How I Grew GE by 242% in just 12 months and why my replacement failed


Jeff Ogden, President of Find New Customers once led GE for Business Objects and grew it dramatically in just 12 months.

It is Martin Luther King day #MLKday and in his honor for all of my African-American friends, here’s his great quote:

“Judge people on the content of their character rather than the color of their skin.” Amen, Dr. King. As I like to say “There’s no black or white. We are all human beings.”MLKday

My experience with GE is a great lesson for hiring mangers and this is what I suggest:

Don’t hire resumes. Hire great processes.

What you think will work often does not. Like hiring the man who did the exact same job for the top competitor.

Beth Comstock GE
Beth Comstock, CMO of GE

I grew revenue from GE by 242% in just 12 months.

This is also a lesson in how to manage a big account.

Now I’m a marketing expert who runs Find New Customers, a Tampa-based demand generation agency and we help companies develop world-class marketing programs and we are partnered with Likeable Local, Social Media Marketing Software to make YOU more Successful.

Why don’t you contact Find New Customers to get more Mr. Right Nows your salespeople need?

In the early 1990s, I worked for Business Objects, which was one of the worst experiences of my career, because all they cared about was revenue. Sales was run by an incompetent boob whose name I will not say.  They did not care one lick about customer satisfaction, they were in the “Purchase Order extraction business.”

That was a loser of a business strategy and the company has since been sold to IBM. While I was there, I noticed the company was losing ground badly with General Electric.  I asked if I could handle it.

I had never handled GE before, but they said “Yes.” (Note that they gave GE to a rookie salesperson with zero experience.)

I’m customer-centric and I was many years ahead of my time. After all, who was doing content marketing in 1990? No one, except me.

GE was working on a project called Digital Cockpits, dictated by their CEO at the time, Jack Welch, which we did not sell. Our product was called WebIntelligence, a web based business intelligence product, which was not a digital cockpit.

But I won one big deal in GE Capital and it was successful, because we had a crack team of programmers from Business Objects and Tata, led by my good friend, Chirag Shah, to modify our product to the customer needs.   (Chirag is really good and I highly recommend him.) I set weekly meetings to ensure the team did what they needed and I could fix the problems the teams ran into. That team built a great product and it was rolled out to everyone at GE Capital. If memory serves, it was rolled out to 144 instead of 14, which GE had planned at the start of the project.

Local marketing and I developed some custom marketing materials (content marketing) on Digital Cockpits, using screen shots of what we had developed. Our content did not look like any of the standard brochures that came from corporate. It really was Content Marketing in the Stone Age.Stone Age

I was also a realist and GE is a global company, so I needed a global team to perform. Every rep around the world needed to sell GE.

I understood that Barbara Buttizi (her actual name) in Italy had 30 accounts, but I wanted to have her call on GE and close it.. How do I do that? I decided the answer was simple. Made GE the easiest to sell to – easier than her other 29 accounts.  That meant I had to educate her on how to sell to GE, so she would know exactly what to say and to whom to say it. Using emails and conference calls, I got it done and Barbara learned what she needed to know.

It worked. Barbara sold GE in Italy. I also got up in the middle of the night for conference calls for people like Barbara and GE Italy. I supported my global team by doing whatever was needed. I did a great job of supporting a global team.

But as I said, Business Objects did not keep customers happy, so I left. It’s hard to sell when GE Card Services says they’re sorry they bought your software and your customer pulls the plug on all purchases and a top salesperson has a bad quarter because his sales funnel dried up.

A regional VP said to me that they would have fired me, but my results made me untouchable.

I’d love to hear from anyone about their experience with that company then.

At the end of the year, Chirag told me the results – GE revenue had grown by 242%! Sales lesson: The best salespeople are customer-centric and visionary. 

Almost no one looks for that – when they post sales management jobs on LinkedIn.

What did Business Objects do after I left? They did what almost all companies do. They turned to the biggest competitor in the business at the time, Cognos, and hired the man who led GE for them. That is what almost all companies do today.

One problem: This man was not as visionary or customer-centric as me. He didn’t create content or make sales easy for sales reps.  And he didn’t last six months. They fired him.

Ironically, after I left, I met with the leadership of Cognos and they told me I was the only rep in their competitor they could never beat, not even once – not even in Heineken USA where IT recommended them – but we won it (Worst to First.)

The lesson for hiring managers is clear.  Stop hiring just on titles and start looking for processes used by the best, like being customer-centric and visionary.

What do you think? I love comments and those who share on social media.

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