New Year's Resolution #1: Don’t Indulge “Smoking Something” Statements

Earlier in my career, I once did a double take at a manager who exclaimed that a colleague "must be smoking something" based on some outlandishly bad comment they made in a meeting. Now there are obviously varying degrees of "bad." But a rhetorical point that is inanely stupid, especially coming from a position that shows a complete lack of market/customer understanding or is just plain misinformed, is a waste of everyone's time. It's a waste of air. And the utterer is either stupid or smoking something. Because I tend to believe the glass is half-full in most circumstances, I like to think it's the latter.

In the technology and research worlds, analysts come across stupid commentary and claims all the time. Most aren't deep enough in their material or are simply too polite to refute such claims to the person issuing them. One common example is a provider claiming to be "best of breed" across the board when in fact most of their revenue and market eminence can be attributed to a small minority of their products. We recently were told in so many words that "we were wrong" by a vendor marketing executive when we singled out a class of providers (that will go unnamed) in a report for not "being best of breed." How could we make such an assertion, the provider claimed, based on their overall market share and expansion activities? They were clearly "best of breed" and we should know it!

Yeah right. The person who challenged us on this was either stupid (she/he is not, mind you – we know them) or just plain smoking something based on the product they were trying to defend. Tearing apart their solution in the area in question in terms of customer usage, feature/function or just about any other level, it's painfully clear to any informed and unbiased observer how not best of breed they are. I can't even believe that anyone drinking the software provider Kool-Aid for too long cold make such a claim, even if they are paid to do so. Sugar highs don't mess with the brain cells that much. Or they shouldn't.

In other words, we reserve the statement "they must be smoking something" for someone who truly deserves it. And in 2013, I personally resolve to be on the lookout for just such claims by providers and to be more aggressive in calling out dogs that won't hunt when their owners claim otherwise (it's one thing to be honest – it's another to try and pull a fast one over others with a toy poodle masquerading as a pit bull).

My challenge here goes for whether someone is briefing us directly or making claims elsewhere (for example, with other research and analyst houses that reprint statements verbatim without doing enough homework first). After all, even though certain substances may now be legal in certain US states, it doesn't mean they're not harmful to brain cells. And when software vendor marketing and product management leaders go out on a limb to argue something that is abjectly wrong or misleading, someone needs to call them on it.

So join me – and the broader Spend Matters team – in holding folks accountable for making statements that do nothing but further the stereotype that software and used cars are sold the same way, as they too often are.

- Jason Busch

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