Career Strategies Oct 21 2010

Five Tips on How to Break into Sales at IBM from Bill Luse

By shareen pathak

IBM is, at its heart, a sales organization, at least according to Bill Luse, a senior location executive for the state of Michigan and a part of IBM's sales organization. Founder Thomas Watson Sr. was a salesman. Six of the company's eight CEOs in its 99-year history have come up through sales, including Sam Palmisano, the current head of the tech giant. And if you want to join the sales ranks at Big Blue, Luse is the man to impress.

If you manage to get through the rigorous pre-screening by the human resources team, it is on his desk that your resume (and your fortune) will fall. FINS spoke to Luse to find out what really blows him away when he's hiring salespeople.

1. Emphasize your extracurricular activities. "We're looking for people who have embraced challenge and taken on extra work," said Luse. "And if you're coming out of college, what have you done outside the classroom?"

2. Make teamwork an obvious theme in your resume and interview. Luse said that working with teams is de rigueur at IBM. If you've taken on leadership roles or headed up a team, flag it when talking to him.

3. Transformation is key. "We want to see skills that you've picked up, whether it's going back to school for an MBA or extra training courses you've taken," said Luse. If you've worked with a sales trainer or taken on a course, mention it.

4. Trust. "That's a tough one to figure out, but we take it very seriously," said Luse. How do you communicate your trustworthiness? Emphasize difficult situations in your past that you worked through -- with the aid of your team. No lone stars here; IBM wants to see how much your team trusted you during a tough situation.

5. Connect on LinkedIn. Luse said that he gets many invitations on social networking sites -- and he welcomes them. "I'll always tell you to go through our human resources team, but if I think you've got what it takes, I'll remember you if you make it to the interview."

Most of all, Luse said that during each interview, he looks to see whether candidates have what it takes to be "IBM-ers." How do you prep for something like that? Luse picks two books you should read before you walk in to the interview:

-- "Business and Its Beliefs" by company founder Thomas Watson Sr., who was a salesman himself.

-- "SuperCorp" by Rosabeth Moss Kanter, which Luse calls the best current analysis of the company.

Write to Shareen Pathak

Related: IBM and India



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