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This article by Barbara Fox was prepared for the August 21, 2002 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

Software Salesmen

Not every talented salesperson has the will and the

stamina to make hundreds of cold calls. Paul Butera learned that when

he was selling software for big companies like Oracle, Siebel, and

Plum Tree. He and a partner founded Tavata LLC so that software firms

could outsource the onerous part of sales. The eight-person company

sets up the sales appointments for small to medium-sized firms. Until

last month Tavata operated virtually, but it now is subleasing at

13 Roszel Road.

"Business development is expensive," says Butera, "and

sales reps hate to make cold calls, and they are not particularly

good at getting their feet in the doors. They specialize in closing

deals." He had a "Eureka moment," when he got the idea

for Tavata, which means "to meet with" in Finnish. "We

were using companies that did similar tasks, but the people who were

making the calls to get the appointments weren’t really qualified

to talk about our software, and the quality of the appointments was

low," he remembers.

Now he and Richard Roland employ six people who make 70 to 100 calls

a day. All are able to give a well-informed initial pitch because

they are trained in the particular software.

Tavata’s clients have software ranging from supply chain and customer

relationship management solutions to business process management and

even a live chat product made by LivePerson. Its competitors include

FutureCall in Colorado and a slightly different company in Boston,

Cerita, which actually closes the deal and takes some of the profits.

"More and more companies are laying off reps, but we keep the

remaining reps busy by setting up appointments. The client provides

the target list, giving us the company name and the titles of the

people they want to talk to," says Butera, explaining how Tavata’s

contracts work. "We train our callers and go over the pitch. We

find out the names and do telephone interviews to explain the

software,

their needs, and set up a face-to-face or videoconference

meeting."

Tavata gets paid a minimum from $500 to $1,000 for each appointment

it makes. For this sum it does not guarantee that the target will

be waiting with checkbook in hand. But assuming the client has

selected

the targets properly, the sales team should be able to go in and close

many of these sales.

Another Tavata service is to build databases for prospecting reps.

"Research on data decay shows that a list grows old at the rate

of one to two percent a day," says Butera. "We build a

database

with current names of from one to four people in each company, and

for the prospecting reps, that is like shooting fish in a barrel."

Butera, 37, grew up in the Poconos and graduated from the University

of Pittsburgh. He has worked for such established software companies

as Oracle, Siebel, Plum Tree, as well as for some start-ups:

Imperative

(founded by graduates of Carnegie Mellon) and Idiom (founded by

Harvard

alumni). He and his wife live in Basking Ridge.

Roland is an attorney who had been working in Denver for CB Richard

Ellis but moved to the east coast to open this venture in November,

2001. A graduate of Wilkes University who went to law school at

Widener,

he and Butera have been friends since high school.

With the firm’s legal work taken care of inhouse, Tavata outsources

its accounting to PayChex.

The trick to success is diligence, says Butera. "It’s not magic.

It’s hard work, turning over a lot of rocks. Our reps have at least

three years of business-to-business technical sales experience, and

we pay our reps better than most telemarketing firms. They make a

lot of phone calls, anywhere from 70 to 120 calls a day. They are

supposed to make at least five appointments a week. If they are not

hitting their numbers, we quickly find out why."

"Also, we are careful about the customers we sign up. The reason

why a lot of companies are starving for appointments is that no one

really cares for what they do."

Tavata LLC, 13 Roszel Road, Suite C-224, Princeton

08540. Paul Butera and Richard Roland, partners. 609-452-0078; fax,

908-842-0363. Www.tavata.com


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