Shark Tank: Clever Vendor Trick No. 17

It's the 1980s, and this start-up company has just made a big sale of its pricey artificial-intelligence-based application to a bank. As tech pilot fish is leaving to install the $200,000 software, his boss tells him, "Try to distract them when you load the software off the two floppy disks." Turns out that's easy. "My sales partner always wore a short skirt, and the bank people we interacted with were all middle-aged bank executives," fish says. "They kept their eyes on her."

Pass It On

Sales manager gets a virus-infected e-mail on his laptop, and it's flagged by antivirus software. "But because he's so busy -- and doesn't want to take the time to get the virus problem resolved on his computer -- he forwards the message to his assistant and asks her to take care of it," sighs pilot fish. "Thus corrupting her computer as well as his."

Wrong Turn

This application is acting up, so pilot fish calls the vendor's tech support line. "After making all the right choices on the phone menu, I got through to an agent who painstakingly verified my contact information, took details of the problem and gave me a case number," fish says. "I was then told to wait to be transferred to the next available support engineer." He waits. And waits. Finally, he's connected and hears a new voice: "Welcome to AAA Auto Center. To make a reservation, press 1 ..."

Hey, It Looks Just Fine on Paper

Tech-phobic company president wants the CFO to display an earnings graph on the wall for a management luncheon. "I'll bring my laptop and projection unit," CFO says. But boss replies, "Don't bother with all that hardware. I'm sure that with all the money spent in IT, you have something that can handle this." Grumbles on-scene pilot fish, "We had Engineering use a plotter to print out the graph on blueprint-sized paper and taped it to the wall. The president was very pleased."


Boss complains at an all-hands meeting that his developers aren't being innovative enough. So when a new job opens up, this IT pilot fish submits the resume of a programmer who he knows is innovative. "I think the guy is qualified," hiring manager admits. "But I don't like to hire someone more knowledgeable than me. They keep making suggestions for doing things differently, and I just want someone who will do what I ask them to do." Says fish, "I always suspected some managers thought that way -- I just never met one who boldly admitted it."

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Copyright © 2004 IDG Communications, Inc.

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