Four Sales Specialists Create Insights from Everyday News that Bring Value to IBM

On April 2016, more than 400 millennials joined IBM Japan. Among them were four Sales Specialists joining IBM Security – Masato Kaneko, Shingo Nishimura, Tomoka Yamada, Yuri Nakashima. Over the past months, they have published over 100 columns connecting everyday news to IBM and igniting conversations about what it means for the business. In this interview, they share how they’ve become inciters for insight by adding a creative spin to a daily activity like reading the news.

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Yuri Nakashima, Tomoka Yamada, Shingo Nishimura and Masato Kaneko

You’ve written over 100 articles in the past nine months.  How did it all start?

It all started out as a training exercise. We were all starting our career at IBM after our graduation, and wanted to build something into our everyday life that would help us understand the IBM business better. We team up with our Connection Advisors* and came up with the idea to take one article from The Nikkei* every day, and write a column about it.

Since last April when we joined, we have written about 100 columns. The topics have ranged from Pokémon Go to the United States presidential election, but a common theme in all our columns is connecting the discussion to how IBM and IBMers can add value. For example, if the article was about internet banking, our columns will include ideas on using cognitive technologies to prevent cyber attacks.  Continuing to do this daily has not only helped us gain better understanding of the market and our clients’ business environment, but also made us keener on identifying opportunities for IBM.

 And how was the reaction to your columns?

We circulate the columns to the entire IBM Securities department in Japan, so we get quite a lot of reaction. We’ve installed a “like” button in the article, so it’s interesting to see what topics were popular and which ones were not so hot. The most popular topic recently was Security in IoT.

The readers are all experts at IBM, so the responses often include insight into the market trend, leading edge technology, or the latest buzz at IBM. We get to hear about current client projects as it relates to the topic we wrote about. It’s exciting to see our columns inciting conversation across the department.

Another “perk” was being recognized. IBM is a huge organization, and it’s not easy to get to know every IBMer. However, thanks to our articles, many IBMers recognize us as the columnists. It’s a great feeling to be stopped at the hallway and be told “I’m a fan of your Nishimura Daily” or “The last column in The Kaneko Times was striking.”

I heard it also helped you in your New Seller’s Training courses.

Definitely.  Many of the New Sellers’ training involve roles plays.  We need to go through multiple client negotiations. A critical element going into each negotiation is the knowledge about the client’s business. Writing columns every day and getting feedback from experts equipped us with deeper insight, and that elevated the quality of our proposals and negotiations. We all graduated the course in the top 10 of all the new sellers. That was a great confidence booster.

A common question we receive from students is regarding the culture and people of IBM.  As first year IBMers, how would you describe the workplace?

One word that immediately comes to mind is “open.”  Our experience in IBM is one where your opinion is heard regardless of your age, level of experience, or position. Even if your opinion is not well-formed or lacks analysis, instead of reprimanding, they’ll help you make it better.

We received numerous feedback regarding our columns. Many were positive, some were negative, but they were all helpful.  We would often receive links to related resources, data, or client stories. We even had a special study-session organized for us to improve our analytical skills. I love how IBM present you with opportunities and guidance, but leave the final decision-making to you.

Students often fear they don’t have the skills or knowledge to break into a professional career.  Don’t worry.  IBM offers a huge variety of training such as Global Sales School and Japan Sales School as well as on-the-job training.  One advice as you go into these training is to always reflect on the question “what value can IBM add?”

*Connection Advisors = IBM internal program for buddying-up new hires with experienced professionals in the same field to help with the assimilation process.

*The Nikkei = Japanese financial newspaper with a daily circulation exceeding 2.7 million.

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