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Storage Decisions 2001: EMC chief defends sales force

Under fire for having a sales force with a pit bull mentality, EMC CEO Joe Tucci defended his sales team and said, while he won't condone arrogance, he does encourage aggressiveness.

CHICAGO -- Responding to negative quips about the tactics of his sales force, EMC CEO Joe Tucci admitted Thursday that some of his sales people may have crossed the line from aggressiveness to arrogance, but he said that was an exception rather than the norm.

"Far and away our customers think we have a great sales force," Tucci told an audience of 400 top-level enterprise storage executives at the Storage Decisions 2001 conference here. "Have individuals on our sales force crossed the line into arrogance? Yes. Is it the vast majority? No."

But Tucci made no excuses for his sales team and said he wanted his sales people to be aggressive.

"Certainly, I want an aggressive sales force," Tucci said. "What business wouldn't? I'm not going to change the aggressive nature of EMC. You have to be aggressive. You have to take chances."

EMC has been under fire over the cut-throat tactics some businesses claim are used by the storage giant's sales force. Businesses, once under pressure to buy storage systems from EMC because of lack of competition, say they are fed up with EMC's "take-no-prisoner" sales strategy. Many say they have switched to other vendors as a result.

However, in an informal poll of attendees taken during Tucci's presentation, just under half were using EMC products. When asked how many had working relationships with the EMC sales staff , about three-quarters of that group raised their hands. When asked how many of those customers thought their sales representatives were arrogant, about half dropped their hands.

Tucci said he had proven his point that, while it did exist, arrogance was not a part of company culture.

However, Curtis Preston, president and principal consultant for The Storage Group, an Oceanside, Calif.-based company that specializes in backup and recovery operations, challenged Tucci's polling of the audience and suggested that to accurately gauge the audience's feelings toward the EMC sales force he should ask the people that did not buy EMC's storage products for a reason why.

"If you tell an EMC salesperson you don't want to buy his stuff , he'll go to your boss because he can't imagine why you would want to buy anything else," he said.

Tucci held his ground but did acknowledge that EMC had some problems in the area of customer relationships.

"The commitment to change is there, but it will not change overnight," Tucci said. "If there's one thing I can't stand, it's arrogance among my sales force."

As he often does, Tucci used a sports analogy to explain his company's competitive sales tactics. "

"When I played baseball, I was there to kill my opponent," he said. "I wanted to win. At the end, whether I won or not, I'd shake the competitors hand and say 'nice game.' That's what I want my sales person to do."

Assistant News Editor Kevin Komiega contributed to this article.

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