SAP to launch major reorganisation of sales force

SAP's US-based subsidiary next month plans to launch a major reorganisation of its field sales and service operations that will eliminate separate sales forces for small and large companies and push decision-making responsibilities closer to the customer level.

Chris Larsen, who last week was named president of the SAP America subsidiary, said the upcoming changes are aimed at making SAP "more proactive" in the way it deals with users of R/3 and its other business applications.

SAP's salespeople "should be more available and accessible even when [users] don't have funded projects on the table," Larsen said in an interview at the E-Business Conference & Expo at New York's Javits Centre. "We'll have individuals who are much more in tune with the issues [in different vertical industries and regions]."

The reorganisation does away with a global accounts unit that only handled R/3 users who have annual revenues of at least $US2.5 billion, Larsen said. Starting in January, new account teams will be put in place with responsibility for all customers from $200 million on up in a specific industry and geographic area. That also will eliminate a practice of assigning salespeople to work with users who are located in different parts of the US and Canada.

"You can't cover an account in Houston if you're based in New Jersey," Larsen said. SAP expects the changes to reduce long-distance travel needs, which in turn should result in better productivity by freeing up the sales force to spend more of their time with users and less of it in the air, he added.

In addition, profit-and-loss responsibilities are being pushed down from the general managers of SAP America's seven vertical-industry units to the regional sales vice presidents who report to them - a move aimed at speeding up the company's ability to make decisions and respond to users on bids, price quotes and other sales issues. And SAP's consulting unit will start getting involved earlier in the sales process to help users plan their R/3 implementations.

SAP is well-known for making annual changes in its sales organisation. But the revamping under way now "is bigger than the annual thing," Larsen said. "It's not just sales. It's our entire field operations."

New software packaging and pricing formulas that SAP has been working on for more than a year are also on track to take effect in January, as promised. Larsen said prices may go up in some cases, although users will be able to spread the software around to a much larger number of users for the extra fee. Installed-base customers will be able to continue buying under SAP's old pricing scheme if they prefer, he added.

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