Home > Uncategorized > 4 Legged Sales Teams

4 Legged Sales Teams

HawaiiMichael Stonebraker casts stones at what he calls the 4 legged sales team about 48 minutes into this video on NewSQL databases.    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uhDM4fcI2aI

He describes the 4 legged sales team as the combination of an overpaid sales rep “who’s only smart enough to take a customer to lunch” connected to a technically proficient sales engineer.  He says his firm VoltDB is open source because they don’t want to waste money on an expensive field sales force.

I found his comments shortsighted.  Mostly because he denigrates field SE’s – the good ones are truly amazing at getting customers on board with new technology.   He can say anything he wants to about sales people.  We are used to it.

I think he is confusing the “freemium” marketing model with open source.  In the freemium model, customers are enticed with a “free” version of the software with the intent of upgrading them to a paid/supported version later.   The freemium model has worked well for non-open source companies like salesforce.com.   Open source and freemium worked well for Red Hat operating systems, and may be working well for the Hadoop vendors Cloudera and Hortonworks – though it’s still early to see how the Hadoop market develops.

However, whether it is freemium or open source or both, a company still eventually needs a high quality field sales force to sell enterprise customers on non-commodity technology.  Even salesforce.com, the poster child for the freemium model, has an enterprise field sales force.   A really good account executive becomes a trusted consultative resource to his or her account.   He personally knows who is for and against his technology, how to navigate the buying process at the account, and how to communicate clearly how his technology will provide a business advantage that justifies changing the way the enterprise does business.  Adding two more legs with a great SE who can focus on proving the technical value of the product or service results in more sales, bigger sales, faster sales cycles, and satisfied customers with solutions that can be proven to provide real business value.

No one can deny Stonebraker’s had some amazing business successes.   I wonder:  if he truly valued sales, would he be the one buying a private island in Hawaii.

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