When Experience Becomes a Liability

I had a great conversation with a member yesterday that really made me step back and think. He shared a story about a new generation IT buyer in his late twenties that was in their first job as an influential decision-maker on a unified communications project. Following a long presentation and many rounds of proposal modifications and alternative pricing, our member lost this fairly large project.

A year later my friend was brought in by the same end-user on another project and he became reacquainted with the young IT buyer. The slightly older buyer revealed that he now realizes that he made a purchasing mistake by not selecting his company for the last project. The lower cost alternative done by a non-traditional competitor didn’t work out well at all and top management refused to even use the system. Our member inquired further about the prior purchasing decision and why they chose the other firm.

Well, to his dismay he found out that the young tech-savvy IT buyer had no intention of ever giving serious consideration to his proposal from the moment he saw my friend. His reason was age. Yes our member, in their mid50’s with 25+ years of experience in this industry, was considered by this young man to not possibly be in touch with the cutting edge technology that his generation embraces.

The young buyer added that in the IT world it would be pretty hard to take anyone over 40 seriously when making a decision on an integrated IT solution involving cloud-based technology, I-pad interfaces and mobility as the backbone of the system. The kid basically told him that he would never think to buy any technology from someone with gray hair wearing a suit and describing the company being around for over 30 years. He saw that maturity as a negative. Think about this for minute – as I did. What does that tell us about our presentation methods, our approach, and methods that we’ve trusted for years?

He did suggest that had our member brought with him the sales support engineer who actually designed the system and had him do the demonstration and presentation the proposal would have been given more consideration. I guess this is a lesson learned and sort of a reverse message of false first impressions for all of us. It’s pretty much the same thing when those of us in our mid 50’s have a twenty year old show up to service or install something. We think that they can’t possibly know what they are doing either.

Oh, my friend ended up with the next project and also updating the system that he lost the year prior. This story again reminds us of the many business transformation issues that are on the horizon. CW


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