Opening Cross: Not Every Debate Is Presidential, But You Should Treat It Like One

Max Bowie, editor, Inside Market Data

The race for the US Presidency has been kicked up a notch in the last two weeks with the first Presidential and Vice-Presidential debates, drawing hefty viewer numbers from a public keen to see the candidates face off and make their case, and equally keen to pass judgment and commit their vote to the candidate that looks most like a winner. But whereas this takes place only once every four years in US politics, it happens every day in the world of financial data, where vendors constantly spar and clash in the battle to win not votes from individuals but business from consumers of financial data.

So how can vendors sell an audience on new products and price rises as delivering long-term value at a time when the economy is the main factor in Presidential debates and almost every contract negotiation? First, any candidate needs a command of the facts, which in the data world can be accomplished through judicious use of monitoring tools to establish who uses what, how much they use it, and hence how much a firm cares about it and is willing to pay for it.

But it’s not enough just to know their facts. A candidate must know how to present them in an articulate and relevant manner, and be able to steadfastly defend them when challenged. If someone tells you that they don’t value your product, show them statistics for how much their staff depend on it—or if not, gracefully concede the point, or better yet, proactively bring it up to demonstrate your commitment to saving them money. A key point for vendors and consumers alike is to not see negotiations as “us-versus-them,” but to work across the aisle in a bipartisan manner. Because if you’re prepared to give a little, sometimes you get a lot more back in return.

And if you can’t play to cost concerns and give more for less, at least give more for the same. For example, Progress Software is making its Apama complex event processing platform easier to use and integrate, to save unnecessary development and integration costs for clients, ultimately making their choice of provider simpler. And where choice doesn’t exist, give users some competition, such as Morningstar’s bid to take on specialist energy data providers—which, for an industry that gets exposure in genuine presidential debates is still largely dominated by niche providers—by adding more niche content while offering a deployment model that reduces infrastructure.

Ultimately, any debate or negotiation isn’t about making cheap political shots, such as approaching the negotiating table waving a patent and demanding money for infringement; it’s about winning an audience—and not the kind that only thinks about politics (or contracts) when a politician’s (or vendor’s) term is about to expire, but the kind of audience that is actively engaged, has real skin in the game and will spot any discrepancy.

If someone tells you that they don’t value your product, show them statistics for how much their staff depend on it—or if not, gracefully concede the point, or better yet, proactively bring it up to demonstrate your commitment to saving them money.

Nor is it about being negative, which may win a debate, but not a campaign. Vendors and end-users alike cannot afford to bad-mouth someone to the extent of alienating them, because unless you’re prepared—and have the authority—to cut them out of your business and budget completely, then like any politician who has to return to Congress after a presidential slanging-match, you might need to sit down with them next week under different circumstances and eat some humble pie. In the data world, you might beat out another vendor for a deal this week, only to find that you have to work with them next week to win business at a firm where they are happily-entrenched as an incumbent supplier.

Once a candidate has met their burden and gained the respect of end-users, then the burden is on you, the people to whom any government representative or vendor alike ultimately report, to quite literally put your money where your mouth is, and give them a term in office—your office, that is. And if you’re sufficiently impressed by an underdog, consider becoming a supporter, pledging future funds, and even making calls to your peers to spread the word. Because that’s how we get the candidates we want and deserve.

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