The Digital Skeptic: Your High Tech Doesn't Matter Without a Sales Staff

Tickers in this article: CLWR DISH VZ

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Dow Draper has this to say to Verizon , Sprint Nextel or Dish Network investors spinning valuation castles in the air on talk of Clearwire's possible spectrum sale:

"Technology is a marvelous thing," Clearwire's senior vice president and general manager of retail told me a month or so back. But the human factor is the real challenge. "It's all about the relationship."


Draper should know. This executive's desk is the one where the sales buck stops at the company, and this longtime sales pro turned out to be a remarkably candid on the challenges of turning a raw technological asset -- such as Clearwire's wireless spectrum -- into a real business.

His lesson? Relying exclusively on technologies such as the Web to sell a new technology simply no longer pays. Humans are the key.

"When you are selling a new idea in wireless, explaining how it works is not something you can find on the Internet," he said. "Face-to-face contact is essential. You need to proactively get to customers and find out what they want."

In Clearwire's case, that means a vast, pricey -- and utterly old-school -- national network of skilled human salespeople.

"We have an aggressive team of territories and sales reps," Draper said. "They go out and reach out to clients and make sure they understand the value."

Take Draper's latest product, called Clear Professional.

On its surface, nothing could be simpler technologically. Clear Professional mimics traditional wired broadband data services provided by a cable or phone company. But it does so without wires. Instead, a wireless cell modem is hidden inside a desktop data device that connects to Clearwire's wireless network like a smartphone. It offers reasonably fast Web access and backup services to small businesses. And while far from the fastest Web experience on the market, assuming there's coverage I would expect the service to be a reasonably good fit for many small firms.


The price is also most definitely right: Fees range from $24 to $45 per month. That's darn cheap for business data access.