Q&A: Microsoft Realigns U.S. Sales Structure for Better Customer Service and Deeper Industry Focus

REDMOND, Wash. , April 13, 2005 — Microsoft today began to realign its Enterprise & Partner Group (EPG) sales teams in the United States as a part of significant investments planned over the next fiscal year. The realignment is designed to help Microsoft meet customer demand for a superb local relationship, access to industry-specific expertise, and deep technology advice. To support the initiative, Microsoft will increase the size of its U.S. sales force, adding up to 10 percent new enterprise sales and product specialist positions nationwide.

PressPass spoke with Bill Veghte, corporate vice president for Microsoft North America, about the new sales-force structure, how it benefits customers and why the company is taking these next steps in realigning the sales teams. Veghte leads Microsoft’s sales, services and marketing efforts in the United States and Canada, with the goal of delivering optimal value for customers and strong business results for Microsoft and partners.

Bill Veghte, Corporate Vice President, Microsoft North America

PressPass: What are the changes you are making to the Enterprise Sales team?

Veghte: There are two important changes that we’ve put into motion this week. First, we are implementing a strategic realignment that will enable us to provide a more consistent customer experience — one that includes deep industry expertise, technical specialization and rich relationships at a local level. Second, we are making significant investments that will put more resources in the field organizations so that we can deliver the right resources, against the right opportunity, at the right time.

PressPass: Why realign the enterprise sales force? And why do it now?

Veghte: Customers are asking us for it. They are facing complex business challenges, and they have told us they want us to help them. As our business has evolved over the last five years, and our product portfolio has grown larger than ever before, we have a wealth of technologies, products, services and partner-based solutions to address customer needs. We are being asked to position those for customers in great technical depth and in the context of their specific industry. By doing that with our customers, we can unlock enormous potential to improve our customers’ businesses.

Second, when I look at the next 12-18 months, I cannot help but get excited. There are some incredible products in the development pipeline. We have ground-breaking new products including “Longhorn,” the next generation of the Microsoft Windows operating system, as well as Microsoft Visual Studio 2005 and server advances like Microsoft SQL Server 2005. These products will help our customers do extraordinary things; to enable that, we must have the right resources in place and work with our partner community to provide excellent sales, service and support. When customers are ready to upgrade to these innovative products, we must be ready as well — this means readying our sales and partner management organizations now.

PressPass: Specifically, what does this mean for your enterprise customers?

Veghte: It represents a huge advance in both the quality and consistency of experience we can provide all of our enterprise customers. In the past, we’ve managed sales primarily through district sales offices with local account managers. Over the last five years we’ve built an outstanding vertical industry expertise, but limited their responsibilities to a subset of accounts. We believe, based on customer feedback, that all of our enterprise customers want and deserve access to a team that can bring them industry depth without compromising local focus. Additionally, they want us to have absolute experts on our own applications — our customers and partners alike want access to product specialists who thoroughly understand the potential of our products and can work with our industry specialists and partners to ensure they are taking full advantage of their technology investments.

PressPass: Haven’t you always had product specialists? How is this different?

Veghte: As our product portfolio has grown, enabling us to offer rich, comprehensive, robust enterprise solutions to our customers, the ability for our product specialists to maintain truly deep expertise across that very broad catalog has been diluted. With this investment, we will not only sharpen their focus but also make them more available to customers by adding specialists to the local field offices. Product specialists will be able to concentrate exclusively on a single solution area, such as networking, portals, security or management, enabling them to stay truly focused and deeply knowledgeable. It is a one, two, three effort — local relationships, industry depth and industry applications expertise.

PressPass: Why so much focus on the “industry”approach?

Veghte: While it is critical that we have the ability to serve a broad scope of customers, within a given industry with specialized focus, we can help customers do extraordinary things. Customers want technology that solves their specific problems, and as a result we have built strong, industry-aligned teams staffed by experts — we have physicians on our healthcare team, for example — who know how to apply information technology to solve business issues unique to their industry. These investments will expand our capacity to allow the industry teams to engage seamlessly with our geographically-based teams to support all managed accounts in the United States. Customers get the best of both worlds.

We want to give our customers the right resources at the right time — an industry approach is an important component of this plan, and so is leveraging the breadth of our product offerings to address customer needs. Accomplishing that requires a structure that can routinely deliver three things to customers: deep product specialization, industry-relevant application expertise and a local account manager who is a trusted advisor, knows the customers’ businesses and takes ownership for their success. We are committed to providing the best customer experience possible through this “best-of-both-worlds” strategy.

PressPass: Will these changes have an impact on the Microsoft partner community?

Veghte: Yes; by delighting our joint customers, we become a better selling partner. Our business model has been, and remains, clearly centered on winning with and through our partners. The changes we are making will provide consistent levels of strategy and support to our enterprise segment; by keeping our focus on bringing state-of-the-art capability to customers, we help our partners and in turn drive growth for Microsoft.

PressPass: How will the Microsoft workforce be affected?

Veghte: We think these moves will benefit everyone on our sales teams, from the general managers to account teams and product specialists. The benefits include new jobs which create new advancement opportunities for the entire U.S. sales workforce. In addition, each worker will have greater clarity about the sales force mission and their specific job function. Many of our account managers and technical specialists are stretched too thin today — our investments in more personnel should help to alleviate this problem. We know that more resources, focused on helping our customers, will lead to a greater level of job satisfaction for our people.

PressPass: What are your future plans for Microsoft sales, services and marketing?

Veghte: Our primary goal is to keep listening to our customers extremely well, so we are constantly evaluating our business and making adjustments. The strength of our team is in our peoples’ ability to evolve their skills and priorities to meet the next challenge. We will continue to change and evolve — that is a must given the pace at which our industry moves, and our teams will rise to new challenges, and delight in providing great customer experiences.

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