by Mark Chillingworth

Salesman – death of a good company

May 04, 2010
IT Leadership

Today’s news of US refuse collection company Waste Managementreceiving a “one-time cash payment” from enterprise resource planning software vendor SAP follows close on the heels of EDS having to pay broadcaster BSkyB 70 million quidfor its failed CRM system. Both stories are examples of the IT industry allowing its sales people to run amok, resulting in the brand value and the skills of EDS and SAP staff being denigrated. SAP “tricked” Waste Management with a fake demonstration. HP owned EDS has had to pay BSkyB, part of the same corporation as the Times and Sun newspapers, for a CRM implementation that involved weak wording in agreements and deceit by salespeople, the judge in this case ruled. CIOs constantly tell us that they want a partnership from the vendors they work with. In every interview or conference session we chair with CIOs, they say their nirvana is to treat vendors as an equal in the development of applications that will benefit both businesses. But the sad truth that they receive is an ill-informed visitor who has not researched their organisation, its needs and then bores them to death with a time wasting PowerPoint presentation all too often. What saddens CIOs and everyone in the industry is that behind the scenes of organisations like HP and SAP are teams of craftsmen working hard to develop applications that will truly benefit the users. The closest I come to operating a major organisation is keeping the Chillingworth household afloat. We’ve recently bought a new house and are selling another. Now I know hating estate agents is a national pastime equalled only by our hatred of MPs on the day before we have to vote for them. But my experience of how poor these sales people are is astounding. Having engaged a local agent well known in the area, to be as the title suggests, our agent, we have received so little advice, guidance and effort from the representatives of this organisation that it is difficult to see black from white. Like a CIO, I wanted the estate agents to be our equals in this, to provide local, in-depth information that would ease the sale for me and my purchaser. Instead they placed a picture on the web and consider that enough for their outrageous fee. Their contract is currently under review in our household. Vacuum cleaner leader James Dyson penned a great bookon how society needs to embrace engineering and let the people who really look at functionality and try to develop something that improves people’s lives rise again. He’s right. For the last 20 years the world has been dominated by the sales culture and for companies like SAP and EDS, they’ve had their name dragged through the mud by poor quality individuals. And as always, it is the few ruining it for the many, as I’ve had the pleasure of working with some really professional sales people, but if organisations continue to put sales ahead of products, the few bad sales people will continue to damage brands and industries.