IT sales teams are the real innovation warriors

IT sales people are crucial in educating large organizations about new innovations — without their patience and dogged persistence — no new technologies would get into these big businesses

I've been reporting on the US enterprise software industry for nearly three decades but since I've been working at Delphix , a virtual data company in the heart of Silicon Valley, I've seen a different side of the industry: I had no idea the number of people it takes to sell enterprise software. And how long it can take.

I have a new respect for enterprise IT sales teams and all their pre-sales and post-sales support teams.

It seems that without the dogged persistence and patient work of all these people -- nothing innovative would ever penetrate into these large corporations. They have an astounding number of barriers to adopting anything new. Yet these big businesses have the most to win because they can scale productivity gains across their global platforms.

Getting through the many corporate barriers to innovation is a feat that Ulysses might flinch at and choose to wrestle with a Hydra instead. But the sales teams get on with it and somehow do it.

A sale is not the end...

Even when the sale is done there's still more to be done. That's when customer education and customer success teams get to work to make sure that the user has installed the software right, and is able to get the best out of it. It must not sit unused it must show its value as quickly as possible.

Pre-sale and post-sale there is a tremendous amount of education that these teams must do before they can sell something that's truly innovative, that doesn't have a handy label and a budget assigned to it.

Sales teams are the first to tell IT and business leaders about what is possible and how it can change their business.

Enterprise sales drives innovation...

It is a role that is rarely mentioned but enterprise sales are vital in keeping Silicon Valley's startup ecosystem viable. There are more enterprise IT startups than any other type.

Many count other startups as customers but if those startups account for far more than their enterprise customers, they face terrible churn.High customer acquisition costs will burn through their investment capital, as typically more than 90% of their startup customers will go bust as a natural part of the lifecycle in Silicon Valley. With enterprise customers, revenues are less lumpy and more predictable, it's an important foundation for growth.

Enterprise IT sales teams are thus vital to the continued funding and spread of innovative IT technologies. This also shows the lie in the myth of the genius developers in a garage -- their innovations will die in the garage unless they have a great sales team.

Can large enterprises be faster at engaging with innovative technologies? It would be a powerful competitive advantage for those that figure it out. Who'll be first?