Did I get your attention? (Fire your consultant!)

As I expected, since publishing my, “Business owners: Fire any consultant who tries to sell you Office 2003, especially Retail Box,” post, I have received several comments on the Blog as well as many offline emails, etc. regarding the post and the headline I chose to post it under. Why did I choose that headline? Simple. In past posts I have asked for input or feedback about one item or another, even including offering free prizes to the first 50 who respond, and given the number of readers there are of the Blog, the number of responses has been far from “participatory.” So this time I decided to light a fire under your collective … and see if that worked, and it did. :-)

I must say, the span of responses has been very interesting and many topics came up, so instead of just posting a ton of reply comments to the post, I am posting this for all to help clear up some of the misconceptions that came out:

First, make sure you actually read the post before responding to just the headline. Here are just a few examples of what I am referring to:

  • “Perhaps you don’t realize that some people don’t necessarily WANT Office 2007, or that your “compatibility pack” doesn’t actually work as marketed.  Or that not every older Access database converts cleanly to Office 2007.  Or that SMB business owners don’t have the time, money, or staffing necessary to retrain their employees in the new, less than intuitive interface.“

  • “how many issues with 2007 do you want? Interface sucks if you want to get anything done. I know all of my excel code runs over twice as slow, if it runs. Yes, we could make a lot of money selling and supporting vista and office 2007, but my reputation is worth more than that.”

If you read my full post, you would have seen that I am not telling anyone to install Office 2007 that doesn’t want to. In fact, I specifically called out using the Downgrade Rights included in Volume Licensing to install Office 2003 for your clients that want it. So my suggestion: sell them one license (at a lower price than Retail Box) that gives them flexibility to choose which version they want now and later. Your suggestion: sell them one license (at a higher price than Volume License) that gives them no flexibility to choose and requires them to spend more money to move to Office 2007 if they ever choose to. The irony here is, my suggestion costs LESS than the Office 2003 sale and actually provides LESS revenue to Microsoft than your suggestion of selling them Office 2003 today and then another license in the future if they decide to move up to Office 2007. Yet, and here’s more irony, the person who made the second comment above also included, “if you’re one of our clients, we are giving them the best option for their business.” Really? Charging them more for one option vs. less for two options is the “best option for their business?” Hmmmm…. You may want to also view my, “If I use downgrade rights, am I stuck at the older version?” post from earlier for more on Downgrade Rights.

Here’s another sample from some comments I received:

  • “And yet, you have the nerve to suggest that not following your little lock-em in and force an upgrade every 2-3 years scheme is cause for us to be fired?“

So who’s talking about any “lock-em in and force an upgrade every 2-3 years scheme?” You’re proposing selling a license of Office 2003 (that costs more) and locking them into that version and I’m suggesting selling a license of Office 2007 (that costs less) and giving them the option to use whichever one they feel is best for their company. Where’s the “lock-in” or “forced upgrade” anywhere in there? If you are in some way trying to elude to Software Assurance, when did I ever mention that? I’m talking about a License only, just like you are. Volume Licensing does not automatically mean Software Assurance. Read my, “Is Software Assurance an optional item or something automatically included in the licenses themselves?” post for more on that topic.

I also enjoy when I get these types of comments too:

  • “Are you really so separated from how we serve our customers as to think that our primary value (to the customer – we certainly understand it is all you care about) is funneling them into the “proper” licensing scheme? “

  • “Now, here is the critical part – you are just one vendor out of the hundreds that I deal with. I know it is shocking, but it is true. Now, before you start counting all the software manufacturers I might use, please remember that like most consultants I am dealing with hardware and cable and sub-contractors and etc…”

  • “Wow, I’m just amazed at the complexity of Microsoft’s licensing. It takes a Microsoft US Senior Manager from the Small Business Community Engagement division to explain it.”

Why is it that everyone thinks Microsoft people have always been “Microsoft people?” Yes, I do know how you serve customers and I do understand how it is to carry multiple lines, etc. etc. How? Simple. I came from the channel and started my reseller company with 2 PCs in a basement and a phone. I started out as a licensing-only dealer then grew the company into hardware, software, networking, custom-built systems, and training with sales in over 25 countries and over 106,000 product SKUs in our catalog prior to coming to Microsoft. So, yes, I think I might have some idea of what it’s like to try to explain licensing to a client or juggle multiple product lines or do customer proposals or deal with sub-contractors, etc. because I used to be one of you and was your direct competition. Guess what… I used to explain the licensing to my clients back then (not just Microsoft licensing) and that was one way we gained and secured our customers. For those of you who attended my, “Building an Open License Business Session Monday at SMB Nation,” I shared with you how I did this and how you can too. So it has nothing to my current role or even the fact I work at Microsoft that I understand it. I learned it on my own for my benefit and that of my clients. For those of you who attended my session, if you come across any of these clients who were sold Retail Box Office 2003, use those two questions I gave you during the session and you may have yourself a new client.

Here was another good one:

  • “what percentage of MS employees could explain licensing across product lines. I’d love an answer. Do you disagree that perhaps 10% could explain even Office licensing? “

Of the almost 80,000 Microsoft employees we have, how many of them do you think Office licensing (or any product licensing) is part of their job? Of the ones that it is, the percentage is pretty high. Of the ones that it is not, it is probably pretty low. Granted, you will find the “new guys” on some of the 800#s when you call and that’s why I always recommend that you have them send you an email with a link to where they got their answer from so you can verify it instead of just accepting the, “I think the answer is…” reply. For any of you that recommend software to your clients, understanding licensing (Microsoft or not) IS part of your job. As such, yes, having a basic understanding of what you are recommending should be expected. How can you recommend or even claim you are recommending the “best” solution if you don’t even understand the options you are recommending?

Ok, this post is long enough, so I’ll wrap up. Thank you for your responses and input and please, keep them coming if you have others. I’ll leave you with this, if you are recommending Retail Box software for your business clients, you are offering them a disservice and if you are acquiring your Retail Box product off a website, you may very well be providing them with counterfeit or illegal software as well. You really should look to Volume Licensing for them as a benefit to them and an advantage for you. Again, I have posted the short video explaining the “basics” between the options for you to view.

Thank you and have a wonderful day,

Eric Ligman
Microsoft US Senior Manager
Small Business Community Engagement
This posting is provided “AS IS” with no warranties, and confers no rights

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Comments (16)

  1. JCLSB says:

    Outstanding!   While I do not know everything about licensing, before I provide a solution for a customer, I research the best options available because that is my job.  I do not recall ever recommending retail box to a business customer, to me that would be telling the customer that they do not need me.  To keep a customer, you have to keep the customer happy, to keep the customer happy, you have to provide a lot and save them money.  I find your posts about licensing very informative, and I save them and review them when it comes time to serve my customers.  I do find it odd that so many people post so many questions about licensing; it’s almost as if they are too lazy to do the research themselves.  Thank You Eric for all your advice.

  2. I gotta say that even though I’m not always a fan of MS, Eric hit the nail on the head with this rant.

    I know because I just took the time to LEARN about MS licensing and I discovered exactly what he said. Selling a SMB a 5 user license for Office 2007 – plus the install CD for Office 2003 – is the right way to go for now and the future.

    Anyone who didn’t get it, just doesn’t get it.

  3. Anne Stanton says:

    One of the reasons busy consultants don’t respond is because Microsoft sends out so many requests and yet rarely do they circle back with a thank you or a "your input helped do this" type e-mail. Relationship is all about two way interactive interaction. I am not sure that ticking off partners to get reaction is necessarily the best approach to get people to listen.

  4. Andy says:

    Thanks for the 2 good posts. I must admit I had not thought about the use of the cheap software to get the licenses up to 5, but most of my clients are already on the value scheme so I’ve not had to use this “hack”

    Out of curiosity I would like to know if it would be possible for you to post a way of obtaining 1 license key for Microsoft office (for example) that works across multiple purchases OR if this is already possible a link to the official documentation I can send to Microsoft partner support, Dell or Ingram Micro so they can actually sell it.  For example I purchase 5 copies of office now and get a volume license key. I then purchase another 5 copies in 1 months time. Currently I am getting another license key. This is a nightmare to keep track of and makes a network installation point of office impossible to use as the volume license key is hard coded in. Surely it is possible to order another 5 licenses under the original order/agreement number and get it increased to 10?  I’ve queried this with Microsoft Partner support, Dell licensing and Ingram licensing. Dell and Microsoft said this isn’t possible, Ingram consultant said it was when I attended a licensing bootcamp (well worth attending) but the sales person on the phone couldn’t do it when I wanted to place the order.