Express Data’s Gerard Willems was preparing for life as an IT technician after earning an NZ certificate in Electrical Engineering. But he admits he wasn’t a natural at the “technical stuff”, so his boss at the time offered him a role selling Amstrad and Commodore Computers. Not long after that, he started his first IT distribution sales role as account manager with Melco Sales (now BDT) and in February 2000 Gerard started the Express Data Christchurch branch. For the last three years he has been the nationwide Microsoft BDM at Express Data.
Do you consider yourself a persuasive person?
If I really believe in something then yes I can be persuasive. I will always first make sure I have all my facts straight and the client is interested before I push my message.
Has that quality ever reflected on you in a negative way?
I wouldn’t think so and hope not. It would show through my enthusiasm and my clients would know I only push something if it would have merit for them to listen to.
If you’re entertaining a client how much would you drink?
This depends on the client. If I have known them a long time and have a very good relationship then I would be happy to drink to the same state as my client. If it’s not a close relationship but the drinking forms a natural part of the meeting then a couple of Amstel Lights will go down a treat.
When did you realise you wanted to be a salesperson?
That was a long time ago. I had a boss that did not value my very slow way of fixing tricky IT problems so he offered me a sales role and I just loved it. I have been in sales roles ever since. I work for a good company that sells good products which means I can believe in what I sell. I like to add value, finding out exactly what the client or end user needs then presenting some options to choose from. Microsoft is always adding new ways to keep licensing fun so I can add value here and keep our clients winning, happy and loyal.
Have you ever had a deal go horribly wrong?
No, not the deal. I have lost some large deals and that feels horrible. I have learnt from them though. Even if you have the best solution and the very best relationship, there can be factors that influence your client to go in another direction, so keep communicating with the client right to the order being placed. It is also easy to get excited about an opportunity and to invest too much time in it even though your chances of winning are very low so it’s really important to qualify the opportunities and how you spend your time.
Do you find being nice to people you don’t particularly like an easy part of the job or difficult?
I haven't really found any one too difficult to work with. Some of our clients have tough jobs and that can make them demanding but that is understandable and not personal so it’s fine. When I think about this I can honestly say virtually all my clients are good people. Maybe over the years I have weeded out the not so nice ones and leave them for the competition to look after.
What’s the best deal you have ever closed?
A MS Open Licence Value order which was worth $345,000 over 3 years. This took about a year to put together and take through all the stakeholders at the end user before it finally got signed off. Very gratifying when ordered.
Would you encourage your offspring to go into sales?
Absolutely. It’s a great career especially if you choose to sell products you can believe in. You get to meet a lot of people and form strong relationships. It’s very rewarding when you close deals.