By Rob Mason on March 1, 2012
While I was at Gold’s gym the other day (hey, what can I say? Its cheap, close and I work for a startup) I was struck by some amusing similarities between Gold’s and Nasuni. Many people have seen the ads from competing fitness centers making fun of the “I pick things up, and I put them down” stereotype that seems permanently attached to Gold’s and there’s certainly plenty of that happening at the gym. Regardless of what their competitors have to say, there’s a lot to picking things up and putting them down again as its one of the basic movements that we humans have to do on a daily basis.
Storage is a lot like that. There’s a big fundamental movement that far too many people take for granted, so go ahead and make fun of us but “We take your data, and we give it back” is a fine stereotype for us. Yes, we work all sorts of magic in making data available anywhere (Moscow? Berlin? Shanghai? Lagos? Yup, we’re there and in hundreds of other locations moving and protecting customer’s data), but fundamental to who we are is that we’re an enterprise storage company. That means data integrity and availability are paramount. While we continue to introduce tons of cool functionality, we are determined not to lose sight of the importance of our customer’s data. We’ll take your data but we’ll give it back, guaranteed.
The other event that struck me was a sad sales pitch from one gym member to another on the benefits of his (illegal) steroids that he was peddling. Rather than lead with the questionable benefits of the drug, his pitch was all based on how bad the competing products were, that it was “actually” legal in other countries, etc. Other than the obvious legal issues, he needs work on his sales technique.
The best sales approach is to get to know your customer. What do they need? What are their problems? Will your product solve their pain? If so, describe your product and how it will help them and offer to partner with them to make their lives better. If they ask about competing products then answer them professionally and honestly and get back to their needs and helping them if there’s a match.
In the storage market, there are a lot of bad sales approaches going on. Rather than helping customers with their problems too many companies are spending valuable customer time confusing them with all the competing products and why they’re a terrible fit and filling the customer’s head with fear, uncertainty and doubt. Your product and approach should be able to stand on its own merits.
As an industry we’d do better to focus squarely on what the customer needs and then to be grown up and honest enough to let them know if we’re not the right fit for them. Focus on the benefits of your product and the pain it solves. This approach works across industries and products (but keep it legal of course).
Rob Mason has more than 20 years of operational, management and software development experience, all of it in storage. A meticulous builder and obsessive tester, with an eye for talented engineers, Rob produces rock-solid software, and, through his own example of hard work and ingenuity, inspires his teams to outdo themselves. His determination for thoroughness extends to financial and operational matters, and at Nasuni, he is a powerhouse behind the scenes, managing the company’s operations, in addition to its engineering team. As the VP of Engineering at Archivas from 2004 to acquisition, Rob oversaw all development and quality assurance. After the Hitachi acquisition, he continued in his role, as VP of HCAP Engineering, managing the integration of his team with Hitachi’s and supporting the rollout of HCAP. Before joining Archivas, he was a senior manager at storage giant EMC, where he was responsible for the API, support applications and partner development for EMC’s content-addressed storage product, Centera. In a previous stint at EMC, he was Manager and Principal Design Engineer for the elite Symmetrix Group, where he improved the speed and reliability of EMC’s flagship enterprise storage disk array. Between Centera and Symmetrix, Rob was the co-founder and VP of engineering at I/O Integrity, a storage-based startup developing a high-performance caching appliance. He has a bachelor of science from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and a master’s in business administration with honors from Rutgers University. Rob holds upwards of 30 patents.