The death of the IT salesman

By Stuart Sumner
24 Oct 2011 View Comments
Face-to-face meeting

The IT sales role has altered in recent years, as increasing options and new technologies drive companies to require partners and supply chains rather than simple kit providers.

This is the view of Tony Judd, regional VP of EMEA at network provider Global Crossing, which was recently acquired by Level 3.

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Judd, who manages the sales team at his firm, explained it is essential that IT sales staff understand their customers' political situation.

"They need to understand internal decision makers, and their alignment to other partners and suppliers. This has become increasingly important over the past 20 years."

He added that several senior-level parties now have a hand in IT purchasing decisions, and sales people need to understand what drives each of them.

"As decision makers in a business (MD, FD or CIO) start to have a say in different areas of cost versus benefit, sales need to understand the political situation."

Judd also argued that the nature of the goods being sold in IT has changed. It is no longer a question of what equipment a customer wants, but more an issue of what service.

"20 years ago you may have just sold a standard X.25 circuit to meet a variety of client's needs; now there are any number of solutions, so it's more of a service-oriented sale.

"That means you need to understand the client's starting point. What's their desktop and mainframe architecture? You need to add some consultancy to that thinking."

Sales people also need to understand a company's financials, Judd continued.

"Ask a salesman a few years ago how to calculate EBITDA or ROI, or how to build a business case, and they'd have struggled.

"Today it's crucial. You need to be able to talk risk contingencies, service credits, liabilities, or how to e-bond a solution to the customer's service catalogue."

Judd is struggling to find sales staff with this level of expertise and breadth of business acumen and so is training his own.

"These sorts of salespeople aren't out on the market today – companies such as mine have had to develop them. You've still got individuals with some of the capabilities, but increasingly you need to build up a network of consultants around them."

He explained that he has structured his sales team using a hunter/farmer model.

Farmers will have an acute understanding of lifecycle management to be able to maintain a profitable successful line of business, and take customers beyond the initial contract term.

"Most companies don't make money in that initial three-year term. They make money on the second signing and extension of the term," said Judd.

Hunters, however, are new business acquisition teams.

"These are the more feisty animals – more aggressive and tenacious. They need either detailed knowledge of service-oriented risk, or have enough competence to know when there's something they don't know and be able to draft in an expert."

To ensure his team meets his standards, Judd educates them with certified online training and runs bi-annual assessment centres. Initially, the results of these assessments surprised him.

"It was a shock when we introduced it a year ago that people didn't understand basic concepts such as problem management versus configuration management, or risk logs and change management.

"However, things are improving now," he added.

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