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Perception is equal to fact. When dealing with customers, facts should not be allowed to get in the way of the client's preconceived notions.

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 Wins through Marketing

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 be replaced.

 

Extra Parts

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.

The On-line Caper

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.

 

Bait and 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 in.

When the salesman finally sold the customer the computer he really needed all along, they'd take off the wheels.

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