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I think this is a very typical salesperson response yet companies that are successful have figured out a long time ago that having customers collaborate around their products is a good thing. Software companies have been doing it for years by sponsoring user groups and holding conferences where customers can come and learn from other customers. There are also many avenues for providing feedback about the product. Blogging would be a natural extension of that.

I agree, the weblog could represent a natural extension in this case -- however, their fear should be justified as long as the intelligence they provide is not protected by a minimum barrier.

Well, some people just have a bad product and they know it. No wonder they are scared to talk about it in the public, since they are more interested in short-term profit than in building a customer base and improving the product.

If you believe in your product, can take criticism and deal with it in a way that gains you respect, what is there to be scared of?
If you want to sit and deny there are problems and keep everyone on message then they'll just go somewhere else to complain that you might not be aware of. That is where bad feelings fester and you won't know a damn thing about it.

On the internet, customers will talk amongst themselves. You have two choices: facilitate the conversation and learn from it, or pretend it doesn't exist.

It's not really a hard choice, in my opinion.

Yes Alec, I think you are right. Being afraid of what the client thinks or wants looks dangerous to me. The blog or any type of public forum is not only a way to give control to the client and as you say learn from it, but in many cases it is also a good solution to calm down and ease an issue. "At least the boss of the company will see my post"... often the boss does (in midsized companies) & often the result is good for both.

I believe they think it will be more difficult for them to "control" their image. Sales people are pushing the "everything is fine" type of pitch (wether or not the product is great is another question not to be asked here).

There is a huge difference between PR and Sales (they do work well in combination though).

It reminds me of the way my dad used to handle schools regulations..He would never ask for permission to get us out of school at a certain time ("Would you please let Marie leave by 4pm etc..")instead he would always wrote "I will pick up Marie at 4pm".

If you ask people for permission,advice of any kind there is a great deal of chance that they will provide you with some feedback of their own..

Sales are all about products push, in PR it's all about the story and not so much about the product itself, but whatever could bring to talk about it in a positive way(or not sometimes: Lately a friend of mine has been confronted with a strong case of copyrights infrigement, he did not want to go public about it (even if he was the one holding the patent) cause he knew that it will give the other company a strong PR boost).

Blogs are huge marketing tool, but leave it to the PR & CRM teams.

Well maybe it's just my not so strong experience in management, but that's what I think.

I am the person working with the sales team Guillaume has mentioned. I have taken the initiative to launch a User Club Blog for our customers despite the disapproval of the sales team. And believe it, it's not easy !!! The products we have are good product; actually we are the leading company in our industry. No, this is something else...There is a real fear from the sales guys, about having customers talking to each others ! They have the feeling they will loose control. And if they loose control,they may loose deals! I strongly believe this could be a powerful tool, so I will go on with this initiative.

my best "sales people" are my customers saying great things to other prospects about our services. If I can get my customers talking to lots of other people, I win big time. Yes, there are times when someone will then tell my customer about how great someone else is or maybe even compare price but that's going to happen anyway.

This is the difference in traditional sales people and where the sales profession is evolving towards. The sales people you were most likely dealing with are of the traditional breed ... a dying breed ... and a large percentage of the overall sales population. This evolution will be good for us all.

Loading everything on the back of the sales people might be narrowing the perspective on the problem. My experience is that salespeople - i actually head sales in my company - are the best ambassadors of customers in their company and often are the first to want the features their customers want, reporting that back to product development team, etc. Hence, being able to point out customer talk in order to push their case internally is certainly an angle that would interest sales people. That's the "what's in it" for the sales people. Now, one problem is that such a blog might need more than the sales people involved. If i'm a sales person and get fire on a particular product/feature/situation and i'm not at all in charge of that part and cannot respond fast because of internal inertia, then my fear is justified.. I would say the harsh criticism or whatever feedback is avoided mainly if there's a feeling that "i can't act on it because it' s not under my control".

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