Ariba gets VP with nerves of Steele

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Name: Jim Steele
Title: Exec-VP Ariba Worldwide Sales
Company: Ariba Inc.
Location: Mountain View, Calif.
Jim Steele spent the first 22 years of his career with IBM Corp., overseeing everything from the Asian telecommunications business to the North America Western region for what is one of the oldest and longest-profitable b-to-b companies. Last month, Ariba Inc., a four-year-old start-up that only recently posted its first quarterly profit (of $14 million), tapped Steele as its first exec VP-worldwide sales.

In Steele, Ariba got what it sought—a technology sales veteran—to oversee its 540 salespeople.

That’s a daunting task. While Ariba has begun to run in the black, some of its exchange clients are taking in less revenue than your average fancy restaurant.

BtoB: How will you lead Ariba’s sales force?

Steele: There is such a clutter in the b-to-b marketplace. Everyone’s claiming leadership. It’s confusing to our customers. Everybody’s sales pitch starts to look alike. We need to be very clear about what differentiates Ariba from the rest of the pack: the ability to execute.

BtoB: You oversaw IBM’s Asia-Pacific telecom business. How important is Asia to Ariba?

Steele: Asia is our fastest-growing region. Not too long ago, Ariba hired a president for our Japan operation and another executive to run the rest of Asia-Pacific. There’s lots of marketplace and consortium opportunities there. Ariba has great brand acceptance in Asia and we can leverage on that quickly.

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