A short personal response to Josh Greenbaum’s SAP FKOM blog

Well known analyst Josh Greenbaum posted 2 blogs with his views on how SAP sales reps should be selling to customers .

The New Year in SAP-land: Selling Customer Success (Part I)

The New Year in SAP-land: Selling Customer Success (Part II)

I absolutely enjoyed reading it – and want to make a few minor comments , strictly in a personal capacity . I don’t work in sales at SAP – I am on the engineering side of the house , but I work closely with sales all the time . But please don’t consider it as some kind of official SAP response . I am just typing as fast as I can on my phone in response to tweets from Josh and Jon Reed .

1. Relationships – do they matter ?

Josh starts off slightly dinging the idea of relationship based sales . I disagree with that position All business is done between people and for sales to move away from transactional realms to transformative realms – a strong relationship is a must .

The IBM quote of no one getting fired for hiring them – IBM didn’t earn that with clever marketing . IBM earned it with the blood , sweat and tears of its employees trying their best to do what is right for their customers . When I worked there , I have had CXOs tell me that “one reason we hire you is that we know that you will do right by us if things go bad in a project”.

This is true with SAP too – no one just listens to a transformative message and then writes a check . You have to work really hard to build a relation with key people at the customer to earn your seat at the table to tell them that story.

2. Quota vs Customer’s long term interests

I don’t think these are mutually exclusive things. And when they are – I won’t hold the sales people accountable – I hold the managers accountable .

Sales people have little to no choice in determining quota – that is done by sales leaders . So telling them to not worry about quota is essentially telling them that they can’t worry about putting food on the table for their families . That will not go anywhere in terms of getting another behavior . The possible course of action is that the quotas are set realistically and rewards being set on not just quota but on other things like customer satisfaction scores etcetera . Again – I agree with Josh , just want to point out that sales people cannot act on that message directly . This can happen only top down for the most part – and not bottom up .

3. Sell own services VS Partner services

I think this is a sure shot recipe for disaster . The SI ecosystem gets a bad name because of a few high profile projects that turned into disasters . What does not get mentioned in news is that vast majority of SI projects are successful . And when things fail – it is seldom that it is the SI that caused the failure by themselves . Most of the time the customer and SAP would also have done something to contribute .

SAP can never scale enough to cater to all service requirements . So it is in SAP’s best interests to make sure that SI partners get a good share of that business . SAP has an excellent services arm , but most projects need non SAP skills too to make them work . And the SI partners usually have plenty of expertise there .

SAP is primarily a software company – and what I would rather see is an acceleration on engineering efforts to make sure that customers don’t need as much services to use our products . But where services are required – I think it is best to either partner with other SIs or let the customer pick the best SI , including SAP services .

SI partners have fantastic relations at several customers . By partnering instead of competing all the time , SAP gets to leverage those relationships . Channel is good business for SAP – and SIs are important part of the channel business . Many SIs are also resellers .

4. Selling training and education

Quite agree with Josh here . Training should be part of every deal in my opinion too . However , my wish is that ultimately the software should not need any training to use it in vast majority of cases . That onus should be on engineering to make sure we build products that need less and less of training .

5. Don’t sell mobile , cloud etc

Again, completely agree – what an organization needs is a business strategy and not a mobile or cloud strategy . However , most customers start small and will have to satisfy themselves that the software works well before they think of transformative use cases . Selling cloud and mobility licenses are an integral part of helping those customers without bleeding the profitability in short term .

Ideally , the sales should be of solutions – not individual technology products . But that is again something that lies with product and solution management . Sales can only work with things they have in the bag . And when the SKU list is vast – no one in sales can realistically figure out what solutions are possible by combining all the cool toys . That means some portfolio rationalization needs to take place – which is not controlled by sales people .

Apart from these small points , I am more or less in great agreement with Josh . SAP and other technology vendors should change how they sell . It won’t happen over night and it won’t happen without customers changing their buying habits too . As I have always maintained – the sole judge of innovation is customer , and not vendors or analysts. All I can hope as an SAP employee is that customers continue to trust SAP in 2014 just like they did for last four decades .


Published by Vijay Vijayasankar

Son/Husband/Dad/Dog Lover/Engineer. Follow me on twitter @vijayasankarv. These blogs are all my personal views - and not in way related to my employer or past employers

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