Upgrading Sales Team Along With Software

By Ed Frauenheim

Oct. 19, 2007

The phrase “sales force” took on a new meaning at Lawson in 2005.

    New chief executive Harry Debes arrived at the business software firm determined to make Lawson’s sales team bigger and more assertive. A turbocharged sales organization is key to Debes’ strategy to pitch Lawson’s HR software and other products to the Fortune 500 companies traditionally served by software titans Oracle and SAP.

    First he bumped up the number of U.S. pre-sales professionals—the product experts who give demonstrations to customers—from about 50 to close to 70. Then he boosted the sales account executive roster in the U.S. from nearly 70 to more than 110. Seven of the new sales staffers came from Intentia, the Sweden-based firm Lawson merged with last year. Many of the rest came from other software firms, including Oracle and SAP.

    In September, Debes hired an executive vice president of global sales, Eduardo Sanchez, who brings more than 25 years of experience in global technology sales and consulting, including 13 years with business software firm Micro Strategy. For much of the past year, Debes led the sales team.

    That team has benefited from additional training, an improved system for producing software demonstrations and the adoption of’s application for tracking customer leads, says Travis White, Lawson’s senior vice president of global marketing.

    As important, White says, is the shift in attitude wrought by Debes on the sales staff. “Harry has re-instilled confidence in people,” he says.

“We’re well established in our
vertical markets, and our sales force
is upbeat. I think it is going to be a
big year for us.”
–Travis White, senior vice president of global marketing, Lawson Software

    Debes, White and others at Lawson are convinced that the company’s software can run effectively at large firms. In particular, Lawson is after big customers in certain vertical markets such as food and beverage, health care and fashion. “With in those industries, we’re quite confident that we can sell to any company, including the largest ones,” White says.

    That stance comes as Oracle and SAP have turned their sights on Lawson’s bread-and-butter clientele—the midsize market.

    For the year ended May 31, Lawson saw its revenue reach $750 million, up from $391 million the previous year. Most of the gain came from the addition of the Intentia business, however, and the company posted a net loss for the year of $21 million.

    Lawson hopes to stem that red ink in part through the launch this year of a new set of HR applications. In a brazen move, Lawson has declared that it aims to become the king of the HR software hill despite sales that are less than a tenth of those posted by SAP and Oracle.

    White argues that the new HR software will be coming to market just as the reinforced sales team is getting smart about Lawson’s new competitive landscape.

    Debes believes the quality of the sales person is key when competing against SAP or Oracle for business. And Lawson’s sales team is ready to get into those battles, White says. “We’re well established in our vertical markets, and our sales force is upbeat,” he says. “I think it is going to be a big year for us.”

Workforce Management, October 8, 2007, p. 23Subscribe Now!

Ed Frauenheim is a former Associate Editorial Director at Human Capital Media and currently works as Senior Director of Content at Great Place to Work. He is a co-author of A Great Place to Work For All.

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