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I work in tech in a decision making capacity on an Analytics team, and have just moved positions in the last couple of months.

In my former role, I inherited a team using a data analysis product, well known in our field, that seemed well suited to the needs of the organization from a reporting / analysis standpoint.

However, our experience with the product was not good, support was lacking, the product itself was expensive, and new features the product released seemed like they were taking the organization in a direction that would not make it any more useful for us.

The software would periodically ask for feedback on how we were using it, and whether we'd recommend it to peers. I took every opportunity to provide a low rating and some reasoning each time I was asked, but didn't specifically speak to our representative due to being busy with other tasks. The product still worked technically for our use case and it didn't seem worth creating an issue based on our frustrations with the product. There were bigger fish to fry.

Now, in my new role, a salesperson for the same product has found me on a networking site. They know my former role and that we were customers, and have reached out to ask me to set up a meeting with my new employer.

I am in a position to recommend new software and solutions in my new role, but obviously I'm not at all interested in recommending this product to my current employer. We already have a suite of data analysis tools, which, while not perfect either, are an improvement over the product on offer.

Now, here's my dilemma. I've been bugged in many roles by persistent salespeople who want to get a conversation started. I don't blame them, although I find it distracting and would prefer to avoid having multiple conversations to convince them I'm not interested. In this case, I can supply a laundry list of reasons why I was dissatisfied with their offering in my former role, and I feel like it would be quicker to just explain that my prior experience was not a good one, and that I would not under any circumstance recommend their product, rather than remaining vague and giving my usual answer (something along the lines of "we already have a satisfactory platform implemented", which doesn't sit well with salespeople who want to convince me their product is superior).

Is there any reason why I should avoid being honest and explaining that I'm a dissatisfied customer? I don't think it reflects poorly on my current or previous employer, and I'm not speaking for anyone who would like to consider new products in this area as it's ultimately my decision, but I paused on the send button and want to make sure I'm not about to make a mistake.

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Is there any reason why I should avoid being honest and explaining that I'm a dissatisfied customer?

Yes. It invites a back-and-forth discussion that takes too long.

You take a risk whenever you communicate with an outside party. Unless you are the owner of the company, it's safer to ask for permission to send feedback in the first place.

Assuming you asked for and received permission, which takes time, you now have to send a reply to the salesperson. Even if your comments are negative, the fact that you reply at all creates an opening for the salesperson. You are now a lead.

The salesperson will have an answer for every objection you have. The problems you saw were fixed in the latest version. They have fired all of those terrible customer service reps. They have hired a new team of software developers that know exactly what you need.

Salespeople are rarely interested in feedback -- they have one goal, which is to sell their product. It's their job to generate orders, even if the product has weaknesses (most do). It's not like if you tell them the product's problems they won't sell it anymore. The company has other teams devoted to user feedback. Don't try to serve as their quality control for free.

By providing feedback you are almost implicitly saying "If you fix all these problems I will buy your product." Which is probably not the case. By providing feedback you are also implicitly asking them to give you updates when the product changes.

Simply saying "no thank you" -- or not replying at all -- requires no explanation or further action, and lets you carry on doing your more important work. And it's not dishonest.

  • I agree with your overall assessment, not sure I specifically agree with your second point about requiring permission to communicate externally. businesses don't operate in a vacuum and it's part of my job to know the space and make decisions on what tools can help us deliver. I'd say that's implicit permission as stated in my question. – economy Apr 22 at 23:23
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    @economy yes I am speaking generally. You may already have permission/authority by nature of your position. – mcknz Apr 23 at 1:30
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    What I learned was that if a potential customer says "I won't buy the product unless you change A, B and C" what they actually mean is "I won't buy the product". Inexperienced sales people will then run to the developers and ask for A, B and C. – gnasher729 Apr 23 at 9:14
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    I think this is good advice. But if the OP really wants to relay their opinion to the vendor (to what end, I don't know), they could say that they were dissatisfied with the product and company previously, and as a result they do not trust the vendor at all and refuse to do business with them again-- that's tough to get around. Salespeople are often tenacious, but it's a simple email task to route future emails from that salesperson (or the vendor company) right to the trash. – Upper_Case-Stop Harming Monica Apr 23 at 15:12
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    I followed this advice, and did not receive a response in return. I'm sure they're able to pull all my previous low ratings, no explanation needed. Thanks! – economy Apr 23 at 15:58
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You can be completely honest without engaging with the salesperson beyond a "to the point" email. You're under no obligation to provide any explanation as to why you're not interested.

"We already have a satisfactory platform implemented. We're not interested in looking at anything else at this time or in having any further conversations. Thanks for reaching out to me."

Then simply delete any further email communication from this salesperson. If they call you simply let it go to voicemail and then delete the message.

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    I wouldn't delete the email. Salesperson can be too persistent and aggressive. Keep a trace of your answer, you can remind them of it, or escalate the issue if they keep pinging you. – charlax Apr 23 at 7:12
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    Agreed; no need to delete anything. That doesn't accomplish anything. – Lightness Races with Monica Apr 23 at 11:32
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Whether it's worth to talk with the salesperson depends on what you can gain with such a conversation.

You don't want to buy the product the sales representative wants to sell you and even if you would need another data analysis tool, you are sure you don't want this one. That leaves you with basically two main possible motivations: you either want to let off some steam about your bad experiences with the tool or you want to provide some constructive feedback.

Letting off steam brings you nowhere. So this would be a waste of your and your employers time.

If you want to provide some constructive feedback a salesperson might not be the right person to talk to, but on the other hand, depending on their internal structure, sales might regularily provide feedback to the product team about customer opinion.

If you are truly interested in improving the product with the hope it might be more viable later, you can contact the salesperson and make very clear that you are not interested in buying the product but that you would be willing to give some feedback about it. If he's still interested to meet (or to send some other person to take your feedback), you can have a meeting. If you have the impression that he agrees to meet just to use it to get a foot in the door, don't do it. If you're in doubt about his intentions, it's probably not worth your time either.

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