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Kick-Starting a Virtuous Cycle in Field Sales

At SAP Field Kick-Off Meeting, or FKOM, SAP Mentor adds value to SAP field sales planning

This is the seventh article in the 2012 informational series called “Meet the SAP Mentors.” SAP Mentors are a super-smart, engaged global cohort of nearly 110 experts in all things SAP – customers, partners, employees, bloggers, consultants, business people and technical wizards nominated by peers in the SAP Community Network and selected by SAP. Every day, SAP Mentors demonstrate their personal and professional commitment to leadership by helping SAP customers and practitioners solve the business and technical challenges that come with achieving better business results via SAP-based solutions. As a byproduct, the SAP Mentor Initiative is enriching the culture of SAP with a more open and collaborative dialog between SAP decision-makers and stakeholders. A shared commitment to dialog, collaboration and customer success helps to make the SAP ecosystem a predictable source of competitive advantage to the world’s leading organizations.

January 16, 2012. Three thousand pumped up SAP field sales professionals cheer enthusiastically at the Marina Bay Sands Expo & Convention Center in Singapore.


“90 well-choreographed seconds” – John Appleby (L.) of Bluefin Solutions on stage with Vishal Sikka (R.), SAP chief

technology officer, during the January 2012 Field Sales Kick-Off Meeting (FKOM) Asia-Pacific Japan (APJ),

Marine Bay Sands Expo & Convention Center, Singapore.

SAP Mentor and partner John Appleby of SAP consultancy Bluefin Solutions stands before them at the SAP Asia Pacific Japan (APJ) Field Sales Kick-Off Meeting, or FKOM. Appleby has just 90 well-choreographed seconds in which to communicate his company’s partnership with SAP. Appleby’s dramatic presentation is just one of many: he’s a small, but integral, part of a major presentation by Vishal Sikka, chief technology officer of SAP and member of the Executive Board.

Appleby was the first ever partner and SAP Mentor invited to present at FKOM. His exemplary efforts to build business and technology relationships in Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong and Indonesia caught the attention of SAP, as did Bluefin Solutions’ substantial growth in Southeast Asia.

Kick starting a revolution

FKOM is one of the most dynamic events on the SAP calendar, and invitations are highly coveted. At FKOM—held each year in North America, Asia Pacific Japan, and Europe, the Middle East and Africa—the SAP Executive Board and SAP executives roll out compelling presentations that enable SAP partners to access a year’s worth of insight into SAP’s corporate strategy and revolutionary technology. Also at FKOM, the SAP field sales force determines how to achieve its annual sales targets.

SAP partners are a diverse group ranging from volume and value-added resellers to independent software vendors, SAP services partners and extended business partners. One of SAP’s many successful business partners is Bluefin Solutions, an SAP consultancy based in London, United Kingdom. The largest independent systems integrator in the U.K., Bluefin Solutions employs 200 SAP consultants and has offices in Chicago, U.S.A.; Cape Town, South Africa; London and Liverpool, U.K.; and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Appleby, a Bluefin Solutions senior executive and since 2009 an SAP Mentor, has deep experience in consulting, sales and marketing, with a special focus on all things SAP HANA, such as solutions for mobility, industry verticals and lines of business.

It’s telling that Appleby participated in this closed-door session where sales teams strategize about achieving annual sales goals: SAP’s invitation makes clear the business value of SAP Mentors to the SAP field sales ecosystem.

Gaining traction

Relationships happen on the ground among field sales professionals. So that’s where Appleby seeks traction in Southeast Asia. His daily routine involves keeping in touch with 20 to 30 members of SAP’s account team as well as SAP customers. Feedback from his partner ecosystem to the SAP sales ecosystem is thus fluid and dynamic.

“Customers appreciate being inspired and look for us to create a solution for which they have a need, and which [in a virtuous cycle] can occasionally result in a co-selling opportunity for Bluefin Solutions and SAP,” he says. “Also, the management team at SAP values it when I relay information from customers around pricing, strategy and product evolution.”

Appleby’s strong track record as a partner and as an SAP Mentor provides important insight into how SAP Mentors can influence SAP’s accounts and the field sales force.

SAP sales leadership endorses SAP Mentors

“There’s a natural connection between the partner and sales ecosystem that grows all the time,” says Appleby. “We need to do everything we can to help partners and SAP Mentors engage more with accounts and field sales teams, but only where the field sales force and customers can benefit from real insight around products and solutions.”

Robert Enslin is SAP’s president of global customer operations and a member of the SAP Managing Board. According to Enslin, “Our SAP Mentors play a critical role in the sales process by helping customers make a more educated buying decision and serving as fairly objective advocates for greater business value.”

Enslin believes that SAP’s immense ecosystem not only helps SAP and its customers solve problems—but that it also enables problems be solved better and faster than ever before. “I believe SAP has the strongest sales and services team in the industry,” Enslin adds. “However, that doesn’t negate the need for our customers to learn and rely on the complementary expertise of our partners and SAP Mentor community whose counsel and expertise allows our customers to be better educated, insightful and visionary about their IT needs, leading to better buying decisions.”

Upping it to the next level

The tremendous value that an SAP Mentor such as John Appleby brings to the SAP ecosystem in Southeast Asia begs the question of how the work of bridging accounts, field sales and customers can spread region-wide and around the world.

Serb Jodha, our head of consulting in Southeast Asia, epitomizes how we’re actively empowering employees to collaborate with customers,” says Appleby. “Bluefin Solutions leads by example in the region by instilling [proactive] behaviors that make us a better partner and collaborator.

“There’s huge opportunity and enthusiasm in Southeast Asia and beyond,” Appleby adds. “That also means there’s a gap that partners and SAP Mentors can help to address, so that customers can move from creating transactional systems to systems in areas such as analytics and mobility that offer more advanced business value.”



John Appleby’s Twitter feed

Other Articles in “Meet the SAP Mentors” Series

Tales of Two Inside Tracks, SAP Mentor-Style

All for One and HANA for All

Advocating for Excellence

Tree of Talent

The Inside Track on Community Engagement

Trust + Results = Success

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  • Although this is an awesome story about John who is a great guy, I think this gives a wrong impression about SAP Mentors being there to help SAP sell stuff.  Not all of the SAP Mentors are partners and some are just regular old SAP customers who buy/run the solutions from SAP.

    In fact I have a bumper sticker up on my wall from the SAP Mentors that goes
    “Run SAP Amazing-er with SAP Mentors, – We aren’t Selling anything!”. That being said I think the real value of the SAP Mentors lies in the fact they are willing work with almost anyone within the SAP ecosystem to help further improve the products and solutions of SAP regardless whether that is sales, consulting, development, consultants, partners, customers, hecklers, analysts, fanboys, bloggers, new to SAP, veterans to SAP, young, old, sick, healthy, etc.

    Once again I like the story, but knowing how many other things SAP Mentors do, I don’t think it would be fair for people to get the impression from this blog that the only thing they are there is to help SAP sell software.

    Take care,


    • Hi Stephen,

      No customers attend FKOM – so there was no real selling (no direct selling at least)

      This is a SAP Mentor assisting SAP to improve their messaging and provide some insight into what Partners see and hear on the ground.

      • The problem was that title and my misunderstanding of the blog was that it gave the appearance that the SAP Mentors were helping SAP sell software at actual engagements based on the title and a bad speed read of the content.

        If I’m somewhat familar with the SAP Mentors and got confused by this, I can almost guarantee that someone not so familar will also get confused.  Don’t get me wrong, it was very good article, and good example of SAP Mentor contributions so my point was just that fact many people will see this based on the title that SAP Mentors are helping SAP sell software.

        Take care,


        • I think you’re right on the article title, Stephen.

          Certainly to think that all SAP Mentors help directly sell SAP software would be wrong, although there are obviously a number that do pre-sales, sales and marketing roles for SAP and SAP Partners. SAP Mentors are a varied bunch and that’s part of the magic, as you know.

          There is another facet to this though: SAP Mentors do all help SAP with its software – be that challenging on product direction, driving improvements on the ground, making customer implementations more successful and changing the ecosystem.

          How is that not helping SAP sell software? 🙂

          • John,

            Complete agree that the activities do help SAP sell software in methods that dont’ involve pre-sales engagements.  I’m sure however that SAP ever did need a few SAP Mentors to help pitch pre-sales in Hawaii expenses paid, it would be a struggle to get volunteers 😏 .

  • Stephen,

    Thanks for the feedback. As you say, SAP Mentors are neutral and it’s important to clearly communicate that. Let me think on that title again….



      • Much better title for a deserving article.  I have really enjoyed the series of articles so I really have not any problems with the actual full body of content thus far. 

        In terms of other areas to cover right now I’m drawing a blank, but to be fair I’m going to re-read all the blogs in the series before I come back with any other suggestions on things that I have “seen” that haven’t been mentioned.  I am personally always amazed by all the different activities that the SAP Mentors have been involved with.

        Take care,


  • Stephen,

    Thanks for the comment, because others might be thinking this and it gives me a chance to reply in full. The SAP Mentor initiative is a multi-faceted program – and each of the 100+ Mentors brings something different that is valuable. Sanjay has been chatting with Mentors all year and written what I think is a well – balanced series that covers everything from Inside Track and Nigel James to University Alliance and Tammy P. This is Sanjay’s 7th blog on Mentors this year (there were more in 2011). To exclude this story on the interaction John A. had with the sales team at FKOM would miss an element of the program’s genius – especially since John’s attendance was historic, in that a non-SAPer was invited. We want to celebrate all aspects of the Mentors. I invite you to take this comment “ but knowing how many other things SAP Mentors do, I don’t think it would be fair for people to get the impression from this blog that the only thing they are there is to help SAP sell software.” – and share with us what aspect of the Mentors you think others should know more about. We are more than happy to arrange that!