Perception is equal to fact. When dealing with customers, facts
should not be allowed to get in the way of the client's preconceived
Computer mainframe salesmen learned early that it was easier to
cater to a client's illusions than to educate him in the realities
of the world.
There is no evidence that these tactics are still being used today.
Early Marketing Tactics
of mainframe companies
IBM didn't become the leading mainframe company because
they had better hardware or software. They did it because
they were better at marketing then the competition.
The sales reps were hyped and motivated every morning.
The local sales force would gather in a room for a business
meeting where they sang rah-rah songs and got pepped
up for the day's work.
There was no chance of mistaking an IBM salesman for
anything else. They had a common look accented by a
gray pinstripe suit, white shirt, and conservative tie.
It was the "IBM look" and had been carefully
researched to provide the wearer with a look that would
give the customer warm fuzzy feelings about the salesman's
knowledge and skill.
Honeywell did much the same thing, but didn't want
to look like IBM'ers. So, they substituted a light blue
shirt for the IBM white shirt.
The IBM salesman was very well supported by a cadre
of Customer Engineers that were well-versed in the ins
and outs of IBM products and software. If you purchased
IBM, they would not
let you fail. IBM experts would "hold your
hand" until your staff could handle things on its
own. Included in IBM support was all the free education
you wanted. They had training classes available for
everything from operating systems to programming languages
to programming techniques. All for free.
Your cheerful IBM salesman also made friends with your
boss, usually the President or CEO of your company.
If you decided not to buy IBM, your boss was made aware
of your incompetence with a strong suggestion that you
A client owned the model 20 of a Honeywell machine.
The work was starting to crowd the machine's capabilities.
When a particular new application stretched the computer's
memory capacity to the breaking point, management finally
decided it was time for an upgrade. Since they were
in the mood, they also decided to upgrade to a faster
model 30 at the same time.
When the Customer Engineer arrived, instead of a new
mainframe box, he carried in a couple of memory boards
which he installed in the existing box.
"I thought we were getting a new machine
with more memory," said a programmer.
"That was the memory upgrade," said the CE
as he puttered around the innards of the machine. He
finally pulled out a different circuit board. "And
that was the upgrade to a model 30."
He explained that the circuit board was there to generate
extra cycles which de-rated the machine to a slower
model 20. When he removed it, the machine became a more
expensive and faster model 30. He didn't say if there
was another board inside that prevented it from being
a model 40.
In the 70's computers were still fairly new and the
average businessman didn't know too much about them.
The language of computers was also fairly strange.
A Honeywell salesman took a friend who happened to
be a consultant with him on a sales call. The client
wanted to make sure that the salesman didn't take advantage
of him. Near the beginning of the meeting, he said importantly,
"I've studied up on this and I know we either have
to go real time or on line."
The consultant bit his tongue hard while the salesman
answered, "Well, sir, this is your lucky day. Not
only does this machine run in real time, but all the
peripherals are on line to the mainframe."
He made the sale.
Both the salesman and the consultant managed to hold
it until they made it out to the parking lot, whereupon
they both fell to the ground laughing hysterically.
Switch (or watch the wheels)
Some salesman had an interesting approach to selling
a client that didn't have enough budget for the computer
he really needed. They'd sell him a minimum machine
to get "in the door".
Several months later, the client would, predictably,
call up complaining that his new computer wasn't fast
enough or big enough to handle all the work.
The salesman would rush out to the customer's location
and after "investigating" would exclaim, "I
didn't realize your business would grow so fast. This
WhizBang I was fine before, but what you need now is
a WhizBang II. After making the sale, the Customer Engineers
would wheel out the old machine and wheel in a new computer.
A year later, the client would be on the phone once more
with the same complaint. Again, the salesman would exclaim
over how fast the client's business was growing and
inform him that he needed a WhizBang III with extra
memory and extra hard drives. In came the Customer Engineers and the
old machine was wheeled out and a new one was wheeled
When the salesman finally sold the customer the computer
he really needed all along, they'd take off the wheels.