If you’re like most folks, getting a call or an email from a salesperson isn’t the highlight of your day. But, it’s an even more painful experience when the salesperson who calls you has no idea what you’re interested in, but should have. Enter Vignette. A sales rep from the content management software company contacted me within 24 hours after I visited the company web site. She left a phone message saying that she knew I had registered as a new member at their web site, but had no clue why I had stopped by for a visit.

When I registered as a new member at Vignette, I was asked to provide a login id, a password, contact information and to choose from one of three options: 1) I’m looking for information on Vignette products and services; 2) I’m evaluating a Vignette product for potential purchase; or 3) I’m a Vignette customer, partner, or consultant.

Knowing that I had provided Vignette with information about my specific needs when I registered (it’s a required field), I decided not to call the sales rep back. A few days later I received this email message from her.

Hello!  I have tried to reach you several times. You recently visited the Vignette website and requested some information. I have been trying to follow up with you to see if you are considering implementing a new solution and to speak with you about how I can help you with that process. I would appreciate a call/e-mail back ASAP.

I decided that I’d email her back.

Thanks for the email. Can you refresh my memory … ? What information did I request? If you can send me some details, maybe you could spark my brain into action. Sorry, swamped with work today and just can’t recall exactly what I was after. I’m sure you’ve got a copy of my request for information at your end, don’t you?

She replied …

Actually I don’t have a copy of that.  What happens is that when you try to download info on the site, they require that you register. That registration info comes to me which is how I got your name.  I am not sure what exactly you had looked at or downloaded, but our solutions are portals and content management.  Were you planning on implementing either of those?

Uh-huh. So, Vignette asks potential customers for information about their needs. Then they pass only contact information on to their sales reps, who then, in turn, end up blind calling someone who may or may not be a prospective client at all. Then, when the sales rep contacts the potential sales lead, they have no idea why they’re calling. There’s something wrong with this picture! No wonder Vignette is having a tough time competing in the marketplace.

What makes this situation particularly embarrassing for Vignette is not that the company has a bad business process in place. Who doesn’t? It’s not that they’re wasting money—they are—shareholder money, blindly chasing what may or may not be a sales lead. The most embarrassing aspect of this situaiton is that Vignette promotes itself as a Customer Realtionship Management solutions provider and yet has no idea how to manage their own customer data. And, they do a poor job of managing relationships with potential customers.

My advice to Vignette … if you collect customer data, use it! Invest in providing your sales staff with the most meaningful data to help qualify leads in advance. You might just develop a few more customer relationships.