On an Interview with Steve Ballmer, Microsoft CEO, from The Wall Street Journal

On Friday, November 15, the Wall Street Journal published an interview with Steve Ballmer, CEO of Microsoft®. The article was written by Monica Langley. I hope anyone taking the time to read this article will note Mr. Ballmer’s great historical success. “Revenue tripled during his tenure to almost $78 billion in the year ended this June, and profit grew 132% to nearly $22 billion.” These numbers are nothing to scoff at. Only a handful of CEOs can claim the same level of success.

So why has Mr. Ballmer magnetized so much negative attention? I think it has something to do with the intensity with which he has approached his job and mission. Ms. Langley notes: “‘Charge! Charge! Charge!’ he bellows, jumping up from an interview and lunging forward while pumping his fist forward like a battering ram. ‘I’m not going to wimp away from anything!'”. Reading this in 2013, Mr. Ballmer’s tenacity takes on a positive, admirable (even heroic) tone and texture.

But back in 1999, the last year of the short life of NetScape, a company which left a permanent mark on all aspects of the information publishing business, Mr. Ballmer’s tenacity, as reflected in the strategies and tactics Microsoft personnel implemented to disrupt NetScape, were portrayed by the media as extreme cruelty — truly the kind of exploits typical of “the Empire” in George Lucas’ Star Wars fantasy.

When the tenacity and intensity of the CEO is considered, along with the enormous growth of Microsoft, as a business, during his tenure, its method of producing internal leaders, otherwise known as its “employee ranking system” makes more sense. As I’ve written earlier in this blog, businesses capable of sustaining and nurturing positive internal discord, meaning healthy contention between lines of business, will likely be more successful than their peers.

I wrote several posts on the topic of matrix sales organizations, where outside and inside sales personnel reported independently of one another, as an example of how to “turbo charge” sales productivity. The “employee ranking system” at Microsoft looks to me to be a very similar structure.

But for a mature tech business, all this discord can amount to a heavy burden. Successful public relations for an enormous business like Microsoft® depends on positive imagery — not snapshots of some savage barbarian horde. Perhaps John Thompson, who sits on Microsoft’s Board is right, it’s time for Mr. Ballmer to move on.

In my opinion, Mr. Ballmer’s decision to depart from the CEO position at Microsoft, together with the changes already begun in its internal organizational structure and its method of measuring, and rewarding, employee performance, all speak to a transition in its brand. The next few months should be very interesting for anyone following Microsoft.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2013 All Rights Reserved


Select Sales Professionals Who can Manage Prospects and Customers

It is essential that enterprise sales personnel keep early stage conversations with prospects on track. The cliche “the customer is always right” is, quite often, dead wrong. In fact, most prospects are unclear about what they are looking for. Further, prospects in the role of decision-makers are usually very comfortable engaging with other personnel from a position of authority. These people almost always assume an authoritative posture when dealing with sales people. Therefore, sales personnel selected by an innovative tech business to lead enterprise sales efforts must have the type of personality to normally engage with decision-makers, regardless of any authoritative stance that the other party in the conversation may appear to assume.

Further, the best enterprise sales personnel will avoid any type of reactive posturing when engaging with decision-makers. For these personalities, it is strictly SOP to keep on track despite efforts on the part of the other party in the conversation to veer dangerously off the road to, for example, obtain merely a price quote, or to simply jump to a proposal without any useful information about needs or solutions that may or may not be relevant. The fact is that the personality type of these sales personnel lends itself to this type of engagement with prospects. When a bullying prospect acts like wrecking ball these sales personalities mysteriously vaporize, which lets the wrecking ball, harmlessly, swing wildly in empty air.

It is important to understand that permitting conversations to go off track at a very early stage in the prospect development process almost always leads to very low probability opportunities. As these low probability opportunities stack up, sales personnel may be very hard at work, but the work they are expending will almost always fall into very early stage prospect qualification.

In order to move forward prospect engagements must be kept strictly on track. Without meaningful information that your product/service/integrated solution can satisfy some important need there is absolutely no point whatsoever jumping into presentations or, worse, pricing and proposals. Prospects who refuse to participate in an information gathering process that affords all parties an opportunity to determine whether or not it makes sense to continue a discussion are simply not worth the time. Very often it makes sense to prune closed up prospects from sales campaigns. But some of the time analysis will show that a lack of information supporting prospect engagement must be directly attributed to sales personnel who can’t keep discussions on track. In these cases businesses must make a change if revenue targets are to be hit.

We welcome opportunities to engage with companies looking to add the right sales personnel to handle their selling needs. You may telephone Ira Michael Blonder at +1 631-673-2929 to further a discussion. You may also email Mike at imblonder@imbenterprises.com.

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2012 All Rights Reserved