Sales Adjustments in IT

WorldmachineRan­dom­ly brows­ing the web today, I found that the web shop I worked for in down­town Boston dur­ing the wan­ing days of the inter­net boom, World­ma­chine, appears to be back in busi­ness.

It was just about two years ago that they called all of us into the con­fer­ence room to announce lay­offs and that they were shut­ting the com­pa­ny down. The obvi­ous rea­son giv­en at the time, was lack of new sales.

This I still find inter­est­ing, because the excuse all sales pro­fes­sion­als seem to offer in this dread­ful econ­o­my is that the sales cycle is much longer—sometimes 18 months or more. At my new com­pa­ny, a com­pa­ny which focus­es on local­iza­tion and test­ing, my co-work­ers and I were treat­ed to a sales pre­sen­ta­tion recent­ly, in which the same kinds of excus­es were offered.

Unlike Worldmachine’s woe­ful­ly under­staffed Sales dept., how­ev­er, this team seems to be adjust­ing to the “new” New Econ­o­my. They’ve accept­ed that the IT mar­ket is a shirk­ing pie, and that price com­pe­ti­tion is get­ting too cut­throat. Instead, they are look­ing to new ver­ti­cals for growth.

In Boston, the Bio-tech boom is pro­vid­ing a new mar­ket in the life sci­ences. As drug man­u­fac­tur­ers look to mar­ket their prod­ucts over­seas, part­ner­ing with a top local­iza­tion firm is going to be crit­i­cal. The planet’s pop­u­la­tion is only going to get old­er.

An inter­est­ing the­o­ry our Sales team is going to try, is to group their teams by ver­ti­cal, rather than by loca­tion. Though it may have made sense a few years ago to send your Tokyo team to Hong Kong clients, and your Cal­i­for­nia team to clients in Los Ange­les, the real­i­ty of a long sales cycle and a need to patient­ly edu­cate clients is forc­ing a recon­sid­er­a­tion. Sales needs to edu­cate them­selves first—and to do that, they need more involve­ment from pro­duc­tion and oper­a­tions peo­ple. Peo­ple like me.

The good news is, we are prof­itable, and I’m con­fi­dent that the com­pa­ny I’m part of now is on sound foot­ing. I wasn’t at all con­fi­dent of that in Sep­tem­ber 2001.

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