Why You Should Treat SAP Sales Reps As Passive Order Takers

Executive Summary

  • Customers frequently overestimate the helpfulness of SAP sales reps.
  • We propose treating SAP sales reps not as advisors or as a friendly entity, but as passive order takers.

Introduction

SAP sales reps are set up as the go-to source of information for information about SAP products, pricing and terms, and conditions. In this article, we will layout why frequent interactions with SAP sales reps is not only bad for your mental health but leads to inaccurate information.

What Do SAP Sales Reps Know?

SAP sales reps are hired for their ability to sell. Everything else is secondary.

SAP sales reps will normally have never used an SAP product and don’t spend much time learning about the experiences of their customers with different applications and databases that they purchased. I have worked with many SAP reps, as a solution consultant and I don’t ask SAP reps questions (except about pricing) they ask me questions. So its odd that the customer sees the reps as a source of information (outside of pricing). As soon as a question is asked of a sales rep, they turn around and find someone they can ask. In fact, even pricing is often performed by a specialized pricing resource.

  • SAP Sales Reps and Technology: SAP sales reps generally know little about technology. If you spend time interacting with SAP sales reps (as I have), you soon realize that most of them are challenged by personal computing. SAP sales reps are significantly powered up by their solution consultants. Oftentimes when working with a sales rep I was told at a demo “At that point, you need to jump in because I don’t know that area.” 
  • The Tenure at SAP: Many SAP sales reps have short tenures at SAP. In another year or so, they may jump to Oracle. SAP has 309 products as we covered in the article How Many Products Does SAP Have? Most sales come from a much smaller sample of products, but the scope of SAP is overwhelming. I have been working in the SAP space since 1997, and the number of SAP products that have come and gone in that period is astounding. Products are constantly being renamed, even repositioned (Leonardo started off as IoT, but then morphed into predictive analytics and finally into AI). There is no possible way to understand the overall mix if one has worked in the space for a short period of time.
  • SAP’s Unicorn Based Sales Training: SAP sales training is ridiculously inaccurate. The tests cannot be passed by anyone who answers the questions with what actually happens on SAP projects. Passing the tests means agreeing with the test prep, which is a fantasyland creation of what SAP sales and marketing would like to be true.

What Do SAP Sales Reps Know About Your Business?

One of the ideas of a sales rep is that they will know your business and therefore be able to recommend the right thing to you. However, SAP is far too quota oriented for sales reps to fulfill this role even if they wanted to in other respects. With our clients, SAP reps make repeated mistakes around the environments of their customers where they have already had operating SAP systems for 10 or 15 years!

How can this be? It sounds impossible, doesn’t it?

Well, SAP reps frequently turn over, and the knowledge of the customer’s environment dissipates. Everything the SAP rep provides regarding the environment must be checked. It cannot be assumed that they have made the right estimations.

What is the Accuracy of Information from SAP Sales Reps?

Low. SAP is the lowest rated vendor in our Honest Vendor Ratings, tied with Oracle.

This is for several reasons.

  • SAP hires its reps without consideration for information quality.
  • SAP sales reps are themselves provided with heaps of inaccurate information by SAP.
  • SAP’s marketing literature is quite inaccurate. For example, we can find large inaccuracies in any SAP marketing document that is put in front of us.

SAP customers and prospects constantly complain about “inconsistencies” from SAP sales reps. We work for clients going through the procurement process and these “inconsistencies” consistently allow the sales rep to make more money. These inconsistencies can be users reclassified as a license they do not need, verbal assurances regarding indirect access that have no legal weight, exaggerations (pick your adjective) regarding product capabilities, overly optimistic roadmaps. The list goes on and on.

Every SAP roadmap makes it appear as if the product will take over the world soon. However, they are not reliable as a guide to what the product will be. They are in a true sense marketing and sales tools. Product managers at SAP know that the roadmaps are highly political documents. SAP also make a habit of stating the milestones on the roadmap as sufficiently vague, that it can be difficult to say for certain if the item was actually added in that release. This can be seen just from reading through this slide on S/4HANA’s roadmap. 

Treating SAP Sales Reps as They Should be Treated: As Passive Order Takers

SAP sales reps lack the technical expertise or the objectivity to be used to tell you what applications or databases you should purchase from SAP. As an example, S/4HANA still has significant maturity issues, but you won’t hear anything about this from an SAP sales rep. SAP sales reps too consistently mislead clients that we have had to be trusted to provide insight to the prospect.

The SAP sales organization is hierarchical and pushes sales reps to be a certain way, which is reactive rather than thoughtful. SAP is far too responsive to Wall Street and to the quarterly earnings hamster wheel to place their customer’s interests ahead of their own.

All of this adds up why in the vast majority of situations we advise companies to treat SAP and Oracle sales reps as passive order takers. Treating them this way is how they should be treated, and is what will allow the prospect to receive the best outcomes from the process. Ironically, the less that customers listen to SAP sales reps, the better they tend to do with their SAP investments.

Conclusion

This article is counter-intuitive. Customers are directed to “talk to their SAP rep” but what do you find out when you do? Deloitte has to direct them because they are just a consulting arm of SAP. Deloitte has a partnership agreement with SAP, as we covered in the article How to Understand the Pitfalls of a Vendor Partnership with SAP, and they value their relationship with SAP far more than with any one client. For this reason, the SAP consulting companies stay away from offering any advice that might contradict SAP or be seen as opposing their interests during the negotiation. The SAP consulting companies are financially motivated to push their client to get all the information from SAP. But we can say “wait, maybe you shouldn’t just “talk to your rep.” You need to go through the rep eventually, but you tell them what you need, they don’t tell you.

When we provide software selection support, we don’t spend much time talking to SAP sales reps. We did not ask them questions when we supported them in pre-sales engagements, and we still don’t. We already have access to the SAP information that we need, and our approach is to push interactions with SAP to later in the process. And we don’t care what the customer buys, and make no more money if they buy A or B, or 2 of A vs. 3 of A. By telling SAP what the customer wants to buy, it takes the inertia away from the SAP sales rep. At that point, it simply becomes a question about price, timing and terms and conditions.

Post Article

SAP sales reps and consulting companies will hate this article. They might point out that taking such an approach is not partnering with SAP, and will not result in getting what you need. Our experience says otherwise. Both SAP sales reps and consulting companies will dislike this article because it reduces their ability to control the account.

Financial Disclosure

Financial Bias Disclosure

This article and no other article on the Brightwork website is paid for by a software vendor, including Oracle and SAP. Brightwork does offer competitive intelligence work to vendors as part of its business, but no published research or articles are written with any financial consideration. As part of Brightwork’s commitment to publishing independent, unbiased research, the company’s business model is driven by consulting services; no paid media placements are accepted.

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References

Software Selection Book

SELECTION

Enterprise Software Selection: How to Pinpoint the Perfect Software Solution Using Multiple Information Sources

Mastering Software Selection

Software selection is a form of forecasting, just as any another purchase decision is a forecast of how successfully the purchased item will meet expectations. Forecasting is necessary because it is not feasible to implement each application under consideration before it is purchased to see how it works in the business.

The Importance of Software Selection

Software selection is the most important part of any software implementation because it is the best opportunity to match the software with the business requirements, which is the most important factor in determining the success of the project. This book explains how to get the right information from the right sources to perform software selection correctly.

What You Can Expect from the Book

Essential reading for success in your next software selection and implementation. Software selection is the most important tasks in a software implementation project, as it is your best (if not only) opportunity to make sure that the right software the software that matches the business requirements is being implemented. Choosing the software that is the best fit clears the way for a successful implementation, yet software selection is often fraught with issues, and many companies do not end up with the best software for their needs. However, the process can be greatly simplified by addressing the information sources that influence software selection.

This book is a how-to guide for improving the software selection process and is formulated around the idea that much like purchasing decisions for consumer products the end user and those with the domain expertise must be included. In addition to providing hints for refining the software selection process, this book delves into the often-overlooked topic of how consulting and IT analyst firms influence the purchasing decision and gives the reader an insider’s understanding of the enterprise software market. By reading this book you will:

  • Learn how to apply a scientific approach to the software selection process.
  • Interpret vendor-supplied information to your best advantage.
  • Understand what motivates a software vendor.
  • Learn how the institutional structure and biases of consulting firms affect the advice they give you, and understand how to interpret information from consulting companies correctly.
  • Make vendor demos work to your benefit.
  • Know the right questions to ask on topics such as integration with existing software, cloud versus on-premise vendors, and client references.
  • Differentiate what is important to know about software for improved “implement-ability” versus what the vendor thinks is important for improved “sell-ability.”
  • Better manage your software selection projects to ensure smoother implementations.

Chapters

  • Chapter 1: Introduction to Software Selection
  • Chapter 2: Understanding the Enterprise Software Market
  • Chapter 3: Software Sell-ability versus Implement-ability
  • Chapter 4: How to Use Consulting Advice on Software Selection
  • Chapter 5: How to Use the Reports of Analyst Firms Like Gartner
  • Chapter 6: How to Use Information Provided by Vendors
  • Chapter 7: How to Manage the Software Selection Process
  • Chapter 8: Conclusion
  • Appendix a: How to Use Independent Consultants for Software Selection