- 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.
Video Introduction: Why You Should Treat SAP Sales Reps As Passive Order Takers
Text Introduction (Skip if You Watched the Video)
SAP sales reps are set up as the go-to source of information for information about SAP products, pricing and terms, and conditions. Frequent interactions with SAP sales reps are not only bad for your mental health but lead to inaccurate information which undermines the success of SAP implementations. This relates to issues such as the lack of knowledge of SAP salespeople, the often short tenure of salespeople at SAP, the turnover in the number of SAP products, and SAP’s misleading training, and much more. You will learn things about SAP sales from the inside and the problems this causes.
What Do SAP Sales Reps Know?
SAP sales reps are hired for their ability to sell. Everything else is secondary.
SAP sales reps will usually 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 it’s 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. Even pricing is often performed by a specialized pricing resource.
Issue #1: 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. Often 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.”
Issue #2: 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 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.
Issue #3: 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 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 entirely inaccurate. For example, we can find significant inaccuracies in any SAP marketing document that is put in front of us.
SAP customers and prospects continuously 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 as 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 makes a habit of stating the milestones on the roadmap as sufficiently vague, that it can be challenging to say for sure if the item was 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 into 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 to 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.
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 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 merely becomes a question about price, timing, and terms and conditions.
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.