Death of the software salespeople?

The next generation of would-be software consumers are being raised on a diet of self-service without the help of salespeople, according to Atlassian vice-president of engineering, Jean-Michel Lemieux.

As a software vendor, do you really need a dedicated team of salespeople to drive adoption of your products? Atlassian doesn't think so.

The Australia-based software vendor operates on a no-salesperson business model. While it does have a network of partners that can help with more complex software deployments, Atlassian doesn't employ salespeople directly, which means the company website does a lot of the heavy lifting when it comes to bringing customers on board.

The vendor does, however, have staff that answer phone calls and emails, should potential clients have more questions about the products. Even with no sales staff, Atlassian has managed to amass more than 25,000 customers worldwide.

"The advantage is it forces us to be very transparent about what we do have," Atlassian vice-president of engineering, Jean-Michel Lemieux, told ZDNet. "We can't send somebody face to face, so we describe our products very clearly on our websites with easy ways to process and renew services.

"It has forced us to automate a lot of our business, which makes it a lot easier for people to do business with us."

With the help of Apple's App Store, most people these days are very comfortable with buying software themselves without any aid, according to Lemieux.

"Think about the kids today; do you think our kids are getting raised wanting to talk to sales folks?" he said. "They're going on the web and expect to be able to self-serve.

"At the end of the day, we don't want to have customers pay a premium to have somebody walk into their office with a briefcase and laptop to give a demo on how our software works."

Atlassian also tends to cross-sell its products through the products themselves, another reason why the company doesn't have to rely on salespeople.

Indeed, many companies that are offering software as a service (SaaS) put an emphasis their self-service capabilities. But for big companies with established sales forces, it's difficult to change their ways, Lemieux said.

It's hard to say whether software salespeople will eventually become a thing of the past, according to Lemieux. He is aware, however, that different markets have different needs. In Japan, for instance, more of a "hands-on" approach is required.

"There are countries that need a bit more 'high touch', who culturally want to talk to somebody," Lemieux said. "In Japan, we have a dedicated evangelist."


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