Microsoft sets vertical sales focus

Microsoft Corp. is busy overhauling its U.S. sales force to cater to customers who demand not only product knowledge but also industry expertise from salespeople.

As part of the realignment of the sales organization, Microsoft plans to grow its U.S. salesforce by 10 percent, the company said in a statement Wednesday.

The changes will improve service to software buyers, according to Microsoft. Enterprise customers will be able to speak with a local team of Microsoft salespeople who understand both the Microsoft products and the customer's industry, according to the Microsoft statement.

In the past, sales were managed through local offices with local account managers who did not specialize in customer industries. While Microsoft has over the past years hired people with specific industry expertise, these people worked only on limited customer accounts, according to the company.

The changes in the sales organization are part of a broader shift inside Microsoft to become more focused on vertical industries, instead of purely focused on products. The software maker is also working with its partners to focus on designing product packages on top of Microsoft's products that appeal to customers in specific industries.

For example, Microsoft's Business Solutions division by mid-2006 plans to align half of its partners to a vertical solution or service, initially in 14 verticals within manufacturing, distribution, public sector, and services, company executives have said.

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