Fast forward and it is roughly two weeks before the end of the month. I was sitting at my desk and I saw a call come across my cell phone - I recognized the number as our EMC sales rep.  “Well this is odd” I thought to myself. “Since we signed the sales contract, I’m usually the one calling him.” I answered the call and we exchanged brief pleasantries.

“Well I’ve got some good news and I’ve got some bad news” explained the sales rep. “Which one do you want to hear first?” Since I always like leaving things on an up note, I opted for the bad news first.

“The bad news is that with the market success of our new Symmetrix 8000 platform, all of our production facilities have been focused on producing as many of those as we possibly can. So we won’t be able to ship your Symmetrix 3000 platform by the end of the month like we originally thought.”

I could already visualize the angry tantrum my client was going to throw. I then played out in my mind the best body positioning to take in order to minimize the odds of being struck by whatever handy object he was going to fling in my general direction.

“OK... what’s the good news?”

“Well I talked to my regional sales manager and I told him your situation and he agreed to give you guys one of our new 8000s for the same price we were going to charge you for the 3000! So it’s a win-win for everyone - you get the new 8000 platform and we get to ship the product before the end of the month. We just need your client to sign an updated purchase order so we can schedule the shipment.”

I left a long pause hang in the air.  

“Hello?”

“Well, my client doesn't really like it when unexpected things happen,” I replied plainly. “He likes things going according to plan and this is way out of plan. I don’t know how he is going to take this - let me run it past him and get back to you.”

I then hung up the phone as I heard his pleading to keep talking. I immediately went into my client tech lead’s office (where my manager was also sitting).

“Well I just got off the phone with our EMC sales rep and I’ve got some good news and I’ve got some bad news,” I noted.

“What’s the bad news?” my client asked with a rising volume in his voice.

“The bad news is that EMC will not be able to ship our 3000 series storage array by the end of this month as they originally promised.”

I could see my client strangling the stress ball in front of him to the point of bursting. I started to angle my body to give him less of a target in case he decided to throw it at me.

“So let me guess,” he responded with dripping sarcasm. “The good news is that they are going to give us a similar 8000 series array for the same price and ship it by the end of the month!”

I paused with a slight quizzical look on my face. “Actually yes.  Did our sales rep already call you?”

And with that, my client loosened his grip on his stress ball and simply said, “Oh. Well that is good news.”

Then I shared the details of my plan. “You know I still don’t like the way they handled the whole 3000 vs. 8000 scenario. They should have been more upfront with us that they were planning on releasing the 8000 line. It’s two weeks before the end of the month and they need to ship this storage array in order to count it against this quarter’s revenue. I think I can get more concessions out of them.”

“I like the way Ed thinks,” my client remarked as he turned to my manager. “You should really give him a raise.”

I then instructed my client to not field any calls or emails from our EMC sales rep and if the EMC sales rep was able to get a hold of him to just tell the sales rep that he was confused about what to do next and to contact me.

I proceeded to spend the next week dodging the EMC sales rep as much as possible to heighten the fear in him that we might actually not take shipment of the 8000 storage array before the end of the month. And he called me constantly - several times a day.  About every fourth call I would answer my phone, but I was always “running to a critical all-day meeting” or “heading to the airport” or something else with a half-hearted promise that I would call him back (which I never did).

Then I got the voicemail that I was waiting on. The sales rep just left a short terse message - “OK, I talked to my regional sales manager and we have a package of incentives that we are willing to include if your client will sign the new purchase order. But you have to call me back before close of business today.”

The package of incentives included upgrading all of the hard drives to the next generation (faster and about 25% higher capacity) and extending the maintenance service contract by 2 additional years (1 year was standard).  This actually was still a good deal for both sides - this wound up saving the client about $200K and the incentive package that EMC was offering didn’t really cost them anything (the cost differential on the drives was negligible and the maintenance service contract is a high margin product). My client happily agreed to this incentive package and our project schedule was back on track.

Now some might view this as being somewhat cruel to let the EMC sales rep twist in the wind like this, but this is where I will point out that business is business, it wasn’t personal and our EMC sales rep actually learned a couple of good lessons: 1) don’t divulge more information than is necessary and 2) don’t screw with that guy