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EPISODE 144: Oracle Federal Sales Leader Tamara Greenspan Tells How She Continues to Show Value to the Department of Defense Customers She’s Been Serving for Nearly 30 Years
TAMARA’S FINAL TIP TO EMERGING SALES LEADERS: “It’s most important to gain a deep understanding of your customer’s needs and how your customer solutions can add value. Not every solution in your company’s portfolio might be the best solution, always keep that in mind. In many instances you only have one shot to meet with these customers and you actually have to show that you understand their market and understand their pains, and have a resolution. You want to always make it your best.”
Tamara Greenspan is the VP of Sales for Oracle DOD (Department of Defense) Applications.
She’s been with Oracle for 29 years.
She’s also the President of the AFCEA-NOVA chapter.
Find Tamara on LinkedIn!
Fred Diamond: Why don’t you tell us a little more about you that we need to know?
Tamara Greenspan: Great, thank you very much and thank you for having me today. As you mentioned, I’m the area vice president for DOD applications within the Oracle public sector and organization. I have been with Oracle for 29 years, I’ll be celebrating my 30th anniversary on October 3rd of this year, it’s been a very interesting journey. Oracle, as you know, is dynamic and exciting and an ever-changing environment. I actually started at Oracle directly out of college, I don’t have anything to compare my experience to but I have loved my time at Oracle.
I can tell you I love the environment, my colleagues, my team and especially my customers. I love supporting the DOD and their mission and being at the company for so long has allowed me to finish what I started and what I mean by that is since I’ve supported my customers through their data base, now ERP and now their cloud journeys, it’s been an honor to serve them and to follow them through. It’s really fulfilling to me and I feel really successful that I have been able to do that for our customers and also for my team.
Fred Diamond: We’ve had some past guests who have also been at Oracle: Mark Testoni, Ron Police, Gary Newgaard, we’ll provide links to their podcast. You’re a current sales VP that we’ve had on the podcast so I’m really curious to hear your story and I’m really curious – again, you talked about this, your 29 year journey, you’re celebrating your 30th year in October – things that you’ve seen along the way, how your relationship with the customer has continued and evolved as well. Why don’t you tell us a little more about what you sell today? Tell us what excites you about that.
Tamara Greenspan: As I mentioned, I lead the DOD application sales team. I’m responsible for executing the go-to-market strategy ensuring customer success by delivering business solutions through the DOD. We deliver solutions in areas such as HR, financials, supply chain, logistics, CRM, to name a few. We believe and my philosophy is to build lifelong customer relationships by delivering these value-based solutions to the DOD. We do work with our customers to help them successfully implement these customers and we actually follow them along through the entire journey. The latest is actually to move to the cloud.
Fred Diamond: This is critical software, this is the backbone of their business. You’ve obviously had some long-term relationships for many years and we’ll talk about those but take us back to the beginning of your career. How did you first get into sales as a career?
Tamara Greenspan: It’s an interesting story. I actually moved to DC with my college friends after graduation, I went to Bucknell University – shout out to Bucknell, we have our 30th anniversary this year.
Fred Diamond: My niece Allison went to Bucknell.
Tamara Greenspan: Very exciting, great school. I moved down here without a job, it worked out for me but I don’t believe that’s the best idea to move to a new city with no job prospects, really no contacts or plan. What happened is I needed to pay the rent so I went to Kelly Temp Services, I don’t know if you remember them and they’re not around anymore because I don’t think they even exist. I actually went to Kelly, I took the test to assess my skills and I was immediately hired to be one of the people in the Kelly Temp office that hired temps. I did this for two days and then a woman came down from upstairs. It was 3 Bethesda Metro Center and they needed a 6 month temp to work at Oracle so I said, “I’m your girl, I’ll take it.”
I had a Bachelor of Science and business administration, I didn’t have a computer or technology background but I said that I was excited to go upstairs. It was a young growing company, I was hired and I actually met the manager of the government procurement. Back then we were doing all RFP’s and I actually hired into his group, that’s how I learned the Oracle technology, by writing technical proposals and I also learned the government procurement system. That was really important, you had to know the government procurement cycle back then.
Fred Diamond: We have people listening around the globe to the Sales Game Changers podcast so they might not be familiar with the federal sales process. You’re not just selling the technology, you also need to understand how the customer buys. Especially then, you had to really understand the role of procurement and contracts and budgets, things like that.
Tamara Greenspan: Very detailed and very rule-oriented, a lot of rules. That’s where I learned it and then being in that role I obviously interfaced with all sorts of sales folks across the organization and that’s how I was introduced in the world of sales. I love the competition, I love the teamwork and that’s what I wanted to do.
Fred Diamond: What were some of the key lessons you learned when you moved into that position?
Tamara Greenspan: I was actually very young when I moved into sales, I was one of the youngest field sales reps. We didn’t have inside sales, that didn’t exist back then so I moved right into the field and I was lucky enough to have a sales manager that was willing to take a chance on me and mentor me. When I first started, it’s funny, anyone who moved into sales back then, we had to take a personality test and I think it’s funny because all sales folks have such diverse backgrounds and personalities.
Back then, I don’t know what they were really looking for but we had to go through that process. I passed the process and then I moved into the field and I quickly learned that I needed to work with others so they could help me, so that’s a very valuable lesson with sales. You can’t do it on your own, you might be the quarterback but you need to have the company and the other folks around you. I also learned very quickly you need to believe in yourself, you need to have a plan and you need to execute that plan. If you had the plan, the resources will work with you because back then like we mentioned early, very RFP intensive.
That takes a lot of resources from technical writers to product functional experts to lawyers, contracts people and you have to balance their time. If you actually had a plan and you articulated that plan, they would all execute for you and that was a very valuable lesson. I see that today when salespeople come in, they might be younger in their careers, they aren’t successful because you have to get the power of the whole organization behind you because you cannot do it alone.
Fred Diamond: I’m just curious, again we’ve mentioned that we’ve had some great guests on the Sales Game Changers podcast who have worked at Oracle. For the people listening to the podcast around the globe, Oracle is probably one of the top 5 most successful companies in selling technology to the government and to the world. Obviously a huge company in so many things and such a great sales culture as well. Can you talk about that for a second? About the Oracle sales culture. Again, you’ve been there for close to 30 years now, you’re a VP of sales for Oracle’s DOD applications. To have reached that level you obviously have had to have a lot of achievements and success in your career. What has it been working at Oracle that has helped you get to this level?
Tamara Greenspan: I think it goes back to the basics. You have a goal, you have your customer base, you do everything you can to understand the customer base, understand the people, the organizations, what they need and what you have, what you have from a company perspective, how you match that together, and how you can articulate that message to the customer. If you focus on that, you’ll be successful. If you aren’t focused and you don’t really have a plan and a path I think that’s when it makes it harder and salespeople lose their way. I have been laser-focused and also like many salespeople, we are all competitive, we like to win but we also want to win not at the expense of anyone else. You want to win and you don’t just win as an individual, you win as a team. I think that’s a really important message.
Fred Diamond: Tell us more about you, what are you an expert in? Tell us a little more about your specific area of brilliance.
Tamara Greenspan: That’s a funny question because I actually don’t think I’m an expert in any one thing. I know it sounds like a cliché being in sales, I think it’s a people job, strong relationships and cultivating those relationships is a strength of mine. I view myself as a leader in my market being able to deliver my company’s vision and helping the customer solve their problems and working with them towards the future. I’ve been supporting DOD for a long time and I’ve grown up with many of my customers. We started together and we’ve grown up to the ranks, and it’s very important to me to become a trusted adviser.
I believe for many of them I have been a trusted adviser. You can’t earn the status without cultivating the relationships and actually delivering and caring and being there through the good times and the bad. I strongly believe your reputation can make or break you and it’s one of the core ethics that I believe in today. You do have to continue to work through problems and sometimes working through problems with customers actually strengthens your relationships for the future to become that trusted adviser.
Fred Diamond: Oracle has had some amazing sales leaders in its company’s history. Again, we’ve interviewed some people who have alluded back to learning from great people. Take us about an impactful sales career mentor or two and how they impacted your career.
Tamara Greenspan: I’ve actually had various sales mentors throughout the years and I think I’ve mentioned this earlier, I’ve had sales mentors both inside and outside because some of my customers have been great mentors to me through my career. I’ve had 6 sales managers through my career, each of them had different styles in managing both internally and interfacing with customers. For example, my first manager instilled the values of getting out there, be with your customer, stay engaged and work smartly. I carry those core values to this day and continue to live with them.
Conversely, I’ve also had managers that managed from the office, were less involved with customers and mostly managed internally. This also helped me to show the manager that I am today, how I wanted to be and observing different manager styles allowed me to find the best and most effective approach. I believe you can learn something from everyone you work with and for and help figure out what’s best for you. I come from the days that started with Patrick Arnone, Kevin Fitzgerald, Jay Nussbaum and now Mark Johnson has been in that role for a very long time, he’s been one of my mentors.
Shout out to Mark Testoni, I know he just won an award. I’ve worked for Mark for many years and there’s many other folks throughout my career that I’ve really learned. A lot of them have been on your podcast and I might not have worked directly for them but I have worked alongside them or watched them manage other folks and have learned from them.
Fred Diamond: I’m just curious, I don’t really ask this question but since you brought up the fact that there’s been 6 different types of sales leaders that you’ve worked for that have mentored you along the way, which of the 6 has really gravitated towards you? Not the person but the style, how would you describe your managerial style? Are you an out there with the customer, are you empathetic leader, how would you describe Tamara Greenspan as a leader?
Tamara Greenspan: I am out there with the customer, I’m very engaged because I feel like to help my sales team I have to understand the issues, the pains. I have to be able to have the relationships because if they don’t know how to tackle an obstacle or they don’t know where to go or what to position then I can help them do that. If I wasn’t engaged and understanding all of that with the customer, I feel like I can’t help lead my team and we’re all leading towards the mission and understanding that mission. I don’t know how you could do it without that.
Fred Diamond: There’s a lot of challenges that you face as sales leaders as well. What are the two biggest challenges you face today as a sales leader?
Tamara Greenspan: Talent and retaining that talent. Finding the right talent is a constant change, you have to find salespeople and sales managers that fit in the culture and it’s very important that you find folks that are going to fit in your culture. Each of our companies are all different, the cultures are a little different, the way the company leads is different so you need to find that culture fit. Having that strong team is my ultimate goal, and many of the folks that worked with me have been with me for over 15 years. That’s been very exciting but to do that you’ve got to cultivate, motivate and support your team. That’s a really big focus, you want to foster your team culture to allowing for this continual growth and also professional development.
Fred Diamond: I’m sure you’ve had dozens, maybe even hundreds but take us back to the #1 specific sale success or win from your career you’re most proud of.
Tamara Greenspan: That is a hard question. I’ve had many success stories over the year, I’m lucky enough to have many success stories over the years, that has made me proud. It would be nearly impossible to choose one but I can tell you one early in my career. Defense was one of my customers and it was an RFP, it was a very complex, strict, scripted demo with many SI’s, System Integrators, partners evolved with many large nights. It was a very large team and as being a young sales rep, my job was to be the quarterback and coordinate all these resources to meet the goal.
Lucky enough, we won the deal but celebrating the victory with that team was very fulfilling and a very memorable time in my career. A more recent example would be that now I’m executive sponsor for many of the deals that my account reps work on. We celebrated this successful win with our customer, win-win, it’s a win on both sides. Win for the Department of Defense and win for Oracle but actually celebrating that with some of my folks is very fulfilling, that I can help them be successful.
Fred Diamond: Before we take a short break and listen to one of our sponsors and before I ask you the final question of this segment, I’d be remiss in not discussing a charity that you and your husband have created. This show is going live in May of 2019, but of course because of the wonder of the internet and podcasts this show will be in perpetuity. We’ve got people who listen to shows that were broadcast a year and a half ago. Tell us about the holiday related charity that you and your husband have created and we’ll provide a link to that as well.
Tamara Greenspan: Thank you. We created a charity called KIND H, Kids in Need during Holidays. It’s for the local DC area and it helps needy kids whose families need some help during the holidays by providing gifts and food for their families. We work with the social services for all the counties and we actually have wish lists from the kids through their parents. We actually purchase, wrap and deliver all these gifts to the kids. Last year we helped about 314 families and over 900 kids, and we started about 18 years ago, I think we helped 10 families with about maybe 20 kids. It’s very exciting how the communities engage in that and it’s really fulfilling to do something at the holidays.
Fred Diamond: Tamara, before we take a break, did you ever question being in sales? Did you ever think to yourself, “It’s too hard, it’s just not for me”?
Tamara Greenspan: No, because I started in sales at a very young age so I adapted to that sales mentality early and realized that was a career I wanted to pursue. I’m sure I made a lot of mistakes along the way, but I’m a positive person and always looked forward, always learned something from those tough situations.
Fred Diamond: Tamara, what’s the most important thing you want to get across to the junior selling professionals to help them improve their career?
Tamara Greenspan: That is a great question. It’s most important to gain a deep understanding of your customer’s needs and how your customer solutions can add value. It’s very important to take that time to properly evaluate an opportunity and propose the best solution. Not every solution in your company’s portfolio might be the best solution, always keep that in mind. In many instances you only have one shot to meet with these customers and you actually have to show that you understand their market and understand their pains, and have a resolution. You want to always make it your best. Each situation is different, every customer is different so you want to strive to be an expert in understanding each of your customer’s interactions and to do the best in every opportunity you have.
Fred Diamond: What are some things you do to sharpen your saw and stay fresh?
Tamara Greenspan: My philosophy is to inspire my team as a player coach. I’m directly involved, as we talked about earlier, with the customers and it keeps my sales, my industry and my product knowledge sharp. I’m also very involved in supporting women in the workplace, I’m the co-chair for the Oracle Women’s Leadership Group in the DC area. We bring programs that help professional and personal development and community as well. I strongly believe that these types of training and seminars can help you pause, look at yourself, your goals and help you to do better.
Personally, I’ve always learned something in these seminars. It seems so basic, but we all get busy and we forget to step back but if you actually assess yourself and you take the time, you can always do something better and you can always learn from others. Learning in new ways can provide value and strategic direction to both my sales team and our customers.
Fred Diamond: Tell us about a major initiative you’re working on today?
Tamara Greenspan: Cloud, cloud and more cloud. I know you hear that a lot. We’re working with the Department of Defense to define their future through the cloud. Specifically we focus on SaaS, Software as a Service and we’re actually working with them on their road maps to move forward which actually improves their end user experience. We talk about the millennials, they care about their end user experience and we want to actually have the war fighter focus on their mission instead of focusing on software maintenance, costly customizations and all this incompatibility. We’re hoping that that will bring to the future artificial intelligence, block chain and help with all the new initiatives.
Fred Diamond: Of course you’ve had a great career of success, close to 30 years with Oracle. Again, we’re talking to Tamara Greenspan but sales is hard, it’s getting tougher to engage with the customer, the customer has more access to information. Why have you continued? What is it about sales as a career that has kept you going?
Tamara Greenspan: I know this sounds corny, but it’s actually fun. Each day is different, there is always a different situation to handle, a different challenge to crack. People ask me why I’ve stayed at Oracle for so long and my answer is simple, I love the people I work with, I love what I’m doing, I love supporting the Department of Defense and it’s just been a great experience for me. Actually, people do call you back when you have a good working relationship and you have something that will help them and they know that you’ll provide the value.
Fred Diamond: Tamara, why don’t you give us one final thought to inspire our listeners today?
Tamara Greenspan: Be present and be engaged.