Find the Fox
Selina Lo Ruckus Wireless
Selina lo rarely has an easy sale. She sells an imperfect product--a newfangled wireless router that handles video, voice, and data--to U.S. and global markets that aren't always geared to multimedia Wi-Fi. As she puts it in her sales presentations, "We make the worst case suck less." But the CEO of Ruckus Wireless, based in Sunnyvale, California, seems to be up to the job. When she was vice president of marketing at Alteon WebSystems, she was a major force behind its $8 billion acquisition by Nortel (NYSE:NT) in 2000. At Ruckus, which had revenue last year of $7 million selling the router and other wireless products, she has enlisted telecom customers from Belgium, the Czech Republic, and Hong Kong and has gotten $30 million from investors, including Motorola (NYSE:MOT) and Sequoia Capital.
Lo's plan starts well before the meeting, when she unleashes her sales team to find what she calls "the fox." The fox is Ruckus' ally in the customer company, and it's usually a technology person who's unhappy with the current provider or is excited about working with Ruckus. The fox tends to be instrumental in setting up the first meeting. For her initial presentation, Lo selects the Ruckus attendees carefully, based on the names and titles of the client's attendees. If she's seeing a CEO, just she and her sales guy are usually enough. If it's a more technical group, she'll haul along a systems engineer or the CTO.
Lo then checks out everyone she's meeting with, reading their bios and Googling them to see where they've worked. "You don't want somebody to think you checked out their entire past," she says, but "you try to strike up more links between you and that person." While she takes the personal side, her sales team takes the strategic side, reading through the company's press releases to find which other companies they work with and looking for transcripts or videos of top executives talking at conferences where they might say what their "pain points" are. That lets Lo aim her PowerPoint right at the customer.
"Some people just want to sell you something," says Scott Ulsaker, video business manager for Pioneer Telephone in Kingfisher, Oklahoma. Ruckus "wants to know what works best for you. Their desire to work and integrate with us has probably been second to no other company we've worked with."
Such efforts, Lo believes, can be harder for a woman. "When you're a woman walking into a room of guys, which is probably 98 percent of my engagements, it can be a negative," she says. "But you can turn it into a positive." She often finds that the customer's tech guys will push her on some issue they don't think she knows, but if she responds well, she wins their respect. "When she gets up there, she really knows it," says Bob Payne, one of her VPs of sales.
At the meeting, the Ruckus team attacks the room like a well-trained squadron. First, Payne introduces Lo to the highest ranking client. Just to make sure, he jots down everyone's names and uses them in conversation so his teammates get them right, too. Lo sits across from the highest-ranking person on the customer's team; "you want to be able to look that person in the eye," she says. And Payne sits a little behind his customers, on their side. That makes it easy for them to whisper questions to him during the presentation. More important, it lets him watch when they take notes. If he sees them add a question mark to something, he'll jump in to clarify the point.
Lo tries to augment the presentation with some schmoozing. "You have to establish your competence and your credibility, and then it's time to know them personally," she says. Especially if the fox isn't high-ranking, she'll arrange a dinner with him. "Having a dinner with that guy is usually very useful," says Lo, "because he feels like, Wow, you are the CEO, and you would spend dinner with me?" She tries to win his loyalty and also get the scoop on his company. Whomever she's having dinner with, she always watches her alcohol intake--to make sure it's high. "Being able to outdrink your customers is a big plus," Lo says.
Lo's competitive side comes off as charming to most. But when she offends a client here and there, her sales guys step in to soothe feelings. Anyway, that competitive streak lands more clients than it loses.
Stephanie Clifford is a senior writer.