A Software Salesperson Being Honest


Think Like the CEO of a Brand Called You « Personal Branding Blog – Dan Schawbel

The much-maligned software salespeople telling the truth? It was bound to happen. Mark Kuta, a former software salesperson, is peddling a book. In an online interview about the book:

Describe one of your case studies you used in the book.

The beginning of the book describes a case where I felt like that guy in “Catch Me If You Can,” you know, the guy that pretends to be a doctor, or an airline pilot, etc. I was pretending to be a lean manufacturing consultant when I was actually a software salesperson. While not understanding anything about brake presses, kanban's or TAKT time, I used the methods I outlined to close the deal with a bunch of Ivy League MBA's.

Wow, as a “not pretend” lean manufacturing consultant, that paragraph REALLY rubs me the wrong way. OK, I shouldn't disparage all technology salespeople. But here you have a guy sort of admitting he was pulling a fast one on his customers (“C-level” executives who bought $94 million worth of software from him). Does this speak more poorly about the salesman or the buyer?

Pulling a fast one on fancy MBA's…. way to go. I'm sure the MBA's might not have known anything about kanban or takt time either (so shame on them). If they believe the “siren song,” then shame on the buyer, but you'd think sellers have some obligation to be ethical as well.

The phrase “caveat emptor” (buyer beware) is popular for a reason. If someone is selling you software, automation, or any technology that is positioned as a “silver bullet,” don't believe it. There are no easy answers in life. Don't expect Lean to be an easy answer either. Toyota's success comes from dedication to the boring stuff — developing great processes and developing people. Toyota's not successful because they have better technology. I worked at a GM plant that had the SAME technology as a Toyota plant, yet productivity was HALF of Toyota's — because we hadn't yet shifted to a Lean management system.

Kuta's book, aimed at salespeople those building their “personal brands” (I hope he gives credit to Tom Peters in his book), says you should “think like a CEO.” Does that include being tricked by technology salespeople into paying “more than list price,” as his website points out. How dumb do you have to be to pay MORE than the listed software prices. Yes, that is unheard of. Until now.

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Mark Graban
Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker, and podcaster with experience in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. Mark's new book is The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation. He is also the author of Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More, the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, and the anthology Practicing Lean. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.


  1. “Does this speak more poorly about the salesman or the buyer?”…well, it speaks very poorly for the buyers, if these executives indeed made the software decisions without properly involving their own manufacturing people and other functional experts. And if they *had* involved their own experts, I’d think that any lack of real knowledge on the part of the salesman would have become quickly apparent.

    Also, software companies usually have overlay sales support organizations, such that if the prospect is looking for, say, a shop scheduling system for the aerospace industry, the salesman can bring along a shop scheduling expert and/or an aerospace expert. I wonder if this structure existed at Kuta’s company.

  2. There are a lot of BS artists at work in the lean and continuous improvement fields these days. I’ve met some of them recently. This software salesman is definitely part of a larger group that seems to be expanding, much to the detriment of lean enterprise evolution and those of us “in the trenches” trying to do this for real.

  3. I agree with David, they buyers should have had a very good idea of the of what his/her functional requirements and results he/she was looking for from the software before they even entertained a salesperson to show their wares. Unfortunately, many businesses big and small do not work that way and that is why they invest huge dollars in software that they never use effectly or even worse do not use it at all.

    Reminds me of a hospital client of mine that paid for a Radiology Imaging Software System that would burn the xray, CT Scans and MRI’s to a disk for their doctors. This was as opposed to printing copies and sending them off to the docs via snail mail. The system cost $60,000 in capital budget dollars and it never got used. The system worked fine but they did not examine the whole work stream for this great product that did what was billed and found out it was too complex for the doctors offices computers and workstations to handle.

    They never did a test to see if the doctors could read the disks at their computers in their offices. Was not the sales rep’s fault it was the buyer of the software system.

    But then again, there is probably some great software that has been created but due to poor salesmanship and marketing the end customer never got to realize the great value it would bring. Every product needs to be sold and sold professionally with integrity.

  4. Hello ,

    I am a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt in an FMCG manufacturer in Australia.

    What concerns me more than anything is the damage ‘pretend” practitioners can create in a very fast developing market for the LSS industry.

    Several companies are investing thousands of dollars to hire so called ‘experts” who leave a trail of havoc and little or no results or deliver any benefits which gives our industry a bad name.

    I for one would be first to sign up for a professional body that would oversea practitioners in the industry in much the same way as accountants have CPAs to weed out the pretenders and wannabees.

  5. Hi…The “Catch Me If you Can” guy here…First off, thanks for the compliment. I AM an honest salesguy. My book outlines a way to get your deal done by thinking like a CEO, and through the course of my career I DID learn a lot about lean. While I am not a “techie” by any means, I can hold my own for 15 rounds when it comes to, well, OK, maybe not “lean,” but FLOW MANUFACTURING. Anyway, there are many more stories in the book about lean and manufacturing, including how you have to let your clients know that implementing Flow Manufacturing can actually lower their Gross Profts if you aren’t careful!

    Thank you again, and if you would like to see the book, drop me a line at my website!

    — Mark

  6. Wow, that guy doesn’t realize he’s being ripped on this blog and in the comments. Or, he’s in denial and is just a ruthlessly sunny personality. You’re ripping me? Great! Thanks for the publicity.

    From the “flow” crap, he must have been selling Oracle software to executives who didn’t know better.


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