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Beware the software sting

All of 125 organisations interviewed in a recent survey by analyst firm Ovum had fallen foul of pushy sales techniques over the last year, and many had been persuaded to spend more than they wanted and faster.

"Many software companies claim they have become customer-centric and that they have left the world of questionable sales tactics behind them. However, these often return when vendors are under sales pressure," contends David Mitchell, Ovum's software practice leader.

The report identifies two key stings: the 'puppy dog' approach and 'gunmetal in the mouth'.

The puppy dog tactic exploits basic human nature. Vendors will offer customers free software for a trial period before they start charging. By this time, the customer will have built up a strong bond with the company and be reluctant to back out.

It's a tactic pet retailers have used for years to sell puppies. IT directors can avoid problems by agreeing purchasing costs before the trial begins and by setting up metrics to properly evaluate the trial.

With the gunmetal in the mouth tactic, the vendor will patiently wait for an organisation to become dependent on its software before hiking up its prices.

To avoid this risk, you should always have a commercial alternative to mission critical software. You could also sift through the contract for any ambiguities in the key terms and call the supplier's bluff.

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