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QUALITY AWARDS III: NetApp sweeps NAS awards

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Sales-force competence
"On a pain scale of one to 10, it was seamless and flawless. It was pretty much a nine," says Steven Fishman, CIO at Corona, CA-based Ultrasonic Precisions Inc., when describing his experiences working with NetApp's sales team.

We ask users to tell us about their experience with their vendor's sales force because it's a predictor of the likelihood that a system will be appropriately matched with a need. Vendors who keep their customers' interests foremost and have knowledgeable teams are less likely to oversell a system. Indeed, there has been a high correlation between the results of this category and the award winners. "We felt that they were working in our best interests," says Fishman, "knowing full well, of course, that we would come back for more if and when we needed it."

The sales-force competence scores provided the narrowest range of any survey section from top to bottom. NetApp led the enterprise and midrange categories but, in both cases, the scores were NetApp's lowest section scores: a 6.50 among enterprise products and a 6.48 in the midrange class. Slightly more than half of NetApp's customers purchased through a value-added reseller, while the rest bought directly from the manufacturer.

This was the one section in which IBM didn't seriously challenge NetApp. Although IBM's sales-force competence scores weren't bad,

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they were IBM's worst of the survey. In the enterprise group, IBM placed fourth with a 5.93, its only sub-6.0 score in any section. Among midrange products, IBM did better with a 6.16, but still ranked last.

Sometimes familiarity breeds good sales partners. "We spoke with NetApp initially and then ended up going with IBM," says Steve Baucum, manager of Unix support at Methodist Healthcare in Memphis. They already had IBM server and storage gear installed, so it was a key consideration. "Everything else that was touching the SAN was IBM, so we decided to stick with one vendor," he notes.

Having a good ongoing relationship with a vendor can help swing a deal, but the incumbent vendor also has to deliver on price. "I decided on HP--to be honest--because they had a decent price and I was very sure of their service," says Graham Husk, network services administrator at Canada Science and Technology Museum (CSTM) Corp. in Ottawa. But it wasn't just a dollar-and-cents matter. "I've never had any problems dealing with their sales staff as far as their technical capabilities," adds Husk.

NetApp received its best section score for the statement "My sales support team is knowledgeable" (6.88). Its lowest score was for "My sales rep keeps my interests foremost" (6.12). HP, which placed second for sales-force competence in both categories, received its highest mark for "My sales rep is knowledgeable" (a 6.58 in the enterprise category).


This was first published in June 2008

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