SYSTEMS DIMENSIONS LIMITED
NOVEMBER 18, 1972
Jack Kyle described this as a meeting of our ‘professional marketing field force.’ I would like you to think about that description and the real meaning of the words he chose, because I want to talk about the concepts involved in each of those four words. (Story of Graduation Address from Man at YALE, using the letters to describe Youth, Ambition, etc.)
If there is anything that characterizes our field force, it is that they are considered to be ‘professional.’ Professionalism implies many obvious things: an in-depth knowledge of our products and services a deep desire to perform to the limits of one’s ability a sound and ethical approach to our customers. Professionalism also implies a way of looking at things professionals often work as part of a group and in SDL, it is important to recognize that that group is growing in numbers and ability very rapidly. This in turn means that maximum adaptability is required to changing requirements. (Those from Toronto might not understand this, but a quarterback, who is really professional, is at his best on the option plays). A true professional always tries his best to work with his team-mates, recognizing their different approaches to winning the game. At no time does a true professional ever publicly comment on his team-mates other than to stand up for them. a true professional is one who starts every play with the same enthusiasm and the assumption that this will be the play that will lead to the winning touchdown. He does this regardless of how well or how badly the previous play may have gone. The professional realizes he is paid to play the game and play it to win. Even if he owns the ball, he never picks it up and goes home.
I believe that the SDL field force is exactly this kind of highly professional group and it is this that has made our field force the most respected in the computer services business.
If we are the best in dedication and professional competence, can we also claim to be the best marketers? Sometimes there can be a conflict between doing an outstanding professional job, and selling as much as we are able to sell. There is always the danger that we could become over-cautious in our approach to selling.
I am not suggesting for a moment that we dilute the quality of what we do, but we should not let a fear of making a mistake prevent us from making the right moves.
I suspect that some of our work in the field is ‘over-engineered.’ We may have the tendency to build the dam 20 feet thicker than it really needs to be. Naturally, with this approach, no one will ever criticize the quality of the dam for it will never break, but we will probably take longer to build the dam than we need to, and we will certainly incur higher costs than are warranted.
I sometimes get the impression that our approach is over-hedged, overly-complicated and, therefore, at times not overly-saleable.
It is interesting to watch the different approaches between, say Softwarehouse, and the Computer Services Division. We have all noted that Softwarehouse tends to price the job to get the business, only define the specifications in general terms and then scramble to bring the whole operation in within the price and to the customer’s satisfaction. The Computer Services Division often tends to over-analyze, over-specify and over-protect the company. As professional marketers, we will have to get better at working at something that is in the middle ground.
I have already given some additional flexibility to the District Managers in the way our proposals can be structured. Throughout all levels of management, we will try to be very responsive to the things you were discovering in the field when you are trying to close business.
We need to develop imaginative approaches – a compromise between what we believe the customer really needs and what we know he wants and will buy.
We should remember that we can not do anything for a customer until he is a customer and this should be our first aim.
I believe that no one questions our professional ability in the field but I believe that in the area of marketing we have not yet qualified for the trophy. You have every reason to ask why I say this. Let me give you an example. Our sales in the quarter just past were 1.6 million dollars. This includes Softwarehouse sales. Computel sales in their most recent quarter were also 1.6 million and this includes the sales of their California division. More or less, these two are comparable in the content of their revenue makeup, but there is no way that the Computel product is anything like as good as ours. Somehow or other, Computel is able to do as good a selling job as we do with a far inferior product. If you have any doubt, let me carry on with the comparison.
Total Revenue Invested Capital Total Revenue Invested Capital
13.2 million 7.8 million 11.4 million 14.7 million
to May 31-72 to June 30-72
These figures, even allowing for the fact that Computel was in business a year longer than SDL, indicate that they have, in fact, sold as well or better than we have, with almost half the capital investment we have made.
I believe that that is the real challenge we face and if, as a field organization, we want to be considered not just the best professionals but the best professional marketing organization, then we are going to have to prove it.
The field is where the action is – the place where the game is played. It is up to us – me really – to make sure that you have the best possible equipment to make the game easy to win. At the moment, I am re-examining both the playing field and the equipment.
I am considering a number of major changes in the corporation, some of which will clearly affect the branch operation. I have several aims in mind:
I want to integrate many of the functions that are now separate in the field. Basically, I would like to take the apples and oranges, add a dash of Cointreau, can this, and sell the resulting fruit salad for a fancy price! As I have already said, we are not going to go the conglomerate route with our acquisition program. Instead, I intend to integrate in the field as much as I possibly can. The reasons are obvious.
I want a much closer integration of the Softwarehouse and SDL Computer Services group, to get rid of any lingering ‘we/they’ approach. Jack Davies correctly noted, when I talked at the Annual Meeting, that even I still think of Softwarehouse as essentially a separate organization and, when I commented on the marvelous performance of SDL employees in the United Appeal, I neglected to mention that, while we were seven times the City average, Softwarehouse was over twelve times.
I believe we must have a much clearer interface to the user so that he will understand that our field force represents all of the products of SDL.
We must have more easily identifiable responsibility for results of that total package of SDL products and this responsibility must rest ultimately in the field regardless of where the resources may have come from.
We must keep providing the field with new products and services.
I have not clearly identified within the company the responsibility for new product development or new product marketing and I believe you should expect this.
It is essential that we set up the proper program to train more people for the field, whether they are going to be programmers/ analysts, technical counsellors or salesmen.
We have resources to draw on that we never had before, e.g. we have a contract programming group located in Ottawa, we have industry expertise in SRG, we have the technical skills in the SSG for systems management, and we have skills within Operations for facilities management.
We must acquaint the field with the menu -one could consider that we have the cooks and we have the food, but we now need to make sure that you are the professional maitre d’s to help the customer select his meal and then convince him that the price he is going to pay is well worth it.
Finally, there are some other problems that result directly from too many good things happening in the corporation at once – it is up to me to get a better balance of load amongst the senior executives and this should also help the field by getting better responsiveness to your needs.
My aim is to have a reorganization that I can place before the Board of Directors at the next meeting on January 18.
If I can provide the goods, and you can use your professional abilities to really market these services to their utmost, we will continue to be what the Financial Post implied in their recent special on the computer field – the major force that any other company will have to reckon with.
What do I expect from you?
1) To meet or exceed the sales plan for this year.
2) To provide the winners in TARGET 600. This you should easily be able to do.
Remember that the corporate philosophy is that the company is there to serve the field, not the other way around. We are only as good as our professional marketing field force.
I know we have the talent to beat anyone in the field.
I know we have the spirit.
All we now need are the results.