THE PITCH: How This Ex-Cop Uses Police Skills To Close Deals In IT Services

Neil Campbell

Neil Campbell spent the first nine years of his working life with the Australian Federal Police, an experience which now helps him understand and stay close to his customers.

Six years of those were in computer crime, catching hackers. After that he moved to one of the big accounting firms in risk management and now he is Dimension Data’s Director of Solutions in Australia.

“When you think about law enforcement,” Campbell says, “you spend the first five months doing things like training for interview techniques, understanding body language, how to run a conversation, how to extract the information you’re after.

“They are very sales relevant skills.”

With a smile, he likes to tell people that when he moved from the police force into computer risk management, his job didn’t change much.

“In the police force you get someone in a room and you ask them a lot of questions, hopefully they will tell you the truth. If they do tell you the truth they’re in a lot of trouble.

“When you’re in an auditing role, you get someone in a room, ask them a lot of questions and if they tell the truth they’re in a lot of trouble.”

However, these days he’s more interested in fixing the problem, or fixing the challenge before there is a problem.

When it comes to style, coming across as a policeman is a good way to kill a deal.

“Having a consulting background makes you a good, natural seller without having a sales background,” he says. “I’ve never thought of myself as a sales person. It’s just part of what you do.”

He sees different people have different sales styles. Some are driven by the outcome (where’s the purchase order) and others are more cautious.

“Happily for me, my natural approach works which is just conversational. That’s how people build trust, shared understanding.”

Dimension Data has a sales team of about 200 in Australia. In Neil Campbell’s area, he has a specialised sales team working a sales cycle from one week up to two years.

“It’s about asking questions and helping the client articulate the problem and then helping formulate a strategy to deal with that problem,” he says.

The power for the corporate IT department has devolved to the individual departments. The sales department is now more likely to be the driver of technology change with the IT department brought in to do the execution.

“Previously, IT talked to the business, found out what they wanted and then came back to the suppliers,” he says.

“Now the budget is coming from a different place. Marketing will use its budget to procure services and they’ll need to work with their internal stakeholders but it’s not necessarily being held centrally by IT.

“This means we need to be much more in touch with the breadth of our client. Our buyer has gone from a single group to a dozen.”

Neil Campbell believes maintaining your own personal style is important when dealing with clients.

“I don’t think you should pretend to be someone you’re not,” he says.

One of the conversations in business at the moment is whether to wear a tie or not.

“I think the answer is to just be yourself,” he says. “A great thing a sales guy once told me one: ‘I never lost a deal because I wasn’t wearing a tie’.

“I think we probably over-think. It’s more about rapport and integrity. Are you credible and can you build a rapport with this person? Do you have the capability to deliver what they need? Can you convince them of that?”

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