Institute denies flagging technology sales culture

6 May 2003

Sales culture in Ireland is alive and kicking, especially in the technology industry, says the Sales Institute in response to last week’s Irish Software Association (ISA) Outlook 2003 report, which called for more investment in sales and marketing in order to boost the revenues of indigenous software companies.

More than 220 senior executives of Irish software companies said that revenue growth is the key challenge for the Irish software sector and that investment in sales and marketing is essential, the report states.

In an interview with last week, the report’s author, Donal Daly, said that Irish software companies lack the sales skills that are commonplace and demanded in the boardrooms of the large companies they are hoping to sell into. “There is no professional sales education in this country, no one grows up wanting to be a salesman. It’s a mindset in Ireland that it’s a dirty thing to sell; in the US the salesman is king. The fact is that the success of any small company is entirely dependent on sales and the respect that Irish firms give the sales function and the ability to execute sales strategy is sorely lacking,” Daly warned.

“Sales people are viewed as taboo, as people with an inherent talent or knack of selling rather than something that is trained professionalism … an art rather than a science. That is rubbish. It’s a discipline like engineering and needs to be learnt in all aspects of Irish business, such as in the US.

“The industry needs a sustained series of initiatives to fundamentally impact the apathetic sales psyche that has prevailed for too long,” he said. He referred to initiatives such as the SalesStar programme run jointly by the ISA and Enterprise Ireland, aimed at assisting companies to develop their international sales and marketing activities.

However, the 1,300-member strong Sales Institute of Ireland has reacted angrily to Daly’s assertions, stating that there are very high standards of professionalism exhibited by Irish sales executives. “The institute, which includes IBM, Dell and Hewlett-Packard amongst its members, was formed out of a realisation that professional standards of sales skills were needed in Ireland and we have come a long way in this regard. The institute itself offers a variety of courses on professional selling, including account management and developing negotiation skills,” says the Sales Institute’s CEO Catherine Bodley.

“I can understand there is huge frustration in the current economic climate. Things have changed a lot since the boom days when many IT companies’ sales departments were order takers. But people have had to wake up and those who have the skills can achieve the sales. Big investments have been made in sales skills and many companies have seen the results.

“There was a feeling a few years ago in all sectors of industry in Ireland that sales skills need to be developed and that not enough budget had been allocated to sales training. But all sectors of the business world are coming around. Sales is definitely being viewed as a professional career for a lot of people in all sectors of business,” Bodley says.

By John Kennedy