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EPISODE 189: Sales Star Carrie-Anne Mosley Shares Lessons Learned at Oracle, SAP, Salesforce and Now Amazon Web Services
CAM’S FINAL TIP TO EMERGING SALES LEADERS: “If you start with your customer in the center of everything you do and work backwards from there from a sales process perspective, and you’ve cultivated your partners along the way, your journey will be successful. If you are adding value at all points along the way, your journey will be successful.”
Carrie-Anne Mosley, known as CAM, is a Sales Leader for Amazon Web Services Enterprise Sales.
Prior to coming to Amazon Web Services she held sales leadership positions at SAP, Oracle and Salesforce.com.
She was listed as a mentor on James Yeager’s SGC episode.
Find CAM on LinkedIn!
Fred Diamond: Tell us what you sell today and tell us what excites you about that.
CAM: What I sell today is innovation for my customers. Amazon is truly one of the most innovative companies in the world right now, perhaps the most innovative company and I see this role as really the culmination of everything I’ve done in my career. It allows me to bring an affinity for cloud technology and combine that with a value proposition that’s really exceptional for customers. At Amazon, we’re all about customer obsession, that’s our #1 leadership principle and as a company we live by leadership principles which has an amazing result not only on our customers and their businesses, which we add significant value to, but also internally.
It’s an interesting phenomena, the leadership principles aren’t just something that we hang on the wall here. It’s something that every employee – sales, operations, from the person at the front desk to the person on the top floor – we all live by these leadership principles and we really use them in our day to day. What it creates is a very frictionless sales environment which is nice because I’ve been in organizations where you felt like the sales team had one set of goals and various teams within the company were almost working against them. We don’t have that here because we’re all working around these common leadership principles, so it’s a very unique situation. To have the top leadership principle be customer obsession is also a wonderful situation for me because over the years I’ve built great customer relationships and being in an environment where the focus is on positive customer outcomes is truly – I want to end my career here in 12, 15 years.
Fred Diamond: Who are the types of customers specifically within the customer and audiences that you sell to?
CAM: Traditional software customers like the CIO as well as business people within IT. We also work a lot with lines of business like call center, supply chain management, customer innovation to help drive project. One of the great things that cloud computing has unlocked for customers is the ability to fail fast and fail cheap, so customers are willing to experiment more with the products that they take to market and the innovations that they’re bringing because the technology to do those experiments is cheaper and easier and faster than it was 10 or 15 years ago.
That’s what I really love, to see customers have an idea for a new product offering and then prototype that using our solution. Because it’s cloud, if the prototype doesn’t work out they turn it off and they stop paying or if it’s a crazy success they just turn up the volume and the solution scales. It’s a really unique time for our customers in that sense.
Fred Diamond: Why would someone choose Amazon Web Services as their cloud provider as compared to some of the competition?
CAM: It’s really based on that first leadership principle of customer obsession. We have a unique partnership with our customers, we don’t call them at the end of the quarter and offer additional discounts. I just celebrated my first quarter close with Amazon and it was quite uneventful because there was nothing unnatural happening to try to convince people to consume more software or sign purchase orders. This is the first time in my sales career that I can say that, so the day came and went, actually which was very unique. No one was calling a customer on a holiday asking them to sign or take a look at their email and I love that about Amazon. It’s really refreshing, we work with customers in a very partner-focused way and we work with their business. When they’re happy and they’re ready to consume more of our offering, they do that and we allow for that. It’s quite self-service, actually.
Fred Diamond: Take us back to the beginning of your career, how did you first get into sales as a career?
CAM: Quite by accident. I was working in IT at Booz Allen Hamilton and one of my colleagues, Kristin Smith, who went on to have a very significant career at federal sources said to me, “Doesn’t seem like you’re very happy in this role being a developer.” She was absolutely right, not only was I not happy but I don’t think I was particularly skilled at it. She said, “My husband works at Oracle, his name is Mike Smith” she introduced me to him and she helped me get my first interview at Oracle and prepare for that. I was able to secure a role in telesales at Oracle. When I resigned from Booz Allen, my boss said, “I think you’ll be perfect at that role because from what I’ve seen you’re really good at asking your parents for money and you like to talk on the phone.” [Laughs] Little did I know that I had some natural attributes of a salesperson and I went into telesales at Oracle which launched my career.
Fred Diamond: What were some of the key lessons that you took away from those first few jobs?
CAM: Interestingly, I was only in a sales role at Oracle for a year because I was actually pretty horrible at it at first. I was uncomfortable calling people and talking with them although at that time, because there was really not much of an internet to speak of, the government certainly wasn’t using it, customers welcomed our phone calls. I think it helped break up their day in the early 90’s, but I wasn’t really a natural at it at first. After a year I became a solutions consultant to sales engineer and worked my way up through the SC ranks at Oracle. What that allowed me to do is it allowed me to work alongside many of the people that you have interviewed for this podcast and see them in action. About 8 years later I transitioned back into sales leadership, so I was a sales rep for a year, then became an SC, became an SC leader and leader of leaders and then I became a sales manager.
Fred Diamond: Obviously right now one of the main themes that comes up all the time is how do you get through? People don’t have to take your calls anymore, people get so many calls from sales professionals. I’m just curious, you were at Booz Allen, you were a developer and then you went into telesales and became a systems engineer. You’ve become a very successful sales leader at some great places. Did you know when you were in college or in high school that sales is something you might excel in? Did it ever occur to you at all or just never?
CAM: Absolutely never, I thought I wanted to be an attorney and business person but I didn’t even know sales was a career option. Perhaps we’re giving people more exposure to sales as a career now, but at least in my world when I was growing up my parents were both in the fire service, so we just didn’t know any salespeople. It didn’t seem like a viable career option and I think a couple colleges now actually offer degrees in sales but for the most part it’s not something that people really perceive as a career path when they’re really young. I’m hoping that podcasts like this are changing that perception in the market.
Fred Diamond: What are you brilliant at? Tell us about your area of expertise.
CAM: I would say my area of expertise is probably writing, written communication. I’m a very strong writer and I think that goes back to my college days. Government and politics was my undergraduate degree, I had to do a lot of writing and I’ve really worked hard to cultivate that because written communication in this industry is very important. From the first email that you send to a customer to the written proposal that you present to them and business case now that you help them write. Much of what we do is help our customers sell internally the project that they want to work with you on. I found that having really strong written communication skills is a true necessity.
Fred Diamond: Curiously on the cloud side, is everybody now making cloud decisions on which providers to use? Are people still on the fence? What have you seen? Have we made the paradigm shift where everybody is about cloud now or is it still in the early stage where people are still making all the decisions to make the move?
CAM: I think different industries are in different phases of adoptions, highly regulated industries obviously are much more cautious. Healthcare, financial services, government are more cautious about certain workloads going into the cloud. The lower risk workloads seem to make it to the cloud first although ironically many customers tip-toed into the cloud in the HR space, whether it was work day or success factors. I consider HR to be a pretty important workload [Laughs] so I find that a lot of it is a leadership confidence and comfort level with the cloud as well as an economic decision.
Fred Diamond: Again, James Yeager mentioned you as one of his mentors on his Sales Game Changers podcast – James Yeager is VP of Public Sector at CrowdStrike. You must have had some amazing sales mentors as well. Again, you worked at SAP, Oracle, Salesforce. Why don’t you tell us about some of your sales mentors and how they impacted your career?
CAM: When I think about my career, I think about four people that had really significant impact. Two early on at Oracle, one was Gary Newman and the lesson that he taught me which was so valuable for an emerging sales leader was that there’s a big difference between management and leadership. You really have to cultivate your skills in both areas and work to develop a balance between managing and leading. Sales reps in particular are, I think a very generally emotional group. I often call it, I do a little bit of therapy but getting that balance between leadership and management is very important and also cultivating those skills yourself and with your employees.
Even individual contributors – and many good salespeople are individual contributors for their entire career and that’s okay – but making sure that they have some management skills as well as some leadership skills, it’s really important to their long-term success. At the end of the day even an individual contributor is managing a virtual team within your company, so their abilities and your mentoring them on those skills is so important as a sales leader. Plus, it helps to really develop the employee whether they’re an individual contributor or you see them on that management path. All too often, if somebody says, “I want to stay an individual contributor forever” we let them stay in that box and we forget to cultivate these skills so I find that to be very important.
Another great leader at Oracle was a woman named Hilarie Koplow-McAdams and she really pushed me out of my comfort zone. I will tell you that at the time I didn’t like it, there were many times where I can remember hanging up the phone with a scowl on my face because she really pushed me hard on a forecast call. One time I remember I was applying for an internal promotion and she made me interview twice, fly to California and interview twice because it wasn’t good enough the first time. However, looking back I so appreciate everything that she did for me because what she did was push me so far out of my comfort zone and show me that what I was delivering at the time was not the best I had inside of me. It really helped to make me who I am today and helped me really cultivate some of the skills that are hard in sales about asking tough questions and about uncomfortable silence between you and your customer. She really drove me to that and I truly appreciate that.
Fred Diamond: That reminds me of a story, we interviewed Ron Police who also worked at Oracle and he gave a great story about how he felt he was ready for his next move into leadership and his mentor at the time and leader was Jay Nussbaum who of course, ran Oracle Federal for a long time, public sector. Jay just said, “You’re not ready” and Ron had to make a decision on what was he going to do now to be successful to get to that next level. He gave a great story on his podcast about that, so it’s good to hear that you took it for that, you understood, “What do I now need to do?” You probably weren’t very happy about it, Oracle had a culture of a very high achievement and high performance but good for you for looking back and understanding that.
CAM: Yes, those two leaders were very influential early in my career. Then sort of fast-forward a number of years and when I arrived at Salesforce I worked for a gentleman named Barton Phillips who at that point took me as a relationship seller and a relationship manager and helped me make the move and become a business value seller, and helped me take my team which was a group of talented people and produce amazing results. Our average attainment as a team was 140% of our number and it was because Barton really helped us to see that if we weren’t tying the benefits of what we were selling to the customer’s business outcomes, we were not going to be successful in helping the customer make that case to their board of directors or their C-suite to make the purchases. It was such a big pivot for me, partially I’d been selling only to the government previously and this was my first time selling to companies. It really changed the way I look at the selling process and our need to partner with the customers towards success.
Interestingly my fourth sales mentor is my mom. She was a fire chief, she’s now retired but what she did was have to sell a lot within her organization. What we don’t realize is sales is in everybody’s business whether you’re in the government or whether you’re selling products or services to people. What she taught me, the lesson is so valuable and I use it so much today is, “Remember, when you’re a salesperson it’s not just you selling, it’s you have to sell external to your customer but you have to do a lot of internal selling as well.” Those links and connections you make inside of your company will really be valuable.
I’ll give you an example, because a lot of times salespeople, we get into the sale cycle and then we call in groups like legal or operations or contracts and we’re asking them to work nights and weekends to help us with our sales effort and we call them with fire drills. We should be calling them outside of the sale cycle to say, “How are you measured? What’s important to your success?” so that we build those bridges internally and then we can call in those people in our time of needs and they’re much more inclined to help us be successful.
I’ll give you an example of where I did this and it was pretty amazing the results that it had. I realized that many companies including Oracle, SAP, everyone that I’ve worked with had a shared services center somewhere outside of North America. When I got to SAP, the shared services center I think was in Argentina and a lot of our contracts were generated there. At the end of the quarter those folks became very important to us but the problem was, because it was a shared services center, it was just that it was sort of this email address or these people that we couldn’t reach. I got to SAP and I joined in Q4 so I wasn’t as busy as a lot of other people normally would have been in Q4 but I recognize that this group down in Latin America was very important.
What I did was I made an effort to go through the corporate online directory which wasn’t very easy, find all the people down there that supported my team in some way and then I sent them a note saying, “Let me share the results for this year. We didn’t have the success that we wanted, but here were the deals that we closed with your help. By the way, have a happy holiday season.” In doing that I got so many emails back from people saying, “I have never heard that a deal I worked on actually closed.” They got no feedback ever from salespeople, so then I made that a normal progression. If you were someone working on my deal or my team’s deal, I made sure we’d let you know when those deals close.
We built that bond with those folks and where it really helped us was the Saturday at the end of the quarter when my customer’s saying, “I’ll sign it this weekend but I need these 5 changes to the contract” and I needed someone in Argentina to make those changes. I had people then that I could pick up the phone and call who would do me that favor. It’s when you build those bridges during the non-stress times, during the times when you don’t need anything with contracts, operations, legal, it’s amazing how those guys will go out of their way for you when you really need it.
Fred Diamond: A lot of the great sales professionals that we talked to, they understand their internal processes so well. I’m just curious, that’s such a great story. How much work did it take you to start building those relationships to this organization down in Argentina?
CAM: It was a time investment. I remember at the time I think I spent 90 minutes to 2 hours actually doing that which at the end of a fiscal year was a lot of time to invest, but I can remember more than a handful of occasions where I said to myself, “Thank god I did that” or my reps were like, “How did you get that done?” It really made me a hero to my sales team as we went years down the road because we had those people internally that I could just pick up the phone and call where other sales leaders were not having that same. Even in the North America team with SAP in particular, I had built such strong bridges with people across the organization that I was able to pick up that phone a lot and get things done or get somebody’s approver to take a look at the Q a little faster to get an approval pushed through so we could get a contract changed, because I had that credibility and rapport with the internal resource ahead of time.
Fred Diamond: That’s a great story. One thing that a lot of young people ask me for some bits of advice and one thing I tell them is, “Get to know everybody in your company or as many people as you can and understand what drives them and what are their goals and things along those lines.” Just don’t understand your sales process or your manager and your inside sales, but what does finance do? What does the contracts team do? What does your documentation team do if there’s something like that?
CAM: And don’t be afraid to ask, “How are you measured? Can I ask how you’re measured?” When you ask it sincerely like that, people are willing to tell you. It’s not like you’re asking them how much they make, you’re asking them, “How are you measured so that I can make sure that we can reach a point of mutual success?” People really appreciate that thoughtful conversation.
Fred Diamond: What are the two biggest challenges you face today as a sales leader?
CAM: For me personally, I think helping customers sometimes realize that either their process is broken or their trusted adviser is giving them a biased bit of information. Obviously I sell software and services and there’s a group of companies that do implementations and advising and sometimes the goals are not mutually aligned there because the more services you sell, some of those companies that are advising our customers, that’s how they’re measured whereas we’re trying to save customers’ money – which usually means less services.
It’s really aligning the goals of all parties servicing a customer around the customer’s goals. I believe that in every relationship between a software services provider and a professional services organization and a customer, there are mutually beneficial goals. Everyone can win, but getting everyone on that same page can be challenging at times, particularly in this world where people do self-service consume so much information.
I would say that’s one challenge and then certainly we always have a challenge in finding top talent. We’re always hiring, Amazon is currently hiring salespeople but particularly sales engineers, those pre-sales resources. Finding people that can be builders and showers and teach customers, it’s a very amazing skill set, I admire all solutions consultants, SA’s, whatever you call them, architects. Different companies call them different things but they are a valuable commodity in the market and an important part to many selling motions, that team that we have of the technical resource and the salesperson. I would say finding the talent to support the sale cycle is challenging.
Fred Diamond: Curiously, what are some of the things you’re doing to solve that challenge?
CAM: We have a lot of meetups, technology meetups where we bring technical resources together to learn new things and that’s where we find a lot of talent. We’re also looking for talent for our customers as well, so it’s about serving us as well as the customers.
Fred Diamond: Why don’t you take us back to the #1 specific sale success or win from your career you’re most proud of?
CAM: I’m going to talk about a deal that we did at Salesforce and it was actually selling to the government. While I don’t sell to the government anymore, we did a large transaction with the state of Florida and it was one of their first – or it may have been their first – cloud transaction. We went down to Florida and I think that we were only selected as a finalist in this because our cost was so much less than the competition. In fact, there were two other bids from an enterprise software company that I had worked for or I did work for in my career, and we went down there and I can remember talking with the customer and instead of giving an opening pitch that was a technology based pitch, I took a big chance. I could tell that this room full of people, it was a big, huge evaluation committee, probably 15 or 20 people, some technical, some non-technical, but I think they were just so incredulous about the cost of the cloud-based solution versus the other proposals they had received.
Instead of talking technology, I talked to them about why I left my prior employer and went to Salesforce. The epiphany that I had in my career which was I had been with an enterprise software provider, my last deal there we had sold about $2 million worth of software to the airport authority here, WMATA and the bid to implement it was $100 million. Ultimately they paid $58 million to implement $2 million worth of software and I thought to myself, “That is the definition of insanity and companies can’t afford to do that, there’s got to be a better way.”
I looked and at the time, it was 2007, and Salesforce.com was there and they were offering a different option to companies. The government wasn’t quite there yet in terms of adoption but they were slowly getting there on the federal side, not as much as state and local at that point. I joined Salesforce, I quit my 14 year tenure job at this enterprise software company because I just felt like it wasn’t giving the best to customers, it wasn’t offering the best for customers because of that model of high software costs combined with ridiculous implementation costs. I moved to Salesforce and I found a totally different paradigm in the private sector and I did that for a few years working with some big companies in this area and then I moved to public sector and evangelized that for the customers.
I told the story about the $58 million implementation to the state of Florida and why that had changed, and I talked about what some of the commercial customers had been doing in cloud. It took about half hour, but I could see people nodding and starting to say, “Yes, it doesn’t make sense. Yes, there should be another way” and they started to believe. Then my solution consultant came after me and he started his presentation and I’ll never forget it, it’s a gentleman named Ryan Upton. He said, “I used to work in on-premises software as a technology support person and I had two answers and they were no, or 18 months, regardless of the question. Either I couldn’t give it to you or I could give it to you in 18 months” and the point was so well taken by the customers because they realized cloud was a new day for them.
Ultimately we came from behind in that opportunity and the result was we saved Florida tax payers about $50 million with that system.
Fred Diamond: I’ve got a question about the sales process there. You said you decided to go with a different route, did you decide that a week before and you were prepared for your presentation or did you decide that in the morning? I’m just curious, think about that from a sales perspective, tell us about that.
CAM: We talked about it internally and there was a lot of debate about this because people were like, “Talk about the technology” but in my heart of hearts I had a gut feeling that this was the way to go and I talked to Barton about it and he said, “You can do it, but it’s really high risk.” I convinced the team that it was the way to go because people buy from people. I could talk about the benefits of the technology all day long but A, it wasn’t a particularly technical crowd and B, it was an emotional thing for them. They were emotionally used to something different so I had to bring them in an emotional way to something totally new. My own personal experience and a major career risk that I had taken was what led them to that. We all walked out of there and we were like, “I can’t believe it worked” but it did. I would encourage salespeople to remember that customers are emotional, it’s their career that’s on the line when you’re selling to them so don’t be afraid to be honest and get emotional and make an emotional appeal to customers if you are really that passionate and they’re not seeing the benefit that your solution or what you’re selling can bring for them and their organization.
Fred Diamond: Of course, the process you took to get that message across was unique and I’m thinking back, it’s 2007. We’re doing this podcast in 2019 so I asked you the question before, has everybody adopted cloud already? In 2007 that was 12 years ago, obviously that was way in the early stage in the Wild West, if you will. You understood the risks that the customer didn’t want to take, especially when you’re talking about markets like government and education and public sector, of course.
The customers will make a mistake, especially places that you’ve worked at before. You mentioned $2 million in software and $50 million of implementation, no customer wants to be the guy who brought in one of those types of technologies that cost $500 million and brought the company down. Knowing what the customer could bear and what the customer was challenged with even though you went with this unique way of getting the message across, that was pretty powerful.
CAM: I think the unique way too is people need to realize, sales professionals, that they have to cultivate their storytelling skills. That is so critical to the role because at those times when you need to make that emotional appeal to someone, it’s your storytelling ability, not only your Rolodex of stories that you have to tell, but the way you present them can make or break your argument.
Fred Diamond: Did you ever question the move into sales? Did you ever think back and say to yourself, “This is too hard, this was a bad decision”?
CAM: I can remember having those moments at the end of the quarter when I was a telesales leader for sure and there were certainly a few times where I was asked to, I like to call it force-cast somethings where you get the call saying you must raise your forecast when you know there’s no deals to support it. Only in those moments did I have a regret of moving over. I would say for about the last 10 years I’ve had no regrets at all, I’m really happy that I made the transition and what it has allowed me is the ability to work with some amazing people but also help salespeople make life changing opportunities and success for their families. That is really what’s so unique about this career.
When you fail it’s awful because somebody who has invested a lot of time away from their family has to go home and tell their spouse that they can’t take a vacation or they can’t get that new car that they need, so the heartbreak is really there but when the success happens, it’s so great for the customers but it’s also really great for the salespeople. Some life changing things can happen and I’ve seen that, I’ve had such a wonderful pleasure of seeing people able to buy their dream home or a new car or retire early or give back to the community because they have additional time and money because they’ve made this choice of being in sales.
That’s what I love about sales, is it’s not truly a 9 to 5 job, it’s not a 9 to 5 career, you can take some time out of your day if you manage your schedule well to make it to your kid’s ball game or volunteer. That, I think is a unique opportunity that we have that many people who have a job or they have to be in the office all the time do not have. We do work sometimes extra hours and I would say sales careers are unusually high in stress, but the rewards can be great and that’s what’s such an amazing opportunity for sales professionals.
Fred Diamond: What’s the most important thing you want to get across to the junior selling professionals to help them improve their careers?
CAM: A couple things. If you start with the customer in the center and work backwards in your sales strategy development, you’re going to be much more successful. How can you get to know your customer, get to know your customer’s customer and then realize what value, whatever you’re selling has to both of those. Then articulate that to the customer throughout the sale cycle. That will help you help your customer to make an internal business case to buy your solution. A lot of times we don’t realize that we’re selling on features and functions, but it’s really all about the outcomes and if I had realized that earlier in my career I would have been much more successful selling many times.
Couple things: be really smart. I think my time as a sales engineer although my skills became outdated relatively quickly in my role [Laughs], having some competency in the solution that you sell is really important. Even more important is understanding the customer and the customers’ business. As I suggested, asking your internal partners how they’re measured, understanding how your customer is measured is equally important because you can’t be selling something that’s obviously going to cost their company money without understanding the motivation as to why they’re making the investment in the long term example or how it impacts.
I’ll give you an example on this. When I was selling cloud computing it was a different paradigm not only for sellers and consumers of the product but also for the financial element of their company and their CFO because we were shifting CAPEX to OPEX. I remember one year we did a great deal when I was at Salesforce with a company, it was the end of the customer’s fiscal year so a December deal. They were pretty bummed that it wasn’t my end of the fiscal year because it didn’t allow them to negotiate quite the deal they were hoping, but we did do the deal in their time frame which was the end of December. Fast forward 12 months, the customer gets an invoice and it was annual in advance billing so they were being billed for the second year of the three year contract they had signed. I got a call in December and the customer says, “Cam, we can’t pay this” and I said, “Well, why?” and he says, “This is OPEX. Did you know that our executive board has their bonuses based on EBITDA? This is really going to mess us up. What are you going to do for me?”
Crisis was averted, we were able to get net 45 terms so they could pay in their new fiscal year in January without penalty, but that was really eye opening for me because I hadn’t even thought, “In 12 months what’s the impact of these guys’ executive bonuses?” I never even thought about that, so challenging customers to think before they buy. We’re so afraid to ask, I was early in my sales career, so afraid to ask the customer these questions that might derail my deal because I didn’t want to remind somebody of something that might derail it down the road, but now I find that you’ve got to get that stuff on the table so far in advance.
I’ve worked with salespeople who almost scared the customer by telling them, “This is going to cost you X amount really early in the sale cycle, a really huge amount.” Similarly, you want to give the customer all the obstacles and objections that they may hear internally along the buying cycle as early in the sales process as possible so you can get those resolved. Whether you’re selling cloud or on premises, you have to know the financial impact of both of those models for your customer and understand the CFO’s motivation versus the CIO’s motivation.
You really have to understand who you’re selling to and then what the objection is going to be that they’re going to face internally and help address those things early in the sale cycle. You only get that by selling broadly in the account, never being single-threaded, you learn that in your first year of sales. I can’t tell you how many times in my first sales job at Oracle the guy or the gal had told me, “Yes, I’m your person, only talk to me” and we were led down a path of disappointment. That’s the first thing you learn in sales but it’s really understanding the customer’s motivation and their business drivers that could impact your deal at the 11th hour. Then of course if you’re selling technology or really anything at this point to a company, vet it with the customer’s security people early and often. That’s a last minute one that always comes in to derail people, security checks or legal.
A new trend we’re seeing is third party legal, customers hiring third party negotiators to negotiate enterprise agreements and let me tell you, that will push your deal out a quarter or two anytime because those guys are paid to bill hours, so they do. You really have to ask a lot of questions of many people within the organization because sometimes even the highest level person can lead you down the wrong path. I will tell you an example of this, I had a deal at Salesforce and I talked to the CEO and he told me that they were going to do the deal. Everything was great and we were all set but then at the 11th hour, the parent company – hadn’t factored those guys in – came and overruled the CEO. They ultimately did the deal but it was not by the end of February or the end of January when I needed the deal done so we had a little bit of a heartbreak there in terms of missed expectations. You want to check, double check and then really understand the customer’s business to a degree you never thought you needed to so that you can anticipate obstacles.
Fred Diamond: I’m going to ask a slightly different question that we haven’t asked before on the podcast. Again, you’re in enterprise sales with Amazon Web Services, you’ve worked for SAP, Oracle, Salesforce, you just mentioned a second ago the deal you expected to come in this quarter but then the CEO was overruled so it lasted another quarter. What would be some of your advice for some of the young professionals listening to the podcast about that process of sales? The fact that we get a lot of these people, we talked before about the fact that you were able to engage with people when you were in telesales with Oracle. Right now it’s so hard for people to get through and a lot of sales is now on the phone, inside sales, if you will. Sometimes when someone gets a conversation now they think the deal is halfway through because they spoke to a human being, right? What is some of your advice for some of the people, not just the young people, but people on the phone about pacing of your deals and understanding that it’s not going to happen on your time frame (it would be great if it would) and understanding all these other factors that need to come in?
CAM: I think it’s very important to be transparent about the sales process. Customers know that they’re being sold to, so I find that they are more transparent with you the more transparent you are with them. When I wasn’t selling to customers on a specific deal, I was just talking, I started talking about the sales process. Normally we want to build rapport and then we want to not talk about that, but we should. When I was at SAP in particular I started doing what I called proactive education about buying from SAP to the customers I was meeting. I would talk with them about their needs, about what they saw coming down the road but then I would say, “Let me tell you what the process is on our side because you’re going to need us to bring resources to bear, to help you consume and buy and implement what we’re selling you. I have to be able to do some prediction about what your time frame is, so if we could be very transparent with each other about time frames, I’m going to be able to get you the best resources as well as I’m going to be able to ultimately give you the best discount.”
In many environments – this is not true with Amazon, Amazon is very standard pricing – transparency is actually great because organizations are trying to do deals earlier in the year for linearity’s sake so that they don’t end up with 90% of their transactions in December when people are also trying to celebrate the holiday season. What I started telling customers at SAP which was absolutely true is Q2 is the new Q4. “We’ve trained you that we’re going to really deeply discount in Q4 and that’s not the case anymore, we’d like to do deals with you in Q2, in Q3 and when we can work together collaboratively through the process of your buying, we’re going to be able to bring the best resources to bear for you and get you the best discount. I promise.”
Sometimes customers don’t believe you because again, companies have trained them that the end of the quarter means really deep discounts, but if you can really prove to a customer that you’re serious, bring on your leadership, have them talk about it, great things can happen. I will tell you, in my early time at SAP I did a great deal with a company that was having an event, they were breaking their business into two companies. We did a really great deal in Q2 and it was great for the customer and great for SAP from a timing perspective. It was so good for the customer that they felt good about it and that CIO went onto another company and I leveraged him actually several times during my time at SAP. I said to people, “Call Tony, he will tell you what a great deal we did together in Q2 that was good for both of our companies.” I encourage salespeople to be transparent with their customers. If you want me to bring technical resources or if you want us to give you some demonstration or POC type of resources, here’s what I need from you, Mr. or Mrs. Customer, to make that happen.
If you can encourage transparency, I find that really changes the game with customers, but customers are inherently a little skeptical about salespeople so you have to work to build that trust. It usually takes one or two transactions with a given customer to build that trust to prove to them that you’ve done all you can. Then you have to make sure, though that you are negotiating with the right person because sometimes what you find is you did get the best deal for your business buyer and then it goes to procurement and their procurement guy is incented on how many points they can reduce from that price. You have to understand the process and I ask, I’ll ask a procurement agent, “Are you incented to reduce the value of this deal?” Sometimes they tell you, sometimes they don’t. I often will ask the business people if they know how the procurement guy is incented. Surprising to me, many of them haven’t asked the question so I coach my customers, “Ask your procurement guy, ‘how are you measured?'”
Fred Diamond: Carrie Anne, why don’t you tell us about a selling habit that has led to your sales success?
CAM: I would say two things. First is be educated. A few years ago I started reading the Wall Street Journal and Forbes and Inc, and listening, my favorite radio stations now are XM119 which is Bloomberg News and XM132 which is the Wharton Business School. Those two radio stations have made me smart on topics that I never thought I would be smart on. The great thing is when you have that one chance, you get that one opportunity – I was once invited as a handler of an executive to be in a room full of my customers’ executives and they were talking about bitcoin. Well, thankfully that morning on Bloomberg News as I drove in there they had a whole segment on it and on the competition in the market, so I was able to go up to a CFO and a CIO that I had very little rapport with and engage in the intelligent conversation with them and they were stunned at my knowledge that I had gotten as an auto expert listening to the radio that morning on the way in.
I would say do everything that you can to be well-rounded so that when you have that opportunity to speak with key decision makers you can say something intelligent, and if you can’t say something intelligent, don’t say anything. Silence is golden and don’t miss that opportunity for silence. I find that lifelong learning and knowing things about business and business trends and the fact that the federal service is going to have a big report out today, those are things that are important to your customers’ executives. If you’re not aware of those things you’re going to be at a disadvantage and you’re going to miss that opportunity, and those are habits that I wish I had cultivated earlier in my sales career.
Couple habits that I did cultivate early in my sales career that really helped me also were I’m super into sports, sports is the common conversation piece so it helps you have a common ground with customers. Having something to speak with customers about to break the ice, whether it’s business – which is a hard topic because they sometimes can be pretty knowledgeable depending on who you’re talking about – or sports, those are great, safe topics. Not every customer is into sports but it’s a great safe topic to talk about, or the customer, the customer loves to talk about themselves. Be prepared to ask them questions, always have a clean joke in case you need it.
Fred Diamond: Just curiously on sports, what are some of your favorite sports that you like to talk about?
CAM: Thankfully one of the lures that SAP used to draw me to that job when I took it was the fact that I’d be working with the sports leagues. I’ve had the opportunity to work with the NHL, the NFL and NBA and I’m a huge football gal, I’m a big Cowboys fan and my husband is a big Steelers fan. We’re big hockey family so the NHL again, I used to be a Cubs season ticket holder but my husband’s from Pittsburgh so now we’re Penguins fans. I find that having those conversation starters with customers and being comfortable is really important, it’s really important to have rapport and have cocktail party conversation at your disposal.
The way that over my career I’ve cultivated that is truly by instead of listening, I mean, I love to listen to music and that’s great but listening to the Wharton Business School and hearing about a new startup that’s interesting and might be interesting to your customer. That Wharton Business radio XM132 is incredible. One of the greatest things is they have a lot of different authors and when I was getting my job at Amazon I’d heard about a book that had just come out on building world-class organizations. I sent that book to three executives at Amazon and they really appreciated it and it helped me get into a very difficult company to get into.
I’m a big advocate in hearing things and then making that connection with someone in your network and then cultivating that by either sending a book or sending a copy of the article, something. I really am a big advocate into networking and using this learning platform to have that ability to make connections within your network.
Fred Diamond: Tell us about a major initiative you’re working on today to ensure your continued success.
CAM: We do a lot of bringing the full value of Amazon to our customers because while we have a great AWS offering, we also thankfully have a wonderful part of our company that is a supply chain machine. One of the big connections that I’m making now for customers is while you’re not selling books or shirts or anything, you are selling something and you’re moving to digital. How did Amazon reimagine business and how did we create a culture of innovation? Right now what I’m working on is bringing that innovation message to my customers and bringing resources from Amazon to help train them.
We’re actually conducting sessions called Innovate like Amazon with some of our technology partners, with some of our customers to say, “What’s something in your business today that we can help you reimagine the way we reimagined selling books?” When you can bring that value of something that you’ve done or your company does, even if it’s in a totally unrelated area, to your customer. If your company, for example, runs great customer conferences, does your customer have a customer conference? How can you bring the team that had this record breaking conference to talk to the customer’s team that does that same thing to be more effective? Or if your company’s website is amazing and now your customer is trying to digitize their offering, how can you help them with that?
I think when you can make connections from either your network or within parts of your company that do things exceptionally and bring that to your customer, you’re adding value and that’s what the customer wants, that’s why they’re going to take your call. For us at Amazon, we’re very fortunate because we have a really unique situation but some people don’t return our calls – it’s not very often – but sometimes a customer is really wedded to a competitive offering and we understand that. The conversation that we can have with customers about how some of our lessons learned along this way of taking a traditional brick and mortar industry and putting them online and then the supply chain that supports that is a really unique value proposition.
We’re going to customers with some of that messaging too and now we have a customer who was one of my customers at SAP, they are a customer of a competitor but they are going to come and take a warehouse tour with us so that they can see how we operate and take some lessons learned from our business to theirs, and we welcome that. How can we drive innovation for customers and help them reimagine things in their business? That’s what I’m working on today.
Fred Diamond: Why don’t you give us one final thought to inspire our listeners today? You’ve given us so many, give us one deep one to end the podcast with.
CAM: If you start with your customer in the center of everything you do and work backwards from there from sales process perspective and you’ve cultivated your partners along the way, your journey will be successful. Obviously if you are adding value at all points along the way, your journey will be successful. Happy selling.