Sales Academy Success Story: How Collaboration and Accountability Led to a Deal with One of the World’s Largest Train Manufacturers
Intro to the series:
At SAP, we aspire to have an agile, adaptable, and multi-generational workforce uniquely positioned to partner and innovate with SAP customers in a global and disruptive marketplace. A key component of achieving this goal is SAP’s Sales Academy in Silicon Valley, California.The Academy empowers a diverse sales workforce through a world-class multi-dimensional learning experience and three-year developmental journey. The experience aims to unleash the full potential of the workforce through the collective intelligence of each generation and to develop a strong bench of role-model leaders that possess a unique combination of digital fluency, global intelligence, and quota-carrying experience.
Based in Madrid with customers throughout Spain, Irama Vega is one of over 1,000 Sales Academy graduates to date. Today, Irama is an Account Executive for Discrete Manufacturing accounts in Spanish Large Enterprises. Although she is based in Madrid, Irama prides herself in traveling to meet her customers face-to-face. Since discrete manufacturing is not geographically based, Irama visits customers across Spain, regardless of early flights and long drives. Irama laughed and said, “Wherever there is a company that has discrete, I’ll go.”
Before joining the Academy, Irama sold pipes in Nigeria and later worked in Barcelona as an Export Area manager for a piping company. When Irama got promoted and reassigned to a role in Madrid, she decided it was time for a career change. Irama wanted to join a multinational corporation that had a strong commitment to the tech sector, which she views as an industry that can change the future. She learned about SAP, and with very little experience in tech, she believed the Sales Academy would be her best route of entry. Irama remembers, “I am certain that if it had not been for the Academy, I would never have had the opportunity to join a company like SAP, and I am extremely grateful.”
With a background in law, Irama had experience selling herself and her arguments, and this experience helped her during one of her first customer success stories. Irama was part of a team that was able to sign a new deal with CAF, a Spanish train manufacturer. After two years pushing for an entry point, Irama began her sales efforts with CAF after reading headlines that the executive board was looking to open new lines of business.
Talks with CAF started slowly as their CIO was initially hesitant and wanted a traditional organizational structure. Irama began by simply discussing the prospect of evaluating new ERP systems with them. She also arranged a series of demos specifically tailored for CAF. She knew that CAF was purchasing other companies world-wide, and wanted to continue manufacturing trains but also wanted to start selling services. CAF’s prior ERP system did not offer capabilities for opening new lines of business.
“I am certain that if it had not been for the Academy, I would never have had the opportunity to join a company like SAP, and I am extremely grateful.”
After two years of weekly visits, Irama and SAP managed to sign CAF to a subscription deal including SAP Ariba and SAP HANA. One of the world’s top five train manufacturers, CAF is the largest deal Irama has closed so far.
Irama tries to differentiate herself and SAP from other organizations with the level in which she collaborates with customers at every step of the sales cycle. She always puts together a close plan, shares it with her customers, and invites them to collaborate so the plan works for everyone as well as possible. “It’s not just my close plan, it’s our close plan. We make it a win-win and ensure we are on the same page and have the same goals,” Irama shared.
As a recent Academy graduate, Irama recognizes her customers are often used to interacting with senior SAP sales leaders. In order to build trust, she leads with openness and accountability. Thinking of herself and other Academy graduates, Irama remarked, “Since we don’t have the same background as people who have been with SAP for years, it’s very important that we be honest and transparent with the customer. What we lack in background we can make up for in accountability which was ingrained in us at the Academy. It’s something I always try to keep in mind.”
Irama also credits the support of her value-added team (VAT), explaining, “It helps that I am very open about what I am good at and where I need help.” Her Customer Success Manager and Business Architect at the time of CAF deal was key for helping her win the company over and helped to coordinate the required resources. Irama’s VAT also collaborated closely with her to leverage Amazon Cloud data to do a HANA Enterprise Cloud deal with CAF to improve connectivity of devices and data. She worked with everyone from pre-sales to SAP consultants and believes it was a collective effort to move the deal forward. Irama is thankful for SAP’s cohesiveness, “I am very grateful, and thankful that this was a team effort. We all had the same goal, all worked in the same direction, and the team respected all my decisions within the sales cycle. We were aligned in what we wanted to achieve, and it helped that I shared my plans with them from the beginning.”