Problem Solving in IT Series – Sales / Marketing

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A lot of people have their opinions on what would make IT flourish in the country. From academics, individual & company certification all the way towards marketing, there are a lot of varied views going around. There are a lot of problem statements and few solutions floating out there, so let’s document some of them. This is an ongoing series of articles which will focus on a specific area in each post. If you have any idea’s of your own, please feel free to put them up in the comments section. 

Let’s face it, software companies over here are still created and run by IT folk. Engineers who’ve finally given in to their entrepreneurial spirit and to whom all of the world’s problems can be solved by the right technology. Although they are right about technology being a problem solver, the one are they mostly miss out on is sales and marketing.

With many of them, the mentality seems to be “if you build it, they will come” but sadly, in the real world, that doesn’t really work out.. does it? You not only have to build it, you have to find them, tell them, excite them and cajole them into finally convince them into giving you their hard earned money! So why dont most people in IT see it? Many of the software houses i’ve been to, many of the people i’ve talked to still have a very hardened image towards sales people, and especially technical sales people. They prefer the senior people to do sales based on ‘contacts’ instead of going out actively hunting new projects. Oh and by the way, these senior people are also involved in other aspects of the company, so as you can guess.. sales normally does take a back seat. Here’s my take on it.

For many people in IT, sales is a black box which they dont understand! and since it involved people, they dont really want to understand it. Out of the few who do realize that the ‘need’ is there, many hold the view that regular sales people cannot do technical sales, because well, they are not technical. Explaining the technical side of things is then left up to the poor project manager or the bechara developer (who give the demos) most of the time who just fumble through the presentation saying absolutely nothing at all. And then, there are the precious few who actually realize it, who get sales people onboard and teach them how to do a technical sales and let them loose in the wild.

The solution?

The sales jargon employed here are Consultative selling, Service selling, or pre-sales activities! Learn a lesson or two from Oracle, IBM, Microsoft or any of the big software giants who do business here. They’re not sending their engineers to do the sales job, infact, most of the time the sale is done by totally non-technical person who not only gives the demo, but also walks the clients through their objections right through to the sale.

The one mentality i think the IT industry here needs to come out of is not wanting to invest on it’s salespeople.”They should already know how to sell, i can’t spend time and money teaching them this stuff” is not a valid reason. That reason just leaves to you pick up the scraps both locally and internationally. The one thing a sales team does is hunt! Assemble a team that is not threatened by new people or new scenarios and who are genuinely good with people, arm them with all the info you can, give them targets and get out of their way! This applies both for local and international sales teams. Better yet, involve a outbound call center to hunt out who is interested and send your sales team after them!

And finally, please realize that a sale does *not* come cheap! It doesn’t just happen, infact, it requires quite a bit of groundwork, planning, brainstorming, a lot of meetings all joined together

Facebook comments:


  • I wish there were more entrepreneurs in the IT industry rather than techies. Technology is great, but the business idea must come first!

    Is there a forum for business people in Pakistan similar to GnW?

  • This article should be read by everyone in IT — not just managers and promoters — because everyone is potentially client facing and therefore has responsibilities for sales.

    In speaking with IT promoters seeking sales assistance, a good way to find out how much they know about their industry is to ask about the sales cycle and competitors’ strategies.

    A full sales cycle for outsourcing can entail six months for lead generation, followed by a RFQ/RFP and award process of from 6 to 18 months.

    In the U.S., the Indian majors Infosys and Wipro offer starting salaries of $84,000 per year to new sales people (compared to the $80,000 that domestic US companies pay) plus an expected 50% bonus. With fringe and overhead, it costs a quarter of million dollars to fill a seat per year. At a minimum, two people are needed for a sales team.

    Assuming that a sales team can identify leads within 6 months and pursue the sales process to its conclusion, an IT or outsourcing company will have spent one million dollars and run for two years before knowing that it has won a contract. Meanwhile, there may be a fully staffed, equipped office sitting idle somewhere in Pakistan.

    The sales process can be jump started by advertising and aggressive trade show participation, which Indian majors maintain on a routine basis but which is outside the reach of Pakistani companies unless outside support and a pooling of resources can be organized.

    However, such jump starting will prove futile without a common understanding of the sales process. In Pakistan, such an understanding is widely lacking. In Pakistan, incoming contracts and projects are often seen in isolation. They are not seen as part of a wider client acquisition and client relations process. Projects do not come in on their own, they come in with clients.

    The Indian majors have figured out how the sales funnel works. They have figured out deal flow. They have figured out how to enter foreign markets using local staff and local expertise — even at a quarter of a million dollars per year per person.

    If I were to attempt to open a business in Pakistan, even something as simple as a food store, it would be foolish for me as an American to attempt to do so from the outside, without hiring local experts. Yet the same process is being attempted in reverse in my country by IT entrepreneurs from around the world.

    Pakistan has a superior combination of advantages in IT and outsourcing. Those advantages are drastically under utilized because the nation lacks a viable marketing strategy or even a common understanding of how sales and marketing is done.

    Pakistan lacks critical infrastructure elements for supporting sales and marketing efforts. Yes, it supports certification, but certification alone does not put you in front of clients and give you the tools to close deals.

    Putting an infrastructure in place is a complex process, but it is a process that can be broken down into achievable components.

    In India, the IT companies are big enough and rich enough where they can maintain their own infrastructure.

    In Pakistan, the industry needs to think in terms of resource sharing. It also needs public funds (which can include some of the fresh aid moneys being provided through USAID). The industry in Pakistan needs help for:

    1. Branding — at company and national levels
    2. Intellectual property protection
    3. Compliance assistance and education
    4. Internet-based marketing
    5. Public relations and advertising assistance
    6. Research and intelligence gathering on client opportunities
    7. Training of sales and marketing staff, including cohort training
    8. Benchmarking and upgrading of existing sales and marketing activities
    9. Strategic advisement to target emerging, profitable market segments rather than chasing after marginal work such as keypunching and outbound B2C telemarketing

    From the inside, Pakistan faces significant challenges. But on a global level, Pakistan has tremendous potential and its challenges are not insurmountable — including its image issues. The question is whether there is enough will to succeed. The answer to that question can only come from within Pakistan itself.

  • I must say the marketing and sales mechanism in Pakistan is comparable to feudal system of running a company. What I mean to say is employee do approach the “executives” with their ideas of marketing and sales, however those are put in the “pipeline” for later that are never explored.
    I will give you an example of mine. I am a graduate of Computer Science from American university and worked for a start up in states. In the beginning the CEO conducted weekly meetings in which everyone in the company was involved on bringing ideas to the table on how to conduct sales and marketing that would bring in sales. This concept worked. The company brought in 1 million USD in revenue within first month and within the first year it had a revenue of 20 million. The company grew from 20 employees to 600 employees within 4 years.
    In another words everyone in the company was conducting sales and marketing, employee with ideas that brought in large chunk of revenue were awarded accordingly.

    In Pakistan, it is “one man show” concept even there is marketing and sales team in place. Everything is done on the “CEO’s” approval, and during hard times the sales and marketing team are finger pointed for not doing better job.

    What do you say to this?

  • anthony: brilliant response! you are quite right that sales/marketing is the black box here and the insight that you provided of wipro n infosys as examples was just wonderful!

    i’ll be using your idea’s for more blog posts here in the future, please do keep contributing!

    imran: i completely agree. i run a regional sales/marketing function in addition to other responsibilities, and the number of idea’s that get shot down are just incredible.. so i know exactly what you mean.

  • Pay packages for more senior sales people (with 5-7 years experience and who will receive VP titles) now range from $130,000 to $180,000 for U.S. call centres. There will usually be substantial advertising and trade show expenses budgeted on top of salary amounts.

    All such a sales person needs is to bring in one large client — not “process” — in order for everyone to be happy.

    If anyone asks for (or claims to have) a book of business ready to be transferred, then politely walk away. That’s not how the industry works, neither for IT nor ITeS.

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  • Mansoor – very interesting article. It takes a lot of time, hardwork and determination to sell and even more to retain and keep the customer happy.

    I had an unfortunate experience recently where my Project Manager decided to steal from a customer from us. I’ve blogged about this here

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