I’m sure Tucci would have preferred another topic
I’m not going to talk about the strip clubs, showgirls painted with EMC’s initials – “Mr. Fredrickson [EMC spokesman] says the initials EMC were on the showgirls’ thighs, not their derrières” – or the whipped cream. If you want to revel in the seamy underbelly of EMC culture you’ll have to buy a Rupert Murdoch newspaper. StorageMojo has standards.

I’d give you a link but it is subscription only
EMC is being sued by several former sales reps who claim gender-based discrimination. The article and the suit give some interesting insights into how EMC works.

First and foremost it is about the money.

The Liberace effect
From the WSJ:

Its top salespeople are well paid. In 2004, the 370 people in the top third of its sales force earned about $330,000 a year, on average, according to documents in the Chicago case. Several of the best-paid ones are women, the company spokesman says.

But they work for their money:

Salesmen called their best customers daily, gave them small gifts and sent them expensive bottles of wine when they dined out with their wives. Sales reps were expected to spend evenings dining with clients and weekends golfing with them.

As I noted in an earlier post:

“One of the holy books of the Mammon-worshipping Church of the MBA is Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations. One of the things I like about Smith is his intellectual ju-jitsu on the issue of the essential amorality of markets.

“Sure, Smith says, the people buying and selling may be greedy shysters with no more social conscience than a fruit fly, but in aggregate, they provide a valuable service to society. Which explains why we have to put up with Donald Trump and Paris Hilton. Smith’s concept: the “invisible hand” of the marketplace, through more-efficient resource allocation and the benefits of comparative advantage, makes society wealthier, which is a Good Thing.

“Smith is, in the main, correct. Better investment decisions, more efficient markets and free trade are beneficial, even though some people get whacked pretty hard in the process. Yet “better than the alternatives” is not to be confused with “perfect”. The direct sales model for enterprise storage is a case in point.

So why won’t they sell me cheap storage?
“When I was a newly hatched sales rep way back when, I quickly figured out that a customer had to have a $50k budget to make a sales call worth my while. My annual sales quota worked out to $17,000 per day. 10% of my calls turned into sales, so each call had to offer at least $50k to be worth a trip.

Liberace, didn’t he work with Bernoulli?
Liberace was a popular, and very gay, American entertainer. He’d walk out for his Las Vegas shows in some outrageously over-the-top rhinestone studded costume and, as described by David Hickey in his book Air Guitar

. . . do a runway turn, and invite the audience to “Hey, look me over!” Then flinging his arms upward in a fountain gesture, like a demented Polish-Italian diva, he would shoot his hip, wink, and squeal, “I hope ya’ like! You paid for it!”

Which gets us to the cheap storage problem
“I hope you like all the salesmen who visit you because, like Liberace’s fans, you’re paying for them. Storage that is too cheap can’t be sold the way most enterprise equipment is sold because the margin dollars won’t support it.”

The StorageMojo take
Techies tend to both denigrate sales people and underestimate the power of a good sales force. When I joined Sun in 1995 they had a great sales force. If you gave them the tools they’d break down walls to sell the product.

EMC rarely has market leading products. Their reliance on checkbook innovation means they often have complex and barely integrated products. Which is why I find it odd that EMC’s sales force is only 13% female: you’d think that cutting out almost half the talent pool would hurt.

But the goal of a storage company is not data protection. Storage companies sell customer protection and the EMC sales force has traditionally made customers feel safe. Customers buy feelings, not products.

Update: a friend’s take
A friend of mine who once worked at EMC wrote in with her opinion. She’s a smart, tall, slim and athletic blonde with 15 years in IT sales and marketing.

The EMC news reminded me of the sales meeting where I was told to wear pants and lock myself in my hotel room after 10:00pm. I knew the sales guys well, and did as I was told. . . . [M]y best training for life was growing up with two brothers. If the woman complains a guy took away some of her accounts, did she try to steal some back, steal his best one away, or steal from another person? Did she try to get revenue booked under her name at the end of the quarter . . . ? In other words, did she fight back? It was never a secret that most of the sales guys in the era mentioned were BC thugs – if a person did not pick up on that during due diligence or interviews, then they were blind. If a guy pinches my butt, I pinch him back or give him a swift elbow in the ribs depending on the message I want to send.

. . . [I]f you want to swim with the sharks, you have to act like one.

[BC = Boston College, a local institution of higher learning]

No, she’s not going to pinch you on the butt
But you can dream.

EMC made the most of the 1990’s, but their culture wasn’t the critical success factor. The swashbuckling EMC narrative leaves out IBM’s role: EMC got lucky. They made the most of that luck, but all of their Israeli-tank-driver/BC jock aggression would have meant little if IBM had fielded competitive products (see “Daddy, tell me again how little EMC beat giant IBM . . ..

[Gee, did I write that 2.5 years ago? Whoa!] The still-unanswered question: can little EMC grow up?

Update II: See Joe Tucci’s response to the WSJ article here.

Comments welcome, of course.