Tuesday, September 1, 2009

I lost a Lotus Foundations sale yesterday :(

A few weeks ago I cold-called into an opportunity where the client was looking to throw out their Notes R6.5 mail system in favor of MS Exchange. I rapidly pitched Lotus Foundations against MS Exchange but lost the deal mainly because the customer was only using Notes for mail and Exchange was seen as an adequate substitute. There was also the issue that their regular trusted IT provider was pitching Exchange while I was the new boy on the block.

So what did I learn from this?
  • Lotus Foundations needs more airtime. The client hadn't heard of it and was wary about moving their key SMB architecture to an unknown OS.
  • Lotus Notes is still perceived as "just email" in some companies. In this case MS Exchange was seen as an equal competitor to Lotus Notes/Domino and talking about the free application databases available at OpenNTF just didn't push this clients "tell me more" button.
  • SMB relies heavily on their key IT supplier and if you're already selling hardware and network services into a company then you have pole position for helping them pick an 'email solution'. OK, that observation isn't rocket science, but while multiple IT suppliers are acceptable for larger companies, the average SMB might accept higher prices and an inferior product as a fair trade for maintaining a single 'go-to' guy for all of their IT problems.
This brings me back to my previous post about the role of the IT consulting company. Would I be a better IT provider to this client by offering them the MS Exchange option? My guess is that I'd probably still have lost this sale to the incumbent IT provider but, more importantly, could I have honestly recommended MS Exchange over Lotus Notes/Domino and still consider myself as a Partner to IBM/Lotus?

I don't think so.

BTW I agree that it makes business sense for an IT provider to embed themselves into a client and become an integral part of that client's decision making process. There is obviously a better opportunity to professionally guide the client to choose your IT services over those of your competitor, and I don't have a problem with that scenario because I make no pretense of representing my competitor for professional services in that customer. However I don't see how an IT Provider can claim to represent IBM/Lotus if they don't seek out every opportunity to sell IBM/Lotus products ESPECIALLY when the customer will be equally well served by Lotus Domino or MS Exchange.


Ian Randall said...

The key phrase here is "regular trusted IT provider". It will always be an uphill battle to beat an incumbent vendor simply because people buy from people.

They had the history and you were just the new guy trying to sell them something.

But, I agree that Lotus needs to provide a better incentive for existing users to trade up to Foundations, particularly if they are an SMB. (i.e. recognise their existing investment in Notes in the price)

Lotus also needs to commission some studies to highlight the real costs for someone migrating from Notes to Exchange, these should apply equally for large organisations or SMB's. Also this study should highlight the ongoing total cost of ownership differences and perhaps some additional incentives for training.

However, if an organisation is only using Notes for email, then the switching costs are going to be much lower.

Additionally, I agree that Lotus needs to do much more to raise awareness of Foundations in the SMB end of the market. But even larger organisations would benefit from more awareness of Foundations, particularly if they have a large branch network, or dealers and indirect channels.

Gavin Bollard said...

For an email/calendar only solution, I have no hesitation in recommending Google over Notes anytime.

Sorry IBM but Notes is just too clunky for small jobs.

I'd only recommend Exchange if I really hated someone and wanted them to get a virus. :-P

The Notes/Domino strength is in the integration of the databases and mail (and all of the other features which tie into it).

To own the product and not use it for that is like buying a computer to print out a post-it note.

enzo stanzione said...

Here in Italy, we are making effort to bring Lotus Foundations, although we noticed that the mail system, Lotus Domino, can also go well in comparison to MS Exchange.
However, our prospective clients are sensitive to the services that go beyond email, and especially appreciate the functionality of the backup, FTP, and automatic update system.

Eric Mack said...

Graham, you may want to reach out to one of your Foundations reseller colleagues, David Lawrence. he uses eProductivity to create the added value for his Foundations customers and win sales and save deals.

Lots of things happening with eProductivity with respect to 8.51 and web as well as mobile devices...