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EPISODE 183: Proxios Sales Leader Michael Euripides Says R-E-S-P-E-C-T Through the Sales Process Can Set You Competitively Apart
MICHAEL’S FINAL TIP TO EMERGING SALES LEADERS: “Be respectful. I want to encourage everybody in this field to respect your client, respect their buying processes, respect their finances, make sure that you’re delivering on your promises. Most of all, respect yourself enough to prepare and do the right things and be the best you can be. I think that if you’re respectful and you do the right things, you’ll go in the right direction.”
Michael Euripides is the Vice President of Business Development for Proxios.
Prior to going to Proxios, he held sales leadership positions at CC Pace and Impact Makers.
Find Michael on LinkedIn!
Fred Diamond: Tell us what you sell today and tell us what excites you about that.
Michael Euripides: I’ve been with Proxios for 5 years now, we help people get the most from technology. We’re offering an enterprise class general purpose IT solution to companies that are demanding of up time, mobility, a cloud based architecture, security and all the pieces that allow them to be competitive against larger organizations that are in the same space. I think what really gets me jazzed right now – and this is a great time for us – we’ve gotten out of this mode of using technology and just making it available. I see so many competitors out there that are competing in the space and they’re really driving availability of technology.
What really gets us out of bed in the morning is helping organizations use the technology that they’ve invested in and move up to a move productive state of being. Finally, making actually a competitive advantage so think about being in an organization with anywhere from 20 to a thousand users and actually using technology as a way of hiring and maintaining great staff or landing new business, opening new offices. Really excited about how that’s working out for us.
Fred Diamond: How do you do that, how do you help your customers get a competitive advantage?
Michael Euripides: It’s different for every single client. They have something in the management arsenal that’s important to them so I think the key thing is to understand what that is. It could be expansion, it could be hiring and training people, it could be retaining the staff that they’ve brought in. Every organization has got something and maybe it’s getting to the market faster than the company down the street.
Fred Diamond: Michael, one of the themes that comes up not infrequently on the Sales Game Changers podcast is providing more value for your customer and it’s more imperative than it’s ever been. How do you uncover that? You just said you help your customers get a competitive advantage while most of your competitors basically sell IT availability and just the tools that they need. How have you successfully understood what your customer really needs to provide that type of an advantage to them?
Michael Euripides: It’s really about respect and about caring for the customer. What I find is if you look at the customer it’s not one person, it’s the executive committee, it’s the tech committee, it’s the finance committee, it’s the high value users. It could be some of the common workers, maybe it’s the gal who answers the phone every day, they all have a different proposition for technology. Until you understand that, it’s difficult to provide value. I spent a lot of time interviewing different cast characters at the firms that we talk to and I think that’s where the value comes in, delivering back. In fact, I’ll tell you one of the greatest compliments I got recently from a prospect was, “I felt like you learned as much about my company as I know” – from the CEO of the firm. That’s really the value proposition.
Fred Diamond: Tell us a little more about you. How did you first get into sales as a career?
Michael Euripides: Getting into sales was not an option at undergraduate. I went to Virginia Tech, I was in engineering and I studied business. Around my fourth year my counselor said, “You’re really good with people, I just want you to play to your strength. You understand technology, you’re great in math but you do really well with people.” I would encourage anybody who is moving into a career to play to your strength, and my strength is solving problems, helping people understand things better, working with executives and that’s how I got into sales.
Fred Diamond: We’ve actually had a number of people on the Sales Game Changers podcast who went to Virginia Tech: Matt Chubb at Kaiser Permanente, Mark Weber who now leads the sales teaching program over at the Catholic University of America. They must be doing good things over there to prepare good people for the sales profession.
Michael Euripides: I probably would have never guessed, nobody offered it to me but that’s where I went for my career and it’s worked out very well.
Fred Diamond: Tell us about some of your first few sales jobs and some of the lessons that you learned on those sales jobs.
Michael Euripides: I was standing next to a friend of mine who described moving into high tech and I didn’t know anything about high tech at that time. We were just getting into web development, internet, software and integration and that was outside of my wheelhouse. I didn’t know anything so the advice that he gave me was find a company that will train you, that will hire entry level people and just spend a ton of time training. I’m going to call that Computer Associates, back in the day they had the training program from god. I spent a month in New York, I had peers that I worked next to so I spent the first 6 months a year of my life not out there trying to hit the quota or make a commission but really learning all about technology and how to work in that space. That’s where I started.
Fred Diamond: Your first job was with Computer Associates?
Michael Euripides: Not my first job. My first job was working for my father as a waiter [Laughs] and mowing grass in the neighborhood, but that’s my first real career change in high tech.
Fred Diamond: I didn’t realize that. We’ve actually interviewed some people who worked at Computer Associates. For the Sales Game Changers listening around the globe, Computer Associates has historically been known as a great place to sell and it’s been around for a long time. Just curiously, what are some of the things you learned that have stuck with you from your Computer Associates days?
Michael Euripides: I had some great examples of folks that were really overachievers, overproducers at that firm. They were hitting their numbers, knocking them out of the park and really driving the organization forward. What I learned is hang with those guys, go to lunch with those people, go to dinner with them, go to meetings with them, ask them if you can tag along. That’s been a key success factor, finding the smart guys and spending the time with those folks. I think that’s a lesson learned from my first career.
Fred Diamond: Tell us a little more about you, what are you an expert in? Tell us a little more about your specific area of brilliance.
Michael Euripides: Brilliance is a big word to me. There’s times where you’re in the room where you want to make sure you’re not the smartest guy in the room but you know who is. There’s obviously times that I bring the brilliant people into the room so that they can communicate rather than try to play that role myself. If I had to pick on myself, I would say there’s probably a couple things. One of them is I am absolutely obsessed with client success.
It’s been ingrained in me since the time I was young, my parents were always very hospitable and very generous with their time and I think that really understanding what the client is looking for, the prospect is looking for, I spend a lot of time getting under and asking the right questions. I hear a lot of folks talking about listening as being the key skill, I think you’ve got to start with asking the right questions and of course listening and taking great notes and publishing your notes making sure, “Did I hear it correctly?”
Finally, it’s not just about listening, you’ve got to do something. If somebody tells you the building is burning down and we’re in deep trouble and you just say, “Great, I understand how you feel”, you’ve got to do something about it. I really encourage folks to take action. When your client tells you something that is bothering them or it’s their high priority or it’s risen to a level that they need to do something about it, take some action on it whether it’s you or your competitor, another company. Just make sure that you’re handing off and doing something that makes sense.
Fred Diamond: Curiously, you just said you take a lot of notes. Give us a tip, how do you physically take notes? Do you take them on the tablet, do you write them in a book, do you write them on a napkin? Then you said you publish the notes, talk a little bit about that process.
Michael Euripides: I went through a learning process, I’ve also been on a couple boards and I’ve acted as a secretary so I was good at taking notes and I write things down, I email people, “Is this what I heard? Did I get it correct?” I validate what I’m doing. Nowadays, I’ve got an iPad Pro and I love it, I take notes and I can email and I’ll email you my notes. I take very careful notes so I can just say, “By the way, here are the notes from the meeting” and I push “send” and within a few seconds, people in the room now have what I wrote down. These are some of the areas that I use in high tech, it’s really cool.
Fred Diamond: Do you ask for permission in taking notes?
Michael Euripides: That’s a great question. That is one of the first questions I ask in a meeting, “Do you mind if I capture the notes from this meeting?” It shows that I’m listening to what you’re saying, what you’re saying is important and I’m going to make sure I get it right. That’s a great question.
Fred Diamond: And they’re also going to say yes. Is they say yes, that’s your first step to yes, right?
Michael Euripides: Absolutely, that and it shows care but it also helps people to relax. If they know that you’re capturing the minutes from the meeting then they feel more comfortable to just tell you what’s going on and not worry about marking things down.
Fred Diamond: If you’re listening to the Sales Game Changers podcast right now, take notes, it’s so critical. Tell us about an impactful sales career mentor, tell us how they impacted your career.
Michael Euripides: I will tell you this. If you’re going to make it in this space you’ve got to be and act like a pro. The challenge you have is that your version of what a pro is and what a pro actually is, is probably very different. I have a coach, my coach is Andy Mindlin, he’s a former executive at a Fortune 10 company. He lives in Newport Beach California and the reason I chose Andy was because he had a relationship with the CEO of my firm. It’s really important, if you’re going to have a coach, if you’re going to have a mentor, make sure that the mentor is singing in the same tune as the rest of your company.
You can have a coach and they can be guiding you in ways that aren’t really in line with the expectations of your boss and that’s a bad situation. The good situation is that he’s not just mentoring me, he’s also communicating with other folks in the organization. Andy’s been a terrific help, I would encourage every single one of you whether it’s a paid engagement or whether you just have friends who you bounce ideas off on, that’s it.
I’m going to say three things and this is #2: I look at the guys who are the thought leaders and I read and I listen to podcasts, I listen to my peers, I listen to your podcast, Fred and go to meetings where you’re filling your head with great content. Finally, I have some clients who I’ve worked with for years and they’ve moved on, they’re probably not clients anymore but I call them my board of advisers. It’s funny because we get together every 6 months and we’ll go out to dinner, have a glorious time. They tell me what’s going on in their space, I tell them what’s in mine so I’m getting a lot of input of where I’m heading professionally. I call it the Tom Brady factor, but this is how I maintain my passion and my performance.
Fred Diamond: How do you communicate with your coach? We’re based here on the East Coast and your coach is over in California. Do you do it via Skype, do you do it via email, phone, what’s the best way to communicate?
Michael Euripides: It’s called my ride home. Andy is on his ride home and I’m on my ride home, so we have our ride home conversation. It takes me about 45 minutes and it takes him about 45 minutes in LA traffic. By the time we get to our house, we have solved most of the world’s problems [Laughs].
Fred Diamond: Michael, what are the two biggest challenges you face today as a sales leader?
Michael Euripides: This is a very interesting time that we’re in. I was in a meeting a couple years ago and Lee Salz was the speaker, NIS. The biggest challenge we have is differentiation. I go to a conference and I see 11 different booths and they’re saying they do the same thing that we do and I know they don’t, I know there’s differences. Differentiation in the space is huge and if you can’t differentiate your product from 3, 4, 5 other competitors… We get into these RFP bake offs and how do you get to the top 3? How do you get to the #1 poll position? You’ve got to find out what you’re doing and you can’t just find a differentiator that sounds good on paper.
I literally have sat in meetings with my team till 9-10 o’clock at night in the board room coming up with the top 2 differentiators so that we can respond to this RFP. Then we sit on it, we absolutely drive those two differentiators. I think that’s #1 challenge we have, making sure that we have something that is meaningful and impactful to winning the deal, not just that it sounds good on paper.
The second big challenge I see is complacency. We’re trying to get organizations to change the way they do things. Technology is moving so fast and the organizations tend to go back to what they know, tend to go back to the vendors they have produced in the past, tend to go back to the thought leaders that they’re buddies with in the Rotary Club. You’ve got to get them to understand why they should change, why should they get off their seat that they’re in and move to something that is maybe a cloud based architecture or using a different service for different pieces. Those are the two big ones, differentiating us from the rest of them and two, coming up with good reasons why an organization should make a change.
Fred Diamond: You just referred to Lee Salz’s book, Sales Differentiation so we’ll provide a link to that book as well, it’s a great book with a lot of advice on how you truly differentiate yourself in the marketplace. A lot of people that are listening to the Sales Game Changers podcast are not just in competitive spaces but in spaces where everybody looks similar and a lot of the messaging seems to be similar. It really is a challenge and a struggle to be able to differentiate yourself. Michael, take us back to the #1 sale success or win from your career you’re most proud of.
Michael Euripides: Last 3 years I’ve been working on a very high brand name organization in the region. I literally have been working on this project for 3 years and I want to call out Brent Adamson from Challenger. I’ve had a number of conversations with him and I’ve heard him speak at IES and he really gave me a platform to move forward on. I think what he said and what has come to reality is there’s not one customer, you’ve got multiple customers within the organization. I started with the entry point, I met the finance committee, I got the money right with the finance committee, I met the technology committee, I met the IT director, I spent a lot of time understanding what their needs and concerns were and what their path forward was and helping them become successful in their role. I met with the executive committee, before I met with the executive committee I met with some of their friends who know them well so that when I presented to them it was in line with their expectations.
I spent a lot of time understanding who the buyers were in the organization all the way up to the president of the firm who I knew his two big questions. “How is this going to help us make more money” or, “How is this going to save us money?” I have spent 3 years building my reputation with the organization understanding who the buyers are, understanding the drivers, making sure the proposal was crafted in a way that made sense and then, by the way, they put an RFP out. We went through the RFP process, we had to get back into the top 3 out of 10 vendors so it’s been a terrific exercise in just about everything I have learned, everything I know. Anyway, we’re live and running so this is good.
Fred Diamond: We just talked about differentiation. In that particular deal, how did you differentiate yourself?
Michael Euripides: Great question. We were up against a company that was a national brand, we have a lot of capability locally but they were national. I talked to a few folks who dealt with them and they basically said, “There’s no way you’re going to compete with these guys on size, on throughput performance, capacity, there’s no way so don’t compete on that.” The one thing we could compete on was we’re local and we are like you guys, so the team then focused everything on it.
For example, if we had a meeting with the IT director, instead of getting on a conference bridge we just went over there. We had a document to drop off, we printed the document and dropped it off. If we had a meeting that needed some technical support, we brought the IT guys in the car with us and we walked in the room and said, “Here’s the engineer that you need to talk to to finalize that piece of it.” We acted and behaved locally and that’s something that this other company in no way could have one.
Fred Diamond: Did you ever think to yourself, “It’s too hard, it’s just not for me, I’d rather go play the piano full time” or anything like that?
Michael Euripides: Absolutely, every morning around 5:30 I think that way but by 6 o’clock I’ve got to have my game on. I really focus on what’s important in life, it’s my family, it’s my health, it’s the health of my family. We have fathers and fathers in laws who need assistance and kids who need assistance. My little problems with sales or challenges or being rejected or having a tough time is minuscule compared to just taking care of those around me. That’s really what drives me.
Fred Diamond: Michael, what’s the most important thing you want to get across to the junior selling professionals listening around the globe to help them take their careers to the next level?
Michael Euripides: There’s 4 things I would share with you if you want to go to the next level and this is really about Proxios. We sat down and spent a lot of time coming up with things that really matter to us and I’ll just share those with you if you don’t mind, there’s 4 things.
#1 is first of all and foremost, be for the customer. Stop worrying about yourself, your quota or your company, start with what the customer success looks like, be for the customer. Take the time to listen and understand what their needs and values are or concerns and if you get that right, that’s a huge part of your future and your success.
I think the second thing that is absolutely paramount and critical to my success and to those who are listening, innovate relentlessly. The shelf life of your solution, your product, the way you do things, the way you did things 5, 10 years ago is over. You’ve got to fill your mind with what’s next, what’s new, what’s coming, you’ve got to innovate and that’s including the sales process. I think a lot of companies would benefit from that.
The third thing – and this is something we’re practicing and it’s really working well – is live your life. When you’re on vacation, shut your email down, shut your texting down, don’t try to jump on a conference call while you’re at the beach with a drink in your hand, when you’re with your family and spending time with those that you care about. Live your life, get outside, do things that are fun. I’ll call my clients, my prospects and I’ll say, “For the next week I’m going to be out, so here’s Patrick’s number, here’s Kathy’s number, if something goes wrong, call them because I may not be available.” In fact, the SVP of the company is on break this week and I’m just making sure that he doesn’t answer an email. That’s #3, live your life, do the great things that you want to do.
The final thing I would say is you’ve got to have faith, you have to believe, you have to believe in yourself, you have to believe in your client, you have to believe in your team. You just really have to have faith and you have to exercise that faith. So many times we worry, “Will the team be able to deliver this?” or, “Can we get the numbers right?” or, “Will they sign the contract?” Just have faith, have confidence that you’ll do the right things. Those are my 4 keys.
Fred Diamond: Those are four great things: be for the customer innovate relentlessly, live your life, believe and have faith. Michael, tell us about a selling habit that you have implemented that’s led to your sales success.
Michael Euripides: We’ve talked about this several times in the conversation, I’m going to go back to it. Every morning, every evening I am listening to podcasts, I bought an account with Audible, I think I pay $12 bucks a month and I have unlimited number of books that I download. I am constantly filling my mind with new stuff. How can you innovate if you’re not listening to what the thought leaders are putting out? Somebody made fun of me one time and said, “You’ve been doing this for 25 years, don’t you get it by now? Don’t you understand it? Maybe you should be writing the book.” It never ceases to amaze me what some of the thought leaders are pumping out, so I’m always invigorated by it. That’s my bad habit, it’s podcasts and listening to Audible, that’s the big thing.
Fred Diamond: I’ve actually seen you at a lot of events and you’ve been a sponsor of the Institute for Excellence in Sales. I’ll give you credit, man you’ve referred to a couple of great speakers that we’ve had, Brent Adamson who’s written The Challenger Sale and he was also the author of The Challenger Customer. Lee Salz who wrote Sales Differentiation which is a sales best-seller. You’ve got to constantly be learning, you just mentioned one of your key tips was to innovate relentlessly, not just with the sales process but think about back when you started from when you were with Computer Associates.
You said you had 6 months of training before you even got on the road, now you’re in a marketplace where you’re competing with not just dozens of companies but potentially hundreds of companies. You actually alluded to the fact that not just locally but also companies that are based around the country and of course, one of your biggest competitors is do nothing. Your customer can figure it out on their own, so you have to constantly be thinking about how do you innovate, how do you think about the sales process, how do you continue to provide value? Michael, tell us about a major initiative you’re working on today to ensure your continued success.
Michael Euripides: There’s two major initiatives I’ve got going on right now with my team, it’s not mine, it’s really the team and the customer. I think we’ve pulled them into it as well and that’s this model of moving up the food chain from just available IT to usable IT. What does that mean? It means you’re doing training and coaching and mentoring, helping folks to learn the tools they already bought. We find that a lot of times we’ll invest in technology whether it’s CRM or ERP, Office 365 and they just don’t understand all the features of it. #1 is helping the organizations to use the IT, helping them improve productivity. We’re using agile techniques and lean thinking to get them into a more productive mode. That’s the one big initiative I’ve got.
The second one, this notion of account success. This is huge and we’re spending a lot of time right now thinking that it’s not just about landing the contract, it’s about helping the organization to get the most value from the technology that you’re implementing. I think that’s a big initiative that I’m working on and maybe we can get a speaker to come in, Fred to IES but that’s a big bucket list item.
Fred Diamond: Why have you continued? What is it about sales as a career that has kept you going?
Michael Euripides: Fred, I look back at some of the monumental changes that took place because of a prospecting call that I made and it just gets me fired up. When I look at some of the organizations that we landed major agreements with, the brand names, and I look at where they are now. I remember there was a magazine article in CIO Magazine about the CIO that we had been serving and that I actually walked into his office and said, “Look, this is something you should take a look at” and then there’s a magazine article being written about that transformation. This is exciting, it was a prospecting call that led to a major change so I look back on the changes that have occurred in the accounts that I’ve dealt with and I’m really proud of that.
Fred Diamond: One thing that you mentioned before that I really liked, you mentioned you have a board of advisers who are your former customers. We’ve had some situations in the past with the Sales Game Changers podcast where some of our guests have mentioned that certain customers have been mentors of theirs. One thing that we’re getting from this interview, Michael is that you’re really focused on the success of the customer. A lot of times in sales people will focus on the transaction and that’s the end game, but if you think about the long curve, you think about continuing to get referrals and build up that differentiation, you’ve got to be thinking about the lifetime value. Not just the lifetime value but really, are you helping the customer achieve their goals? Michael, I want to thank you for being on today’s Sales Game Changers podcast. Before we conclude, give us one final thought to inspire the listeners around the globe today.
Michael Euripides: My final thought is be respectful. I want to encourage everybody in this field to respect your client, respect their buying processes, respect their finances, make sure that you’re delivering on your promises. Most of all, respect yourself enough to prepare and do the right things and be the best you can be. I think if there’s one thing that has really impacted my role is acting that way. I don’t think you can ever lose a deal because of something you did so there’s probably some things I’m not proud of that I’ve done in the past with clients, but I think that if you’re respectful and you do the right things, you’ll go in the right direction.