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Old     (polarbill)      Join Date: Jun 2003       09-02-2013, 3:24 PM Reply   
Hey guys and gals,

I thought I would see if anybody could provide me with any advice or general thoughts about how to succeed in the IT sales industry. After working at my family's business for the last 8 years or so(with a 9 month stop selling boats) I have decided to completely change careers and have accepted a job at a large IT hardware and software reseller. Tomorrow is my first day(I feel like a kid about to go to a new school or the first day of high school or something). I took a look at some smaller VAR's but in the end my friends in the industry thought going to a larger company that will provide a ton of training(both sales and product training) was a great way to break in to the industry and establish a solid fundamental base. The company I am going to work for is called Zones and is big competitor to CDW, Softchoice, Insight and PC Connection.

I am super excited(and a little nervous at the same time) about the opportunity to get into a constantly growing and evolving industry. Again, if anybody has any advice or general thoughts about the best way to succeed(more concerned about long term success than immediate success although immediate success is fine as long as it doesn't hinder long term potential) I would greatly appreciate it.


Old     (norcalmalibu)      Join Date: Jun 2004       09-03-2013, 8:55 AM Reply   
Welcome! I've been in IT sales for the past six years. It's been a very interesting journey to say the least. I started right out of college working for a small 30 person var. I wasn’t making much money during that time however I took every training class available. It felt like 6 years ago training was much easier to receive and it was usually free or the manufacture would pick up the tab. I would strongly recommend skiping the sales trainings and attend the technical trainings. Learn from the engineers what challenges they are trying to solve.

The majority of the sales trainings are a joke and if you want to be successful you need to have an understanding of the technology. The days of "let me bring an engineer in" are over. Being at a var is a very challenging task especially when you don’t have a big name to back you up. While Zones might be one of the larger ones, it's still not a house hold name. When you're cold calling, which you will be doing a ton of you need to understand what you're pitching and get them to agree to a second meeting at which time you can bring an engineer on the line.

If I were in your shoes starting out fresh I would not go to work for a VAR. I would go to work for a manufacture, learn the industry have a decent base, let them teach you the industry and once you have a few years under your belt and connections go to work for a var.

Good luck and happy hunting.

Last edited by norcalmalibu; 09-03-2013 at 8:58 AM.
Old     (annq42)      Join Date: Mar 2006       09-03-2013, 3:35 PM Reply   
Hey Brett,

I have been in IT sales as the pre-sales Engineer for the last 10 years. I actually use to work with Zones in my old position at Dell. They seemed to be a good company to work for. Working with your company directly and knowing the market fairly well I am not sure I fully agree with what Nate has to say. With that being said, I would do this, take the training that they tell you to take up front. But understand you will be drinking from a firehose. Dont try to learn everything upfront, because it wont happen. At the end of the day, you have engineers, you have backup, keep the relationship strong. Zones is a household name in many parts of the country, so understand you have a good name to back you up. You will learn all the aspects you need to know deal by deal. Training helps, but in a position like yours, by the time there is any good training on something it is a 6month old product. The days of bringing in an engineer are far from over, especially if you are in bigger accounts. They are your best friends, and will push the deal bigger than you could imagine, understand most dont know prices so you may have to keep them under control that way.

Understand this is 90% relationship, you have the ability to sell them whatever they want. Keep at them, they will break down with something you have that they need. Offer to quote anything to keep it competitive even if you know your not going to win, let the other companies hate you. You are in a perfect place. I have been at VARs and at Manufacturers, understand the people are the same, its the same crap, just different policies for the same problems. Vars are good places to be to learn the industry, I am not sure what Nate was referring to, but I have sold in Northern Cal before and that place might as well be in a world all its own as far as IT sales go.
Old     (norcalmalibu)      Join Date: Jun 2004       09-03-2013, 8:36 PM Reply   
Couple clarifying points..

Zones name recognition compared to a Netapp, EMC, Cisco. I'd work for a manufacture have them train you etc.

I carry an engineer on apt's every time. I meant in the context of dialing for dollars.
Old     (polarbill)      Join Date: Jun 2003       09-03-2013, 9:03 PM Reply   
Thanks for the advice guys. I have already started with Zones so I am going to take that opportunity and make the best of it. I am going to try and be the biggest sponge I can and try and absorb as much as I can. I definitely plan on spending a lot of effort getting technical training and certs as possible. I am hoping this position at Zones helps me build a great/solid foundation in the IT business to help me succeed long term. while I don't at all plan on treating Zones as a stepping stone I would love to at some point work as a rep for a hardware/software manufacturer. I have 2 friends that started at Softchoice(a competitor to Zones/CDW) and both work as reps for manufacturers(Nimble Storage and SeaMicro) as well as have a number of friends that work in sales at software companies like F5, Concur and Apptio. All these people are successful and and happy with their careers.
Old     (polarbill)      Join Date: Jun 2003       09-03-2013, 9:14 PM Reply   
Also, I believe that Zones vendors pay for all the training so they spend a ton of time doing product training. My buddy that works for Zones said he figures for the first year I would probably be spending an hour 3 or 4 days a week in product training. Again, I am going to make a real effort to participate in as much product training as possible as I envision myself being more successful as a salesperson that can talk the talk more so than a pure used car salesman type that is a huge BSer. I am hoping it is a good time to get in with Zones as well as they are in a huge growth period. They broke a billion in revenue last year and plan on growing quite a bit. They just hired a new CEO who came from Tech Systems for what that is worth.

I almost forgot. Do either of you guys have any thoughts on working on the SMB side or the public sector side? I am slated to start on their SLED(State, Local, Education) side instead of the SMB side. I figure margins are less on the public sector side but I hope their is good earning potential there. I think Zones has a leg up on a lot of VAR's on the public sector side because their are privately owned by a Minority. Since they can claim DBA(Disadvantaged business) status they should have the upper hand on most competitors.
Old     (norcalmalibu)      Join Date: Jun 2004       09-05-2013, 11:05 AM Reply   
SLED is a small portion of my business. Most of the SLED business is driven through RFP's which is essentially a race to the bottom in terms of pricing. Make sure you find out which partners you work with have a WSCA contract. It's one way to avoid RFP's.

What territory are you going to be covering? In California we have E-Rate funding which puts Government money into SLED accounts. I usually ask up front if they use E-Rate, if so be prepared for a long sales cycle. They will typically go out to bid in June/July and then received funding in October/November/December.

If you're going to be 100% focused on SLED make sure to join/ participate in MISAC as well as other organizations that focus/support SLED.
Old     (cadunkle)      Join Date: Jul 2009       09-05-2013, 2:37 PM Reply   
I deal with people in IT sales regularly, as the customer. To be honest, most sales reps and account managers from vendors piss me off. Maybe hearing my perspective will give you some insight.

I find it annoying getting calls weekly or even monthly to try to pry information out of me and convince me to spend money with you. If I don't need anything from you I don't want you calling or leaving voice mails. Once or twice a year is more than enough to remind me you still exist.

If I have your contact info and have not worked with your company before I will throw out a few requests for quotes as I need things. If you're pricing is not better than the vendors and reps I currently work with I'm not going to go through the hassle of getting finance and purchasing to set things up to deal with your company, this can be painful on my end so you need to make it worthwhile with either better pricing and comparable service, comparable pricing and better service, or preferably both. You get a couple chances to be competitive before I write your company off as not worthwhile.

Email is preferable to the phone unless we're working on something more open ended or unless I need you to get an engineer or someone knowledgeable about a specific product.

Calling to follow up or get more details about a larger or more complex quote or project is good, especially if you can save me money or throw in something of value. Calling 2 seconds after I ask for a quote on a small mundane order is irritating and makes me want to use another vendor if pricing is close.

If you go the extra mile on a larger or more complex order, meaning save me money, work with suppliers or manufacturers for better pricing or value added items/services, suggest changes where they make sense, point out anything I may have overlooked, expedite things if it's particularly time critical, etc. ... I will remember you for that and favor you in the future.

You exist so I can get what I need quickly and easily, make the process difficult, slow, or annoying and I will not want to work with you.

If you're in a high turnover position I don't want to speak to you or hear from you. I don't want to tell you about any upcoming projects, new initiatives, fiscal year, sales, budget and I especially don't want to tell you about the weather or how my weekend was. Next month I'll get a call from your replacement wanting to waste my time with the same questions and small talk. There's a good chance by the time I need something worth talking to you about I'll be talking to your replacement. It's nothing personal and I know it's not your fault the last few guys didn't last, but after that I view investing any time in you is a waste of my time. Since you're the new account manager or sales rep for the account you have my contact info, email me that you're the new guy and I'll reach out to you when I need something.

A few things that have REALLY pissed me off...

If I don't answer the phone or return your calls when you're not following up on something I've reached out to you for, DO NOT call from a different number to get me to answer the phone and then tell me your more local guy is walking in the front door as we speak so it would be great if I could go bring him back and have an hour long surprise powwow about how best to outsource my own job at greater cost to the company.

If you ignore the "No Soliciting" sign on the front door and convince the receptionist to get me to come up front to meet you and are then politely turned away because we don't own the product you're selling or servicing and are completely happy with our existing vendor and fairly new products that do the same thing, DO NOT continue to show up in person every 3 months and beg for business. If you did that anyway and after a few times I tell you please don't come back here and instruct the receptionist that you're not welcome, DO NOT roll up incognito in a Suburban with dark tint windows, trainee in tow, wearing black suits and sunglasses, and convince the receptionist as well as HR that you're on "official business" and need to speak to me immediately. I have your card and know how to reach you if I need to, doing these things will only ensure that if I do need your services I will not call you but instead look for another vendor who shows some respect and professionalism.

If you screw up an order and completely forget to take care of it on your end, when I ask where my stuff is and you profusely apologize and promise to get it out right away overnight, DO NOT forget about it again and leave me wondering where my order is a week later and not hearing any reply from you. It may have been a very small order but I've made some very large purchases from you previously and this small order may actually be more time critical than some of those really big ones you've gone the extra mile with. You're rapidly burning that good customer relationship you've worked so hard on.
Old     (bcoppinger)      Join Date: Sep 2002       09-06-2013, 8:05 AM Reply   
Take Cory's's good advice. I am in his position and can tell you everything he says is true. The more you bug me with useless crap the more I will go out of my way not to use your company.
Old     (jv210)      Join Date: Feb 2006       09-06-2013, 11:08 AM Reply   
Like Cory & JBC said don't be that guy. I'm in the same position as they are and can relate to every single paragraph Cory wrote. The worst of all these to me is the random drop by that get's nothing accomplished for them. Since we don't have a receptionist they are stuck in the Lobby and we have started not even going out there, just telling them to stop coming by. The next few months we'll get the same people in the lobby.

To me, when I talk to a sales guy is if they don't know the product they are pushing, they aren't getting my business. Soak up as much information as you can.
Old     (annq42)      Join Date: Mar 2006       09-06-2013, 1:24 PM Reply   
So I have sold into all markets, SMB, Commercial, Enterprise, SLED, Education, Healthcare, etc. Here is the Skinny on SLED vs SMB. SLED is always going to have busniess, you just have to find then fight for it. From there, your margins are going to be less, but if you get all the small cities, counties, etc to buy from you, on everything they dont need a RFP on then you will do fine. However no one got rich from selling into SLED. SMB is going to be all about relationship. As Zones you can sell anything you want, so just make sure you keep the relationship going. You do that across 100 customers and you are set. You have more upside, however you have to find your customers, its more work than moving from county to county, city to city, Police station to Police Station. But higher margins, and less budget cuts can help you move up and get noticed.

Some advice I can give is get to know your Cisco, HP, IBM, Microsoft, EMC, Dell, etc reps. They will be your best friend. I have worked at EMC and Dell, and I did more selling for Zones than the Zones rep did, only because they brought us the deal. Not only will those reps treat you well if you find them business, but they will remember it and bring you things if you can show you know what your doing.

The last point is this; remember your job is like herding cats. Some cats are going to get away, and thats ok, just keep moving forward. Its a tough job, that does get easier and has great payout at the end. Remember your smartphone is going to be your best friend when you are on the move and you need to return emails. Trash the iphone and get something that will help you manage your calendar and contacts better, for that is your life line.

Good luck, let me know if you have any large storage deals in the Carolinas I can hook you up.
Old     (polarbill)      Join Date: Jun 2003       09-09-2013, 8:26 PM Reply   
Thanks a lot guys. I really appreciate the advice. Cory, JBC and Neves, I also appreciate the advice from your point of view. It isn't necessarily what my sales training manager would want to hear but I completely understand your point of view and think understanding that can help long term success. I am sure the line of doing your job as a sales person and not being "that guy" is tough to walk. So if I understand you correct you don't mind someone calling in to make contact and try and start a business relationship but you don't want a potential new vendor to hound you/stock you on small items. What you look for in a vendor who is trying to increase their business with you is someone that can provide value to you in the way of better pricing and/or better service. You look for someone who can know your business enough to bring you new idea's that can solve problems? Is that fair? Also follow through and easy to deal with/buy from is important.

Thanks Ryan. I really do plan on working hard on the relationships I have with our internal experts, brand champions and vendor reps. I understand that those guys can be your best friend and help build your book greatly. Thanks for your thoughts on SMB vs SLED. I am still not sure which one I will end up in but either way I guess both are sales and will provide great experience. I am definitely working on getting in the right mindset to realize that their will be a lot more failure than success, at least in the short term, but to keep plugging along. I already have a droid and plan on setting up my work email/calendar/contacts on it although I am not sure it is as needed since I will be doing all phone sales. That said I still think customers like to be able to know they can get in contact with you and even if I am not at work I can at least send a quick email saying I got their email and will start working on it when I get to the office.

I know I have a lot to learn about myself and how I fit into the IT sales field but I would like to be the sales person who treats their customers as a friend(actually know a little about them on a personal level/as a human being instead of just a sale) as well as someone who truely has my customers best interests in mind. I plan on continuously learning and being more technical(and know how it helps my customers business) than others. I want to be a salesperson whose customers feel is honest, hard working and responsive.
Old     (peter_c)      Join Date: Sep 2001       09-12-2013, 6:07 PM Reply   
Buy the book "How to Master The Art of Selling" by Tom Hopkins. Read it, learn the phrases verbatim. The Ben Franklin close is awesome!


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