Rant: If you sell hardware, give away a Visio stencil!

I'm trying to architect a system for a government department, and we need a few computers. This particular unit is partial to Gateway systems, and I guess he's had some phone conversations with a Gateway rep who was quick to recommend virtualizing at least part of his environment (cool), so I'm happy to spec Gateway systems in this architecture.
As I write the technical specs for this system, I come to the production deployment diagrams, and I've got this diagram that shows all Dell equipment (we started there because we had Dell stencils). Now, it's not the end of the world to have Dell stencils standing in for Gateway equipment, but it dosn't look quite right (and that bugs me). Besides, I figured that Gateway would have an interest in getting pictures of their products plastered all over this spec instead of Dell, so I decided to spend a couple minutes hunting down a new stencil.

This is where it started to get fun.

I searched Google for "Gateway visio stencil", and I found links to Gateway, and a link that would let me buy Visio from Gateway, and even some Cisco stencils that had network gateway equipment, but nothing for a Visio stencil.

Fine, I thought. I'll just go to Gateway's site -- they must have something like this available via search, right. Wrong. But they've got this "chat" link here - maybe that's worth a shot....

So I tried chatting. IE7 launched the window with a little security burp, and then showed what appeared to be a Java applet. But it was grey. I let it sit for a while, and once it was quite apparent that it wasn't going to do anything on its own, I tried to move it. Wait -- what's that?? There's something there -- it just shows up only when I moved or resized the window. It turns out that it wasn't accepting keyboard input either, so that was going to put the hurt on my chat session.

Next browser. Opera. Recent release. I got as far as loading up the chat screen on this one, but it just sat there. No life at all.

Now, in the mean time, I get an email from a Gateway sales rep who noticed that I'd signed on to chat, and I hadn't had much to say. Good for him, and good for Gateway. He asks if I still need help. "Yes," I say, " I need a Visio stencil, because I'm trying to spec some of your servers for a gov't project."

"A gov't project? You're gonna need to call 'major accounts'".

This is where I gave up on Gateway. I've seen "major accounts" groups in action, and I didn't have that kind of time on my hands. So I'm going to use the Dell stencils.

Now, can anyone seriously believe that no Gateway stencils exist anywhere at Gateway? Really??

And if they exist, which I'm quite certain they do, why in the *hell* wouldn't Gateway want to make them easy to get to??

How does any of this make the slightest bit of sense??

If you sell anything through any sort of channel, you're a damned fool if you don't make it easier for your channel to sell your product instead of your competitor's. In this case, I'm acting as an informal channel because I've got a lot of influence over the buying decision. Now, I mentioned earlier that this client is partial to Gateway for some reason, and I'd seen no reason *not* to use Gateway, but if I told him I was more comfortable with another brand, he'd drop Gateway like a hot potato.

My customer is buying a solution, and he's going to buy some hardware to run it on, too. The hardware is the tail in this case -- not the dog. This isn't unusual in VAR situations, and any vendor that sells through any kind of channel needs to understand this.

Finally, I'm picking on hardware here, but this applies to software, too. If you can get your customers to use Infragistics-branded grids & GUI components when mocking up UI wireframes, isn't that better than generic components, or worse, a competitor's screens. How about Oracle? I've already shown you how to make a Visio stencil, so you know it's not rocket science. How cool would it be to have little "Oracle"-branded red database icons start popping up on spec docs?

Is it just me, or is this a stupid-easy way to get closer to your channel and help them sell your product for you?

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