SAP America's top salesman

Listen to Bill McDermott for a few minutes and you know you have a full-blooded salesman in front of you.

Listen to Bill McDermott for a few minutes and you know you have a full-blooded salesman in front of you.

McDermott, the chief executive and president of SAP America, was hired about nine months ago from Siebel to turn around the US subsidiary of the German business software giant, which was not hitting sales targets.

But for McDermott, running a company means not only managing people and problems but selling products - and then some.

The numbers speak for themselves: SAP America's first-quarter revenue rose 34% year-on-year at constant currency rates, according to McDermott.

"We have a plan, a dream executive team, a motivated staff and a great brand," he said. While talking, he occasionally glanced out of the window, keeping an eye on the activity at the Sapphire customer conference. You get the feeling he would prefer to be down there selling.

"Everyone in this company, from the executives down to the product line managers and their staff, are spending as much time with customers as they can," McDermott said. "We are a totally customer-focused organisation."

He likes to make as many sales calls as he can, he admits. A case in point: McDermott made a recent call to the chief executive of Fender Musical Instruments. "That call, following up on earlier negotiations, was enough for our chief executive to sign the deal," a Fender official said.

Even if the current economic climate is tough and companies are keeping a tight lid on IT spending, opportunities abound, according to McDermott.

He sees one big opportunity in the current wave of consolidation in the US enterprise software market, involving Oracle, PeopleSoft and JD Edwards, and the uncertainty it has created among many users.

"With our advertising campaign, we've created an awareness for SAP as an alternative," McDermott said. "Our follow-up telephone sales efforts have led to a 50% hit rate of customers who are very interested in talking to us."

SAP America is offering PeopleSoft and JD Edwards customers, mostly in the mid-market and enterprise level, a free consultative assessment of their current technological environment, McDermott said.

Beyond the opportunities arising from "the love triangle," SAP America is striving to develop channel partnerships to penetrate the small and medium-sized enterprise market with its Business One offering. 

On Tuesday (17 June), the company announced a new partnership with IBM. It joins American Express Tax and Business Services as a major channel partner for the Business One product line, in addition to 17 smaller resellers and  further 17 signed up during the Sapphire show, McDermott said.

"Resellers understand that the SAP brand plays big," he said. "Many of them just need to get over this idea that SAP is too expensive. We're working on this."

While SAP targets its Business One offering at SMEs with annual revenues of less than $200m (£119m), the company's All-in-One offering, based on scaled-down versions of the group's Business Suite products, is aimed at medium-sized companies with annual revenues of between $200m and $1bn, according to McDermott.

"We're working with a handful of resellers to distribute All-in-One and our own direct sales teams," he said. "Resellers for this product line must have industry experience to provide real value. They are few in number."

John Blau writes for IDG News Service

Read more on Business applications