covered two points - why corporate customers won't RTFW and why they ask for discounts. If you are dealing with a corporation you might get contacted multiple times through multiple channels, but probably not from the same person in a short period of time.

Disrespectful and abrupt communications are still a warning sign for larger companies as are unrealistic expectations (at least for the example given).

The article specifically mentions that "Any one of these warning signs is not a big deal, but stack 2 or 3 on top of each other and (depending on their severity) you have yourself a red flag." A corporation might only set off 1 or 2, and if you keep in mind the points you made I don't think it will generate too many false positives.


The tactless tosser in purchasing that quite possibly has been told to get some pricing options by his management by the end of the day really shouldn't cloud your judgement of the entire institution.

Even in the example blog, the problem person was eventually bypassed and the sale went ahead.


That was the key event for me.

If one finds oneself in this situation is there any general advice for trying to get to talk to someone else if you contacted by a jerk from what might otherwise be a good prospect?


Having been on both side of the enterprise sales process I think this is a remarkably insightful post. A lot of this goes to explain why enterprise software often needs to be quite expensive - you have to pay for a lot of time and effort from sales and technical pre-sales people hand-holding potential customers and helping them through their software purchasing process.

[Edit: I didn't notice who wrote that comment before replying!]


Actually, there might be a market for some kind of tool to help enterprises gather software requirements, create shortlist of candidate vendors and allow the vendors to reply online.


Microsoft Excel owns that niche.

If you're going to aim for the same niche, it'll likely involve a web service for creating RFQs and also for building up a database of both the requests as well as building up the feature loci of the various queries; you'll need to differentiate your service from the aforementioned Excel and from Google Docs and various of the testing services. Acquiring and then maintaining sufficient feature data (whether via web services or scraping) is probably going to be the tough part.

Look around for folks already dealing in electronic purchase, e-procurment, and particularly at SAP.


Well, software for generalized decision making already exists so I can certainly see a market for more specialized versions.


> This detection process doesn't detect toxic customers, it detects corporate customers at large companies.

For a small business with fixed pricing, a corporate customer at a large company may well be a toxic customer. All the points you made hold true, but they also all increase the cost of the sale for the small business. If the product pricing does not cover the "high-maintenance-ness" of a large corporate which is expecting a corporate service, then why isn't this customer toxic from the point of view of the small business selling the product?

OTOH, there are often purchasers at large companies who understand that they're buying a commodity product, can approve the purchase (based on the much lower price) and don't have such high expectations.

It's all about being aware of expectations and declining the sale when they don't match, which is exactly what Rob identified here.


Great comment. I've noticed that the procurement guys typically need to show their bosses they've gotten the company a discount. So now I just price the "standard" price column artificially high, show a 20 or 30% discount to get to the real price, and everyone is happy.


I would add - as a buyer (and possibly someone who's hell to a sales guy) - I usually ask to be put in touch with a sales engineer, and if he can't handle me, I very nicely explain I'd like to talk to the developers to get a feel for their product - because the devil is often in the details.

EDIT: Also worth noting - there is value in recognizing a customer you can't handle (whether or not you should be able to isn't relevant) - and then following up later to find out how things worked out for them so you can find out if you screwed up an opportunity.


> It's fine for a small startup to cater to small startups, but the big companies have big budgets, and eventually, you'll be making 80% of your money off of them, so learning how to deal with them can be helpful.

Perhaps, if you are running a B2B operation.

If you are a small business running a B2C operation, however, then the original article seems pretty much on the money to me.


Similar features-checklist spreadsheets can arrive from industry analysts seeking your assistance in building their whitepaper products and various other of their comparison products, too.

Seeing the other side of those analyst annual reviews can be quite the revelation.

You can infer interesting details from what check-offs they are including, what they're omitting, from the nomenclature used, and from the check-off combinations used for specific features and capabilities.


> Big companies often have purchasing departments actually do the purchase. They are trained to expect discounts and the people in the purchasing department know a lot more about asking for discounts than they know about software, because that is their specialized role in the organization.

My wife actually works as a senior purchaser for quite a big (non-US) oil company, and it was funny when she had to negotiate the fees with the web-design company that had been asked to implement an internal application. She didn't know anything about the technical side of it, as you well pointed out (even though I helped her out with is), but the sad part was that even her company's online department (the ones that should have known better) were quite on a different planet.


Thanks for this comment Joel. This is why I love hacker news.

I was reading the post nodding my head in agreement and then I come here and the first post provides a perfect counter point to the post and explains why the blog post may not in fact be correct.


Well, this is the first piece of actual experience I've gotten from the web in a while, and I didn't even have to screw anything up! I have a feeling it will come in handy in the future, thanks Joel.


I am convinced there exists a breed of customer who needs to feel a human is in the loop to buy something. I mean, "Yes ma'am, it does make bingo cards." has made me three sales. They're not noticeably pathological customers.

(Those certainly exist, though. Charge more, and they'll mostly inflict themselves on your competitors instead.)


Poor people, they've been beaten into submission by bad software not to trust even the simplest of applications...

:/


Hey, funny, I think I've had that customer too!

I ended up referring him and his company to my worst sworn enemy competitor, haven't heard from him since.


careful about that, when he tells your competitor about the referal, then continues to be a major pain in the ass. They might just wait for an even bigger fool to refer back to you


A fool which... he wouldn't take?


I totally agree with this. I'm a very customer-oriented person, but there are a few customers that just aren't worth supporting. If you can reject them gracefully, it's in your best interest to do so.

One of the problems with that is that even jerks have friends. If you reject them, they'll tell those friends and you could lose even more customers.

In this case, when they were going to have to write a custom solution for this customer, it was definitely the way to go.

As a side note, my father asks for 'discounts' all the time. He almost never gets them, and doesn't act entitled when he doesn't, but it sometimes works. So he keeps doing it. I really have to start doing it myself to see what I get.


even jerks have friends. If you reject them, they'll tell those friends and you could lose even more customers.

My experience having done several client management studies with clients, is that jerks have friends ... who are also jerks. (Generalising, of course, but if you've got a solid enough business model you won't mind losing a few good clients if it means not dealing with a larger number of toxic clients.)

Best case study I did was with a branding agency. We got a list of their clients (about 100) and had the owner mark them each as Up, Down, or Neutral in terms of energy. We then had the team explore where each of the 'Down' clients (about 15) came from - half were from the Yellow Pages (again, using my experience, more price-oriented than service or quality) ... and the other half were referrals from the clients who came through the Yellow Pages!


And did you find out how many of the up and neutral clients also came from the yellow pages? That bit of information is useful only if it draws a distinction, e.g. what if the agency only had one working form of advertising?

(Of course this almost goes without saying, and I don't doubt you thought of it, but this is such a common logic error that I thought it shouldn't be left hanging in a public forum.)


Yeah, sorry I didn't want to make my response longer than needed to be.

None of the Up or Neutral clients were Yellow Pages - most were referrals from the same level (ie, Up / great clients had been referred mostly by other Up clients, and similarly with Neutrals, plus some general networking). Which does reinforce the 'you are who you hang with' conclusion I've drawn.


Custom solutions means consulting fees. And if it is a big company or organization you are selling to, once they've decided on you product, you can more or less make up any number you want and they'll keep paying since it is far less work than going through a new round of purchasing.


/Warning Sign #1: Disrespectful or Abrupt/

I've found that people who email with no explanation or "sell" of their own but just immediate, terse requests like "What are your rates?" or "I need a copywriter. You available?" are typically NOT interested in finding the right person for themselves or their product; instead, they're looking to just outsource what they think they COULD do themselves, if only they had time/energy/desire.

People who know they're considering (hopefully carefully) how to add value to their product/life are the ones who will take the time to build trust from the beginning, will be honest about expectations, and are more likely to give the freedom and flexibility necessary to maintain a healthy working relationship over time.


I pass on consulting work if I have any strong feelings that the customer and I are not a good fit. Many years ago, I had a potential new customer spend a lot of time telling me about the problems he had with developers, mostly that they wanted to walk from his projects. I ended up accepting work from him anyway because he was a nice guy and interesting to talk with. It took me a few months to finish promised tasks and extricate myself from his project, becoming another "walker."

I have had experience of clearly being at fault also: twice I have let myself be talked into projects in tech areas where my experience was really thin, and within a short period of time, had to notify the two customers that I was not a good fit to their needs. I was very apologetic both times and obviously did not bill them, but they were out the time documenting the tasks for me.


If you are a people-pleaser (and this doesn't necessarily carry a negative connotation), then it's a good tactic for any employer to play the victim card by talking crap about previous "walkers" in order to instill loyalty. You don't want to be a "walker", do you? ;)

Actually, I think you should pay extra precaution when dealing with "trashtalking victims", because I think the risk of dealing with a toxic customer is greater than losing a bit of revenue from someone who was genuinely burned.


I went through this process with a large company, and one of the interesting things that was done was a check with Dunn and Bradstreet (www.dnb.com). It seems they would not buy from someone without a D&B number and "sufficient" history.


The timing of this is uncanny, we were just having a discussion about this internally. I've found that a great technique to dealing with difficult customers is to show them that you don't mind them taking their business elsewhere, as the OP mentions. It always amazes me at how quickly this disarms people and completely changes their attitude and approach.

And another example of toxic customers: people paying with Groupons.


After poking around his site, I laughed a little after he described Emacs as a "stripped down, no frills text editor".

http://www.softwarebyrob.com/2005/09/05/better-developer-don...


If I didn't know better I'd think he was trolling. He goes on to compare emacs to COBOL. I don't even like emacs (I use vim, of course), but it shows an unbelievable level of ignorance of the current state of emacs to act as though it's "ancient" and clearly inferior to the Visual Studio editor.


It's pretty ancient. It's older than vi, and vi is from the 70s.

Yes, there's been some development, but using Emacs on TOPS-10 or ITS is an awful lot like using it under Linux in 2010.


"Yes, there's been some development, but using Emacs on TOPS-10 or ITS is an awful lot like using it under Linux in 2010."

That's a huge stretch, and kinda like saying that using Linux is an awful lot like using SunOS 1.0. Sure, the basics of use are the same, and someone who used an ancient emacs version could pickup using a modern version reasonably easily, but syntax highlighting, auto-completion, X and GUI support, windowing, multi-file editing, etc. have been added over the years (and that's just stuff I know of, off the top of my head, and I don't even use emacs). The emacs distribution has grown by several orders of magnitude in size since those TOPS-10 and ITS implementations.

My point is that Emacs is every bit the editor that Visual Studio editor is, and contains pretty much all the same features, and a lot that Visual Studio will never have. And, more importantly, the most productive developers I've ever known used either emacs or vim...I can't think of a single great developer that uses Visual Studio (I'm sure they exist, but I've yet to meet one). It's just idiotic to claim that emacs is an ineffective tool when the evidence is so strong that it is extremely effective for millions of developers.


Well sure, it's definitely a fantastic development environment. I loved Emacs well enough at one point, although eventually my hand started to ache from constant M-x'ing and buffer switching and I gave it up. I'm just pointing out that Emacs is quite old, and that someone used to the 40-year-old version wouldn't really have much trouble using the most recent version, at least for the basics.


The moral of this story is not to detect toxic customers.

The moral is that he almost lost a sale, were it not for the other guy stepping in. The moral is that he should have asked to speak with someone else at the company to continue the selling process.

This guy almost blew it.


Here's a faster way of telling if you're dealing with a toxic (corporate) customer: See how they react when you say "no" to something. This is them on their best behavior too; if the reaction is nasty then you have your answer.


Don't you have forums for your product? If you're doing invoicing software this would make sense. I've had that for multiple products and almost all of these issues get hashed out in the forums, often by existing customers.

And in particular, if you're seeing people asking multiple questions that could answered from the website then there's probably something wrong with the site.


Warning Sign #2: Asks for a Discount (With No Reason)

The funny part about this one, is I always ask for a discount for no real reason. Even if I am only buying a single piece of software. Why, because it lets me know up front if a vendor is going to be flexible with large volume purchases and OEM arrangements.

Funny story, I was evaluating some screen capture software for OSX not too long ago for a client of mine. I was building a web app for them and part of the work flow for their content was screen capture. Anyway, I emailed a company that had a reputable product and basically told them that I had no need for the pro version, would not be using the pro version for any commercial work but that I would like to use the pro version to teach my daughter about video editing. I then asked if they would consider selling me the pro version at the basic software packages rate. I framed the story in this fashion for several reasons. I had just told the developer/owner that I would be using it for non-commercial and educational purposes both of which usually get some form of pricing plan that is below the commercial mark-up lack of having a plan to deal with either tells me that they do not have a competent pricing structure, and quite possibly that they lack a formal sales organization and negotiating deals later on would be difficult due to lack of attention to pricing structure for the various fringe purchasing needs. Dealing with companies that do not have flexible pricing policies can be difficult when you are dropping large purchases in which no one realistically pays full price per seat.

Anyways, point is be careful of putting earmarks on customers, this small developer lost a $75,000 purchase (what we set aside for a site license) for seats on his product due to the fact that he showed that he was not flexible in his pricing structure. Allowing me to purchase the pro version at the basic version price would have cost him nothing and given the purpose it was purchased under "non-commercial and educational" there was a need to reduce price to be competitive. Instead, I got a dismissive response that the basic version was good enough for my needs and that if I wanted the pro version I would have to pay full price. Needless to say, his competitor was very happy with the $75,000 purchase order.

I guess, long story short, bargain shoppers are not always bad, some people negotiate over what seem to be inconsequential amounts because rather than haggling over dollars they are finding out up front whether a relationship with your company will be tenable.


Sorry I don't get it. May be its me, I'm not on Sales or purchasing.

You want to purchase a large quantity of licenses, and you want a discount for them. So you ask for just one and use it as a proxy to know if the Company is flexible in its pricing? Is this standard practice?

I must say that I was at a company where the purchasing guy was always asking for discounts up front. He often tried to deceive the salesmen (for example he asked for free ISDN-GSM gateways to a telecom guy who ignored its price and thought they would cost like a phone). For him it was "just bussiness" and the way it's played the game.

Were we a toxic customer? For the naivest of our providers, sure we were.


Sorry I don't get it.

My position was that a vendor that treats a small one off customer with respect and generally tries to help is going to do the same for a large purchaser. I don't expect more than that, but I do expect flexibility as this particular pieces of software would for all intents and purposes be part of my solution, it would reflect on my orginization. Having a non-flexible vendor limits my ability to be flexible, a situation I have no interest in being in. When large portions of money are involved people change, but that does not mean they will stay changed. There is a likelihood that they will revert back to their standard culture on support. By evaluating their support of the smallest purchase and a fringe case, one gets an idea of what the support will be like once the luster of money has worn off. Quite honestly if the developer had politely declined my request, I may have still went ahead with the purchase but when he took a dismissive tone, without critically analyzing the request, it became apparent that he would not provide the level of tact and attentiveness that I would need to make an OEM purchase and use the product in my solution. Again, totally his prerogative and I hold nothing against him for doing so, I expected nothing from him and did not feel that I was entitled to a discount, but I have to defend my companies reputation and vendor selection is a big part of doing so, that being said, I look for vendors that go the extra mile, because I do the same with my clients, and by proxy their ability to support their software in every facet reflects on my organization once it becomes part of my organizations provided solution.


Sorry, the actual costs for 10 licenses is far less than 10x the support cost of 1 license. The support costs of 1 very penny pinchy person is often far in excess of a normal license sale. Many people choose not to pay that support cost intentionally.

It feels like you're asking for a discount, and having sour grapes when he said no. Tone is very hard to read in text. From the walls of text and the style of your post, I'm not sure you didn't start the cattiness in his mind.


I'm not sure you didn't start the cattiness in his mind.

If I did, it was not my intention. The summation of my email to him was pretty much that I have a young daughter that I want to teach video production to. That I think it would be best for her if I could teach her some of the advanced features and I inquired if they had an educational discount program. The last line asked if they did not would they consider selling me a basic license and upgrade me to pro with the explicit agreement that it was to only be used for educational purposes. I feel that I am pretty good at regulating my tone and did not use words that would appear that I felt entitled to such an arrangement. I was polite in my request.

While, my tactic is debatable, I don't think the content or how I approached it was a factor. Further, I have said on multiple occasions that I did not walk away with sour grapes about the exchange, he was totally within his right, I was the one asking for a favor. That is not in dispute, and I was in no way shape or form upset about his decline. The only thing I walk away with was that I felt that I it was better that I had that exchange before a sum of money was involved.


Perhaps it's just hard to tell the "I outsmarted him" story when the people you're telling it to relate more to the antagonist (the guy) than the protagonist (you). It makes me want to ascribe more negative features to you than I have any rational basis to really do so.


Sure and I understand that, i ask that you don't see it as an "I outsmarted him" post that was not my intention (which has got kind of lost). My intention was to serve as a warning to how customers make decisions and that placing earmarks on customers can be dangerous. I am by no means disconnected from the realities of writing software, it is after all what I do for a living. Rather than bragging about outsmarting someone (which I never felt I did) I merely wanted to highlight the dangers of earmarking bargain shoppers as being difficult customers. Contrary to how I may be perceived in these posts, I am a developer first and for most and am very rational when it comes to dealing with other development organizations to my knowledge no one has ever seen me or my organization as a difficult customer. We may be critical of who we establish business relationships with, but after a relationship has been established they are generally amicable.


I consider potential clients who bring their personal software needs into the equation to be "difficult." Educational discounts mean and are used for a very specific purpose and typically have tax implications for the vendor, and a dad teaching his daughter is not part of it. Naturally, a retort would be that he doesn't think enough of his daughter's education to pay whatever it takes to get the tools to do so. You aren't a school and it's crazy to ask for an "educational discount" from a businessperson who is otherwise perfectly accomodating.

My general take from the approach you describe, paying attention to the "smallest" detail of a deal (and/or bringing ever-smaller details into the deal) is reaching for more and more tenuous reasons to neg the vendor. It's analogous to reducing your tip at a restaurant because your water glass was not promptly refilled, and then further when the silverware is not perfectly parallel..


You aren't a school and it's crazy to ask for an "educational discount"

That's the first that I have heard that it is crazy to negotiate. I have always though it was crazy to not negotiate. That is what sales is a negotiation. I understand that there is an amount of developers who do not like to negotiate. But that does not negate that for a good deal of business negotiation is business as usual.

Naturally, a retort would be that he doesn't think enough of his daughter's education to pay whatever it takes to get the tools to do so.

It's not a retort I would use or allow to come from my organization. Doing so could be seen a comment on ones character, an unnecessary one at that. I guess I see the world different from other developers. I see these kind of requests as the cost of doing business and they don't bother me. I also see the cost of reputation being valuable to me.


Well hold on now, "negotiation" is one thing, but I think it's disingenuous (or perhaps hyperbole) to call what you're asking for "an educational discount." I mean, I think I understand what you're doing, and of course negotiation is natural, but if you're going to exaggerate your terms by saying your personal software needs amount to institutional status, you risk being perceived as a bad-faith negotiator.

We all see the world differently, it's just that communication and, dare i say, negotiation depends on the participants operating with similar terms. In your example you're trying to tip the balance of perfect information by causing the provider to have to account for a question of how legitimate your discount request it. Which it really isn't, because you aren't really that kind of institution.

I hope I'm explaining myself well enough, it's just that it's not a good negotiation if people are exaggerating their terms. Sure, "ask for twice what you want so the compromise is closer to your target number," but this isn't a foolproof strategy.


Sure, point taken, I know that I did not represent a qualified educational discount, and I never directly called it an educational discount to them. I asked if they had a program and if they would consider applying it for my case, and secondly if they did not have an educational program would they consider upgrading me to the pro if I purchased the basic with an explicit agreement that we would never use it for commercial work. that is why I asked if he would consider it. I know that it was an out of the normal request, but there are some companies that will sell an educational version for any non-commercial use so it was not totally out of the norm. He was well within his right to say no based on the fact that I did not represent you typical case. In fact, the way I see it he is within his right to say no for whatever reason he sees fit, he wrote the software after all.

You never know unless you ask. His response was closer to no go to hell though (just to be clear, he did not tell me to go to hell) and that is what made me chose the path I did.

I am not put off by negotiations, and very much enjoy it when a client negotiates with me, so long as they don't become combative or disrespectful. It gives me an opportunity to show them in detail how much value I am providing for their money. I find that the client that negotiate with me and then see the value seem to be my best customers. The second vendor did just that, took time to show me their value and that is why I chose them. You learn a lot of valuable information about people in negotiations and that was really the point I was trying to drive home, that some times people don't negotiate just to get the best price. Sometimes they see it as a path to insightful information. It's the reason I always negotiate. If that makes me a toxic customer, so be it, but I like to know the paying field before I commit to anything in life.

As well just for the record on this one from your other post:

It's analogous to reducing your tip at a restaurant because your water glass was not promptly refilled, and then further when the silverware is not perfectly parallel..

I have a friend, who does this and I get extremely mad when I am at dinner with him and he does. He does it as a way of rationalizing reducing his tip, he is very cheap and he is a multimillionaire. After several occasions I refused to eat dinner with him, unless I paid and covered tip. He is disconnected from the fact that not everyone has buckets of cash and that that money is a lot more valuable to someone on waiter wages than his principals should be to him. My friend is a good guy, his cheapness just gets the best of him, some times. Anyways, the point I was getting at, is I would never intentionally do that to someone.


Yeah, rereading the http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1987258, it still feels like you told a "I outsmarted him" story. I get that's not your point, just might want to watch your storytelling's theme a bit more explicitly :D

I believe you that you did not intend to, but looking at the writing, that's what it is.


Point taken.


Have you ever considered the possibility that the vendor was perfectly flexible and helpful, but you were being an unreasonable jerk?


Please explain to me how I was being unreasonable, I asked if they would consider an educational discount, they said no, we went our separate ways. I did not try to guilt them, I did not try to argue with them. I Ask asked a question, received a terse response and went on. It's not like educational discounts are totally out of the norm.


Most educational discounts are for accredited schools or something, which you're probably not. That's at least part of it.

Frankly, you've worked hard enough trying to justify yourself in this thread and I don't want to get into a prolonged argument. I just think it's useful, if you're going to contrive a little test to see if someone's being unreasonable, to consider whether you yourself are being unreasonable in applying that test.


you've worked hard enough trying to justify yourself in this thread

Well I stirred the pot, I am going to see it through. If someone replies to me they deserve a response, that is why I am here for discussion. Contrary to what may be perceived, I have a pretty open mind, and am pretty introspective. I freely admit, I am having a hard time seeing where I was unreasonable. I ask a question of the vendor, I did not like the tone of the response (not the content), I did not walk away with sour grapes, just a discomfort with the tone of the response. the other vendor said no as well, they just took time to explain to me that there are codec licenses involved with any sale educational or not and that they would eat cost. A reasonable response, so I bought full price and then did the volume contract.


If someone replies to me they deserve a response, that is why I am here for discussion.

I totally understand that mentality. I'm just saying I've found it helpful, sometimes, to let other people have the last word. Sometimes my original statement stands for itself and doesn't need to be reiterated.

I don't necessarily think you were being unreasonable. I don't have enough information to really judge that, especially if it comes down to tone. I'm just saying in general that if you're going to do things like this, to keep in mind that the other person is also testing and judging you. Maybe he didn't care about good customer service and your heuristic for determining a good vendor worked, or maybe you tripped his heuristic for determining a toxic customer and he decided to write you off. To some extent that'll have to happen, but it's worth maybe a moment's consideration. That's all.


point taken.


FWIW, I think your request was perfectly reasonable and your reaction acceptable: before getting married, you want to date first.

Remember that the population here is primarily composed of highly technical people. As a rule, they tend to have very black and white views of the world. That probably accounts for the negative responses you're seeing.


I guess my problem with that analogy is that business relationships are supposed to be self-interested. They're supposed to be mutually self-interested, for sure, and most of them revolve around convincing the other person it's in their interests, too, but there's still an element of self-interest that a love relationship, frankly, doesn't have.


In this case it's still try before you buy, but kls is asking the company to iron his shirt before getting married, rather than asking them out on a date. No surprise that they aren't interested.


before getting married, you want to date first.

To add to your analogy, and you don't tell a girl you just met how much you have in the bank. That's the issue I am having seeing my flaw here, we like to say that we are above that. But telling a girl you just met how much is in the bank is foolish at best. Just as giving up your position in negotiating is foolish.

Anyway, I am not worried about the negative response. I am fine in the hot seat. I do however not like personal attacks. It is the prime reason I frequent HN because they have a stated mission to be above that form of rabble. I mentioned it less for myself and more for the fact that, if that's where we are going I need to stage my exit. I have no interest in contributing to a site that's members result to name calling. I don't want my ideas associated with it.


Yes, but it's getting burned by these borderline deceptive tactics that drive small software companies to begin to take harder stances on things like this. I can't tell you how many times we've been run around the ringer for discounts, extra support, customizations, etc. only to suddenly not hear from the person anymore, or find out they went with someone else with absolutely no explanation. That is all of course within the customer's rights, but experiencing this many times on the vendor side, you begin to grow cynical, and a policy of trying to be as supportive and helpful to everyone begins to slowly turn in to a more guarded and defensive posture and your first inclination is to look for someone trying to do an end-run around your pricing vs. someone simply looking for help for "his daughter's video editing project."


Sure, I understand that, I contest that I was borderline deceptive but I understand. While I understand the frustration, the manner in which a vendor handles these responses tells a story about that vendor. We are selective in our clientele as well but we do treat everyone with respect no matter how absurd the request. That being said, I don't feel that my request was unreasonable. I don't even feel that his response was unreasonable, just that it was not the response I would allow from my organization and therefore by proxy I would not be OEM'ing his software.


Your "test" is ridiculous. If you went to Oracle, Apple or Microsoft and asked for a free license so that you can teach your daughter, I bet they'd tell you to get stuffed. Why should a small business be any different? Ask for what you need.

Also, please use paragraphs. Rambling monoblock responses are another classic sign of a toxic customer.


I bet they'd tell you to get stuffed

I would be willing to take that bet. I imagine that I would get a polity worded decline of my request. Unless I sent it directly to Jobs and if I received one of Job's dismissals I imaging I would make the same decision based on the tone. As I have said before, he would be within his right to do so, but I am also within my right (no matter how flawed my decision making process is) to decide to go elsewhere. It seems that I have not been clear in the fact that my decision was not based on whether or not I received the discount (I did not receive the discount from the alternate vendor) but rather the manner in which the request was handled.


So - you asked for something unreasonable from a small business, got turned down flat, and now you're having a snit fit about not being treated with kid gloves? So far you're 3/5 on the toxic customer score:

Warning Sign #1: Disrespectful or Abrupt

Warning Sign #2: Asks for a Discount (With No Reason)

and

Warning Sign #4: Unrealistic Expectations

I'm glad you don't have my phone number.


now you're having a snit fit about not being treated with kid gloves

I have said and reiterated that, the developer was in his right, that I know that I was asking for a favor and that I did not walk away sour. Rather I felt that, by his handling of an out of band request in the manner he did, I would not feel comfortable OEM'ing his product. That's it, no entitlement, no pissyness. Just a methodical decision made based on intuition and past experiences. Ignore it if you will, dismiss it if you will, I felt it offered a cautionary tale about the various ways people make purchasing decision.


Give it up already! 29 comments from you so far on this thread and you're still trying to claim that you're not a toxic customer.


Give it up already!

This is a community site where people come to share ideas. If someone takes the time to reply to my post, I think the respectful thing to do is offer them insight into my though process. If you don't value that or like it downvote me and move on. You are not withing your right to tell me not to voice my perspective. So long as I feel that I can contribute and can offer conversation, I am within my right to post. It may not have occurred to you, that I value this communities ideas and that my posting is to not only give insight but to gain it. As I said before, I am going to see it through, and part of seeing it through is to make sure that I converse with everyone that takes the time to contribute to the conversation I started, after all they took time to respond to me, why would I not show them they same courtesy, if you don't like that, then move on.


So you turned down a product because you failed to lie your way into getting a pro version? I fail to see how turning down a one-off for a personal request makes a company bad at handling corporate customers.


I like your choice of words "lie" as if there is some moral dilemma with framing a hypothetical situation to evaluate the response of a potentially critical piece of infrastructure. As well, for the record, before you jump to conclusions with charged and disingenuous position slanting words like "lie" It just so happens that that single purchase was going to be used to teach my daughter video production. I took it as an opportunity to feel the vendor out pre-purchase.

As for failing to see that lack of pricing structure is indicative of immaturity in a sales organization I can only assume that that lack of sight comes from the fact that you either have little experience with enterprise and OEM purchasing or have never been in charge of contract negotiations, a inflexible vendor can be soul sucking. Negotiation is a big part of volume purchasing and flexibility in pricing structures is mandatory when dealing with such if there is any hope of creating a long term and mutually beneficial arrangement.

To spell it out, a organization that treated a one off request for a discount due to non-conventional circumstances is a company that shows attention to detail, and a willingness to work with even the smallest purchaser to make them happy. If I told him hey I have 75K would he have responded differently? sure he would have, but where is his breaking point when will he decide that it is not worth supporting me due to the money being in the rear-view. Conversely a guy that supports even the smallest customer is going to treat a volume purchaser very well. Judging by this particular vendors response, I saved myself years of headaches by making a small simple request and I am glad I did.

It is even more important when you deal with a small development house, I cannot tell you how many times I have seen large companies held hostage by a small vendor due to lack of maturity in their sales and customer support process. Ensuring that a potential vendor is not one of those shops is imperative to the happiness of my client and is therefore good business on my end. Vendors are free to have as crappy of sales and support organizations as they see fit, but when it comes to my organization I bend over backwards to make my clients happy and I chose vendors that align with that core philosophy.

This particular vendor was within his right to not give me a discount, I hold nothing against him and I don't hold him account for it but I am also within my right to see that as a sign of lack of maturity in his organization and take my purchasing elsewhere. The purchase reflects on the solution that I was providing for my client, and my ability to support the solution is only as strong as the weakest vendors support. I'm not betting my companies reputation on a vendor that can't even put together non-commercial or educational licensing packages much less an OEM arrangement.


> I like your choice of words "lie" as if there is some moral dilemma with framing a hypothetical situation to evaluate the response of a potentially critical piece of infrastructure. As well, for the record, before you jump to conclusions with charged and disingenuous position slanting words like "lie" It just so happens that that single purchase was going to be used to teach my daughter video production. I took it as an opportunity to feel the vendor out pre-purchase.

Don't blame him for using the word "lie" when you clearly phrased it like lying:

> Funny story, I was evaluating some screen capture software for OSX not too long ago for a client of mine. I was building a web app for them and part of the work flow for their content was screen capture. Anyway, I emailed a company that had a reputable product and basically told them that I had no need for the pro version, would not be using the pro version for any commercial work but that I would like to use the pro version to teach my daughter about video editing. I then asked if they would consider selling me the pro version at the basic software packages rate. I framed the story in this fashion for several reasons.


Don't blame him for using the word "lie" when you clearly phrased it like lying

basically told them

I framed the story in this fashion for several reasons

I framed the story, is not an admission of lying there where motives beyond the initial purchase, but even if those motives did not exist I intended to purchase software for my daughter, only using a selective portion of my total intent to purchase was in no way lying and in no way disingenuous. I blame him for using the word lie because it is a charged word, that should not be used unless you are certain of the factualness of ones allegations. Calling someone a liar is pretty disingenuous and was done so in this case as a character attack to further his position in his rebuttal. Not as a legitimate response to a legitimate comment.


You sound like a toxic customer.


Man this place has become Slashdot. I mean was that sniping pop shot well though out? Or was it just a quick personal attack for karma? Seriously I want to know, I shared a pretty detailed story, like it or not, agree with my conclusions or not, it was a story that I thought long and hard about to add some conversation to HN. I mean do I really sound like a toxic customer or was that just a pop shot. In the course of one thread I have been called a lair, stupid, and now a toxic customer all on a site that state clearly in it's FAQ's to try to be civil. So I would really like to know your mind set in doing so, do you just not care about HN not being just another "mines bigger" contest. Or in all of this did you glean some insight that you can boil me down to a one liner?


It's the same phenomenon that you see in threads about hiring practices. People see what they think is an injustice ("This guy wouldn't hire me, but I'm good!" / "This guy wouldn't buy from me, but my product is good!") and react emotionally. Add to it the fact that your story seems especially capricious. I think the big question you haven't answered is: If you wanted a volume discount, why not ask for a volume discount? Why do you think that asking for a discount for your daughter is a better indicator than asking for what you want? You haven't (yet) convinced anyone that you have a special insight into the purchasing process, and instead people think you are illogical. That doesn't go over well here.


First let me say thank you, I was loosing hope there for a minute.

If you wanted a volume discount, why not ask for a volume discount?

The discount was of no consequence, I was more concerned with their ability to go above and beyond the call of duty. As I have said at multiple points they where free to say no, and well within their right. I hold nothing against them. That being said, if I had seen a good support procedure for an non-standard request, I may have selected them even if they where unwilling to negotiate on price.

For me personally and my organization we go above the call of duty, it is one of our signature marks. So when we are going to by proxy vend another developers product we look for the same. The reason I chose to approach it in the manner I did was due to the fact that I did not have a personal relationship with a developer that provides this type of solution and had no one in my network that did. That coupled with the fact that I personally was looking for a similar solution gave me the opportunity to do so. I don't think my approach was illogical but it was based on a certain level of intuition, something that I freely admitted to in another reply.


You sounds like you lied when you stated "I framed it like X". People were correct you were using deception to gain information, but were incorrect on the technicality of your statement.

I don't think your bellwether test is that good of a test. I know lots of people who turn down educational requests when not from schools out of hand.


I don't think your bellwether test is that good of a test.

Truth be told it was never intentionally a test. Both teaching my daughter and the volume license coincided. It may be that when the idea for the solution we where to provide was pitch I though hey it would be good to tech my daughter video editing. But I don't remember if that is where that spark started or not. Anyway, point is both occurred in the same time frame so I shopped the educational requirement first. I did however go into it with intention of establishing a rapport with a developer that could vend the second requirement.


> Both teaching my daughter and the volume license coincided

I think this is the first time in the thread that it came out that you actually have a daughter and were actually considering teaching her with the software. In your first telling, it sounded (to me, and I think to others) like this was entirely made up for the purpose of testing the vendor's response. So it was puzzling that you objected so vehemently to it being called a "lie". Re-reading it now, though, I don't see what part of your comment made me think that (though it's not an obviously wrong interpretation either); maybe it was the influence of other comments.


Sure, it's obviousness that I did not frame the post correctly, to gain such a response (it is what it is now though). I still take issue with being called a liar though. If that fact was remotely in doubt I would have refrain from using that word. Further even if they had admitted to lying I would let their words stand as testimony to their deceit. It is a word that detracts from one position and adds to the others without truly rebutting the position. It is therefore disingenuous to use, if the fact is in question.

That being said, I can see where the post could be construed that it was not the true reason for the initial contact. I still think there is enough ambiguity that I should have been given the benefit of the doubt.


You really sound like a toxic customer.


The content of you post does not bother me if that is your intent. What does bother me is the upvotes you recive. It is sad to see the decline of a great site so enshrined in a single line post. The active approval of your post, by other members, just becase they dont agree with my position on the subject, is sadning to say the least. Your comment is devoid of quality and only serves to try and infuriate another member.its active acceptance is indicitive of the decline so many members complain about.


You wanted volume licensing, but decided to be clever about it and 'test' the vendor. You inferred from their unwillingness to give John Q Random Customer a single pro version at the basic price that they would be 'inflexible' in an enterprise purchasing context, which is where your error starts and ends: it's an absurd leap to make, and you make a lot of assumptions to get there. You also manage to conclude from this that they "do not have a competent pricing structure".

Asserting that you gained any real insight into their business acumen or their suitability for your real purchasing needs with your strange test seems deeply misguided. And your delivery makes it entirely understandable if people take away from your post a reading that you are simply self-satisfied at having wielded that purchasing power so capriciously.

Now, after some initial rounds of criticism (and the consequent derail of much of this thread), you've stooped to repeatedly decrying the decline of HN and its devolution into slashdot (although you are apparently finding posts that agree with you to be restorative of hope on that front).


unwillingness to give John Q Random Customer a single pro version at the basic price that they would be 'inflexible

I have stated on several occasions that the flexibility that I was looking for was customer service in the sales process. I also clarified that it was the tone of the developers response served as a red flag to me, the discount was of ill consequence.

Now, after some initial rounds of criticism (and the consequent derail of much of this thread), you've stooped to repeatedly decrying the decline of HN and its devolution into slashdot (although you are apparently finding posts that agree with you to be restorative of hope on that front).

I chose HN after a long stay out of all communities because I did not like the direction that most have them had taken. If you review my post history, you will find it evident that I do not make personal attacks and when I respond to someone, I try to to show them that I value their comment by providing what I think is a well thought out response.

Given my history of finding most sites pointless due to the noise to value ratio and what I feel is an investment of my time to help contribute to HN to make it what it's stated goals are, I do find it disheartening when a comment, that, if you take away the emotion, is totally devoid of value and whos only purpose was to serve as character assassination.

I mean can you honestly look at the post I complained about and defend it as being anything other than a pop shot. One thing I can say for sure, is that no matter my position on a subject, I would not support such a post. I have seen the trend other complain about, and have tried to deny it, make excused for it and ignore it.

So with it so evident in that post I decided to confront it, because I really do want to know if, when critically analyzed, do the members of HN support that kind of regard for other members, that offer a genuine post (whether you agree with it or not, my intent was to contribute to HN).

So given that I feel that I contribute value to HN, I want to know if this is how people that contribute are valued. Because if the answer is yes, then it is time for me to go.

I realized when I posted it, that it would most likely come off as that I am just sour about my message not being received, and people are free to infer what they will about my complaining about it, but if you take away the bias of my original post, go back and read that post, I think you will find it clearly evident that there was little regard for the contribution of a member and an intent to aggravate and malign for having a different view point that the majority.

I asked and would love an answer to is this now acceptable by the majority of HN. Obviously for my continuing to post, I do not believe it is, but the seed of doubt has been planted by other members that I respect so with an example of it so obvious, I felt compelled to not only highlight it but to confront the issue head on.


You posted a comment arguing that "Asking for a discount" is not a good filter, because it would have filtered out you. You even sound a bit smug like "hah they failed my test, how stupid of them to not give me a discount, now they lost me as a customer". Jonkee is just saying that that sounds like the customer you'd want to filter out, and HN seems to agree.


I never said I outsmarted them or that they where stupid. From the begining I stated that it was a cautionary tail, nothing more nothing less.


I never said that you outsmarted them (in fact I explicitly wrote "You even sound a bit smug"). See how you can read something that's not literally written? It seems that every single person in this thread has interpreted your comment completely differently from how you presumably intended it, but every single one of them has interpreted your comment in the same way as the others. Whether that's their fault or not, you might want to consider changing your writing to avoid this...


I never said that you outsmarted them

Right you did not, that was mentioned in another post you did however say that "how stupid of them to not give me a discount" so I carried over the outsmarted perception because they where similar. If it appeared that I put words in your mouth I apologize it was not my intent.

Whether that's their fault or not, you might want to consider changing your writing to avoid this

Point taken, I am well aware of the fact that I did not communicate the story well, that or I see the world different from other developer in either case. I think this thread chain serves as evidence to that fact. It is not in dispute.

Not that it amounts to a hill of beans, but it was already a long post, I trimmed it to shorten it, I think in doing so, I omitted some important details. Further I tried very hard to not inject the developers response, because I did not want to bias the intent of my post with charged rhetoric, I also omitted that I ended up paying full price to the alternate, which I think further slanted the perception that my decision was based merely on not getting my way for a non-standard request.


You appear to suffer from conformation bias.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confirmation_bias

Unfortunately, it's very hard to discover how much minor decisions like this cost you.


Confirmation bias would be if I said "all small software vendors have horrible sales support" and then "said see I told you so". I did neither, I merely said based on intuition and previous experiences, if a software vendor treats a small purchaser with respect then it is logical to conclude they will do so with a large one. The converse is not true. This in no way is indicative of confirmation bias. Some times you have to make decision based on comfort level and that has nothing to do with confirmation bias.

It cost me nothing, I went with a secondary vendor that I was comfortable with. They have been great, the client is in talks with them about an acquisition so that they can provide the full stack from one organization. I lost nothing by eliminating a vendor that I was not comfortable with, while I stood the chance to loose a good deal of reputation by doing so.


They have been great, the client is in talks with them about an acquisition so that they can provide the full stack from one organization.

http://despair.com/acquisition.html


Well, I hope it goes well for them, both organization are good people.


Did you try the same story with the other company?

Did you try to get bids from both company's?

Did you varify that they where in fact idential pieces of software?


Did you try the same story with the other company?

Yes, they did not give me the discount, but explained why they where unable to and pointed me to an evaluation version that was full featured but had a save limitation.

Did you try to get bids from both company's?

No

Did you varify that they where in fact idential pieces of software?

Both had the requisite functionality.


Ok, given the information in this thread I could assume that the other company reacted differently to your story. However, I have not verified that assumption so anything I base on that assumption shares that weakness.

Now, there are any number of reasons not to try and get bids from another company. So the next assumption that the other companies more positive response changed your actions is really based on two assumptions, there was a more positive response and the new assumption that it caused you to respond differently... and so it goes until I can build towers of logic from a series of assumptions.

Which finally gets back to my point. You don’t seem to be propagating uncertainty when you describe your thinking. Without comparing both company's responses to your bids we don't have any new information about your assumptions, thus confirmation bias.


Well, I was trying to not get into the details of the first company's response because I did not want to bias my posts one way or the other to other posters. But the response and I am paraphrasing was "I am a small shop, I work hard for my money and I am tired of people asking for hand outs, The pro version is for professionals and given that your daughter is not a professional she does not need the pro version" This is not the exact wording but close.

The second response was, paraphrased: While we understand the needs of educational software, we cannot offer educational discounts for non accredited educational use. The video codecs that we use require us to pay licensing fees for each seat sold unless that seat is used for accredited educational use. I am really sorry but please see our position, when developers salaries are added in we will eat the cost of those codecs if we sold the software at our educational price.


"To spell it out, a organization that treated a one off request for a discount due to non-conventional circumstances is a company that shows attention to detail, and a willingness to work with even the smallest purchaser to make them happy"

To spell it out even more slowly than other people have above, developers who do one-offs with discounts are developers whose companies go out of business. It's not profitable and not scaleable. It's not a lack of maturity, it's maturity.

If you are worried about your clients, then write a contract with vendors that specify an SLA for support requests. For enough money they should be happy to do this and it's a very reasonable request.


Why not simply tell the truth and ask for a discount on a large volume? Somebody gives a discount for somebody's daughter because he thinks it's nice thing to do, somebody gives a discount for large volume because he thinks that it's a good business decision. Hence, you might get your discount for your daughter, but not for the large volume.

Lying about it seems wrong and stupid.


I never said I lied and please don't call me stupid, there are other sites for less than civil discourse.


What else can you call it when you're buying a commercial site license and start the sales process trying to guilt someone into helping your daughter?


I never tried to guilt anyone into anything. I made a simple request and the intentions for that purchase was to do just what I stated. Please don't put words in my mouth or add your perceptions to my story I never guilted anyone into anything. My request was simple "I would like to buy your pro version at the basic rate for educational purposes". He was free to say yes or no.


Dude, you used a story about your daughter, etc, to try and get a discount on the license. The vendor said no. That's fine, and if he or she was rude as you mentioned above, that's worth taking into account -- there's no need for the vendor to say more than, "No thanks, we don't do discounts except for educational institutions, etc. Our basic version should fully support your needs."

However, two points: (1) it's perfectly reasonable for the vendor to think you're trying to scam him out of his or her higher priced, higher capability software; and (2), using this as a proxy of whether he or she will be flexible and helpful on a larger order is stupid. Because you entered the door as a cut rate single license purchaser, and used that as a proxy to evaluate the vendor providing bulk services.

I've sold highly priced consulting services, and people who want cheap shit get directed elsewhere because that's not what I do. If you need help for a couple hours and want a discount, the answer is of course not. If you want 100 hours and want a discount, the answer is of course. The vendor is in an obviously parallel position.

Edit: you in fact just said the vendor was dismissive. ie you got butthurt because he or she didn't want to give something valuable away for free for a one off. Who quite possibly was a scammer. And you appear to be pissy because someone else didn't want to subsidize your parenting. Sigh.


using this as a proxy of whether he or she will be flexible and helpful on a larger order is stupid. Because you entered the door as a cut rate single license purchaser, and used that as a proxy to evaluate the vendor providing bulk services.

http://www.snopes.com/music/artists/vanhalen.asp You can embed a lot of reason into a non-standard request. Some times it can serve as an indication as to attention to detail. We can argue the merits, but it has worked for me and it is not uncommon. The above link is probably the mother of all non-standard requests and it served a very specific purpose. I think there is value in it, as well there are several renowned, well respected and published negotiators who lend credibility to effectiveness of the practice.


I understand your goal is to get the best deal for your client but I think the way you test potential vendors may be a little removed to give you adequate information. Consider this company has a lot more information on the recommended path to properly learning their product. Through experience with other customers they may know ahead of time that the basic version is all that is really needed for a non-commercial user.


I think the way you test potential vendors may be a little removed to give you adequate information

In this instance it worked for me, as well I do have pretty extensive experience in negotiating. In one of my start-ups I negotiated our sale to hotels.com as well with another I negotiated our sale to TUI. So I think I do have some valuable insight into negotiations and selecting companies that have complementary cultures.

To each there own, my style of negotiation has served me well and until I learn a more effective strategy it's the best game face I have.




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