Sales staff hawking advertising for Sensis are being trained in selling IT services following the Telstra subsidiary’s part-purchase of Invizage Technology.
Invizage co-founder, Paul Adler, said that once the education of the Sensis staff was complete, his sales force would effectively leap from 10 people to more than 600. In the five months since the deal, 100 Sensis salespeople had been trained.
For a customer of Sensis’ print, online or directory products, a sales pitch for an advert in the Yellow Pages could turn into a chat about networking issues or PC support.
“The lead generation process will get clients to talk about how computers are hindering their business,” Adler said. “First and foremost, their core aim is to sell advertising and they are not going to focus too hard on our services — they are not actually closing the deal but passing the lead on.”
Telstra’s large majority stake in the IT services provider opens up Sensis’ client base of 420,000 small-to-medium businesses to Invizage.
Adler said IT vendors would soon be able to use his connection with Sensis as a low-cost channel into a rich seam of SMB customers.
“I was talking with a large vendor who was drawing out his channel strategies,” he said.
“At the top of the pyramid he put large clients that he deals with direct and in the middle he had his partner relationships. There was a big shape at the bottom where he said that he doesn’t know what he is doing and anything goes.”
But will sending in advertising sales staff armed with scant knowledge about Internet connection speeds provide the depth of consultancy needed for SMBs to embrace and purchase outsourced IT services?
“They are not IT consultants,” Adler said.
“They are advertising consultants that are being trained to be business solutions consultants. It’s another way we can bring our products to market.
“Whether you think it’s logical or not, that is what is happening.”
Invizage has been keen to reassure existing clients — as well as the market — that the significant investment from Sensis will not change day-to-day operations.
Bond, Adler and the rest of the management team are staying for a minimum of three years and have formed a new board of directors with three other Invizage executives.
A press statement on Invizage’s website described the Sensis deal as being at ‘arms length’.
“We’re exploring it as a trial to see how it goes in the long term,” Adler said. “As we understand the process more we’ll get more structured through the development of sales goals and targeting.”
He said Telstra’s acquisition of large technology services company Kaz, approved earlier this month, would be beneficial to the relationship between Invizage and Sensis.
Kaz’s traditional customer base is in large financial, manufacturing or government organisations.
“We are looking at ways to pass leads up and down between us,” Adler said.