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[EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a replay of the SALES GAME CHANGERS Webinar hosted by Fred Diamond, Host of the Sales Game Changers Podcast, on October 6, 2020. It featured Verizon Public Sector Chief Mike Maiorana.]
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EPISODE 276: Verizon Public Sector’s Mike Maiorana Says Now’s the Time for Sales Professionals to Make a Larger Societal Impact and He Explains How to Do So
MIKE’S TIP TO EMERGING SALES LEADERS: “Understand how your actions, your products or your services impact the customer’s desired outcome. As a team, understand how what you’re doing impacts the team that you work with and for extra credit – and we do this all the time at Verizon and particularly the public sector – how your solutions or your actions impact the societal benefits of what’s happening. Show up for your communities that you live in, that you work in, that you educate in, think of things that you can do whether inside or outside of work to do something positive and proactive for someone else in need. It is extremely rewarding for everybody involved and it really keeps you grounded in what you may think to be big problems. Other folks in this country, in this day and age have much bigger problems. Be that shining light and help someone else get to a better place.”
Fred Diamond: Today is October 7th, it’s the Sales Game Changers Live, we’re going to get to Mike Maiorana from Verizon in a second. Next Friday is the IES Sales Excellence Awards, it’s going to be virtual this year. We have a special keynote performance, that’s Jim Peterik, he’s with the band Survivor, you may recall their big hit, Eye of the Tiger. Mike, were you a Survivor fan? You’ve got to know the song Eye of the Tiger.
Mike Maiorana: First and foremost, I’m a Rocky fan so being a Rocky fan, you must be a Survivor fan and if I can recall, that was in Rocky III, Survivor, Eye of the Tiger.
Fred Diamond: It was, in Rocky III.
Mike Maiorana: When he fought Clubber Lang.
Fred Diamond: [Laughs] Jim tells a great story about how Sylvester Stallone reached out to him and he also wrote his biggest hit ever, a song called Burning Heart which was in Rocky IV. If you register for the IES Virtual Sales Excellence Awards, we’re also going to be recognizing with our Lifetime Achievement the great Craig Abod with Carahsoft. Mike, I know you also know Craig and Carahsoft as well.
Mike Maiorana: Craig is a great industry partner and a leader in innovation and enablement for the federal segment here and many friends of Craig’s, I know he’s helping support the government mission across multiple companies.
Fred Diamond: If you recognize Mike Maiorana from the Sales Game Changers podcast, he was episode #100, it was a milestone for the Sales Game Changers podcast. First off, it’s great to see you, how are you doing? Again, you just finished off the busy season which was a huge thing. For people who aren’t familiar with the federal marketplace, federal fiscal year ended September 30, it was quite active this year for all the reasons that we’ll talk about in a little bit. First off, how are you doing? How was the busy season for you? Tell us a little bit about what Verizon does, Verizon is such a large company, so many things that you do. People might know you for phone service or whatever it might be but obviously there’s a ton of things that you guys do.
Mike Maiorana: Having me back here, Fred is an indication that the podcast #100 must have gone relatively well and like most sales professionals, when you enable a solution or deliver on a product for your client, if you’re delivering on your expectations and your promises and you’re following through, chances are you’ll get a repeat sale. Let’s consider me coming back an indication that I deliver it on my commitments the first time around, we kept in touch, we continued to network and when you had a future need, here I was and here I am. I think like most things in life, you can correlate it to a “sales” engagement but really it’s all about establishing trust and creating positive rapport, being there for your clients and your partners.
What’s happening at Verizon? I would expect that many of your podcast viewers are Verizon clients so let me first say thank you for your business.
As you would expect, Verizon is in the business of delivering on our customer commitments for the services that we have enabled today. Think of your cellphones, your broad band, your television here in the mid-Atlantic and northeast, we call it FiOS. Think of all the work that we do for enterprises, small, medium, large and public sector, advanced networking, contact center services, manage security services, communication and collaboration tools. Think of what Verizon does to enable things such as this webinar here with our secure network, our bandwidth. We’re all about ensuring customers are getting the best experience with the services that they are purchasing from us today. We create long-term fans whether that be in our consumer or business segments and then we earn the right to innovate with them and share with them exciting new products and services that ultimately will help them evolve either as a consumer or as a business.
Think of 5G, for example, as one of those very innovative technologies that based on our experience with our loyal customers, they will look to us to help innovate. I would categorize it as Verizon is helping to enable people to be productive, people to effectively communicate, people to educate effectively, people to receive healthcare services, everything you would imagine in a remote environment during the COVID-19 shutdown period that started in March, almost 7 months ago. Verizon provides not only the technology, the networking, the security but also the professionalism, the people that are implementing the capabilities, the people that are installing the services.
Personally, because of the pandemic and having three teenagers here at my house as well as myself using bandwidth, I upgraded to the highest bandwidth that Verizon had to offer and we had a great technician come out to the house. A lot of Verizon is working remotely where our customers allow for it but a lot of Verizon is out in the field serving clients whether that be our network people, our technicians, even our store personnel when you go to a Verizon store. We’re so large, we serve so many different customers that it really spans across the spectrum related to how we are serving and showing up for our clients.
Fred Diamond: Mike, I’ve got a couple questions for you as it relates to what you’ve been doing in your career. Again, you’ve been running Verizon public sector for the last what, 7 and a half years?
Mike Maiorana: I was in it from ’03 to ’08, then I took a little bit of a break and then I came back so yes, 7 and a half years almost. Almost half of my career at Verizon has been serving the public sector client.
Fred Diamond: I want to ask you a couple questions on that. You and I are friends on LinkedIn as well, we very generously comment frequently on each other’s posts. You have done a lot of great posts talking about Verizon’s service to the public sector customer and a lot of the guys and ladies that we’ve interviewed on the Sales Game Changers webinar or podcast that service the public sector marketplace are committed to the mission. I have a two-part question here, tell us about why you’re committed to this marketplace, what is it about the public sector market that has led you to devote a good portion of your career? Then a follow up question is again, March 15th when the world flipped and changed, a lot of the companies that service public sector really stepped up because we had to quickly get our government customer modernized. Eventually they were going to move to the cloud and in the span of a couple of weeks companies like Verizon, Craig’s company Carahsoft that we’re going to recognize, Red Hat, all these companies around the beltway zipped in action, got the government customer up to speed, an unbelievable, remarkable achievement. Tell us about your commitment to the customer you serve and then tell us about some of the shifts that you all made from servicing the customer when we kicked into this new world back in March.
Mike Maiorana: Whether it’s K-12 or the Department of Defense or our veterans, homeland security, healthcare, think of HHS and the NIH and CDC, everything the government is enabling is ultimately for the society’s benefit. At Verizon we categorize our strategy and our approach to the market around 4 key stakeholders. First and foremost, the customer, what are you doing to serve that customer and enable that customer to do their job? And in government there’s a higher calling, it’s mission-oriented, it’s national security, it’s the healthcare of our fellow citizens, it’s education, it’s public safety. Delivering for the customer we have to do it as a team, in Verizon and most other successful companies it’s a team effort, there’s no one person that does it.
You have to have reliance on other groups within the company so sales may be the tip of the spear but you’re also highly dependent on your marketing team, your IT team, your legal team, your finance team and a whole host of other support partners across the internal ecosystem, implementations, customer service, to be able to deliver on the commitments we’ve made. You’ve got to deliver for your client, you’ve got to deliver for your teammates, you certainly have to deliver for your shareholders, we’re in a for-profit business, we’ve got to make money, we’ve got to grow the business profitably. The one additional stakeholder that really shines with public sector sales is society, it’s the end users of the technology that Verizon is providing to the government agency who in turn is delivering a service to their constituency. When the USS Comfort decided they needed to dock up in New York City to provide relief to the New York City hospital systems for the COVID-19 overrun, Verizon was called upon to connect that ship to make sure it had all the networking capabilities that it needed to provide that type of service and continuity with the New York City hospitals.
When you have a veteran that may be in a rural area that may not be able to travel to a healthcare provider, Verizon provides the connectivity to that veteran to be enabled for that veteran to receive a video consultation like many of us have had. Early on I didn’t want to get near a doctor’s office with this COVID-19 so I had a couple of video conferences on high bandwidth, highly secure network connection.
The K-12 segment, education, I have three kids, many of our viewers have children, we know how important it is for learning and development and Verizon really stood up. Despite many of us having access directly to broadband, I think everybody knows the digital divide exists within this country. Many of our fellow citizens did not have the necessary broadband capability so Verizon partnered with states all across the country, states, cities and counties to provide broadband capabilities to enable our students to learn. The mission around enabling capabilities that have a societal impact I think is the extra motivator to keep the people at Verizon and I’m sure many of the people that support the public sector really pushing forward to do great things. The government is full of very talented people but the government also needs very talented industry partners that understand how to deliver complex solutions quickly and efficiently to be able to help elevate their mission. I feathered in what Verizon has been doing, we’re a very large public sector entity across federal, state, local and education. Many of our largest federal departments and agencies, states and cities depend on Verizon for connectivity, for networking, for security services, for communication and collaboration tools. I’m sure many of you in addition to the go-to webinar platform, you’ve used Cisco Webex, you’ve used Zoom, you’ve used Google Meets, you’ve used Microsoft Teams – I hope I’m not forgetting anybody – and you’ve used BlueJeans. BlueJeans is the new communication and collaborations provider that Verizon now owns. While you need great bandwidth and you need great secure bandwidth to do those applications, Verizon also sells many of those applications.
Moving the government from a work-from-office to a work-from-home model was a major undertaking. The government in many cases was initially not prepared, it looked to industry partners to elevate and accentuate how they do work. We’ve got examples from all across the federal space, I mentioned social security administration, I mentioned health and human services, the United States postal service, the Department of Defense, veteran’s affairs and many more look to Verizon to help them move to a different model, a model that would sustain through time. Ultimately I think it will become a model that may not be 100% work-from-home but I think when we finally have a vaccine and it’s under control we’re going to be moving to a more hybrid environment. I think people in the DC Metro area, me included, I don’t mind not sitting in traffic on the beltway for two hours each way.
Fred Diamond: One thing we’ve all had to do is to rethink how we use our time. We have a couple questions coming in here, you talked about how the government and the public sector customers have had to quickly get up to the cloud and things like that. Talk about your conversations with your government customers. We have a bunch of people watching today’s webinar and listening to the podcast who’ve been listening on our show pretty much every day. I see a lot of new people here which is great so thanks for that, Mike. We have a lot of people who come on every day, empathy was a big word along the way and there’s been a lot of challenges like you mentioned too. All of a sudden you’re a parent, you have to be home for your kids and maybe you have your spouse who is not in public sector who just lost their job and a lot of things along the way. A question here came in from Lou, Lou wants to know what your customer conversations like right now. Talk about how you’re handling them but also how you’re directing your teams to engage with the customer knowing that it’s not just moving them to the cloud. There’s so many ridiculous things that we’ve had to deal with over the last 6-7 months as humans and citizens.
Mike Maiorana: Fortunately, at Verizon we are very much focused on establishing trusted relationships with clients making sure that they know that we are an extension of their organization by not only our words but by our actions. The great news is early on when this first turned in mid-March, our customers knew us already. I’m going to do some sales 101 here, we’ve got some strategic account plans already in place, we’ve got the relationship mapping already in place, we’ve done the technology briefings, we’re regularly working proactively with our clients. We’re just not a cold call when the fire hits, we are a welcomed visitor when the fire hits.
Having a plan of action during normal times is critical so you’re establishing yourself as the top of the list for who they’re going to go to when times of tough, they being our clients. We instructed early on including myself, we did it at every level, from the account executive level all the way up to me, the Senior Vice President. Proactively reach out to our government clients to make sure that they knew not only that we were here for them, not only reminding them of the services and capabilities that they already had – I think most people know when it comes to government, services are enabled through government contract vehicles. We had to remind some of our customers that they already had capabilities enabled through government contract vehicles. They may not have implemented them at their agency but they were ready to implement should they want it to be.
A little bit about the contracting process and then finally, sharing proactively, “Here’s what another customer in a similarly situated position has already done with Verizon to enable remote contact center work” or mobility, enhancing the number of people that have mobility capabilities both for voice and data. Or increasing their security posture if it was worry about moving home and not having the proper VPNs or security oversight on their end users. Proactively positioning and government clients love this, a lot of government clients don’t want to be the first person to do something, they want to know what’s already worked, they want to have referenceable architecture, they want to have proof points within the industry and within the government, so proactively letting them know. I know many of you have been experienced in this, out of the gate the first three, four, maybe even five months or longer it was nonstop almost 24/7.
We’re Verizon so customers call us, they know we have a phone, they expect us to always answer but being there for our customers both proactively and reactively and then understanding their limitations. Really having a strong understanding of not only their physical limitations but their personal limitations. As you indicated, our customers are people too, they’ve got kids schooling from home, they have spouses that may be a public safety provider, spouses that are healthcare providers or first responders. You may have to take a meeting at 7, 8, 9, 10 o’clock at night to work around that schedule. Most commissioned motivated sales professionals will take a customer call anytime, the great part about how we delivered capabilities that all the other support organizations – Verizon and most sales organizations, you just don’t do it alone. You need a great supporting cast and we treat our supporting cast in high regard here at Verizon. The supporting cast customer service, contracts, marketing, legal, they were already there willing and able to support.
Fred Diamond: Mike, I have a question. You’ve risen in your career to the highest level of Verizon leading a global and huge sales organization with all the support, like you mentioned. Talk about engagement with the customer, government customer, you’ve alluded to contracts so there’s something called the Federal Acquisition Regulations, there are laws with how you can interact with the government customer. A situation like the pandemic kicks in, for sales professionals either watching today’s webinar or listening as a Sales Game Changers podcast, what is some of your advice for how they should be engaging with a customer like that? Physical engagement and obviously now because of COVID not everyone is going into buildings but at a sales professional level, how do you coach your people and how do you suggest people understand that type of communication?
Mike Maiorana: Each client is different and as a sales professional you have to understand the openness and/or limitations of each of your clients. This is what I did because I was trying to deal with the C level, I wanted the CIOs and the undersecretaries to know that Verizon was here for them so I would proactively just send a short email out and say, “Hi, XYZ Agency CIO, this is Mike, I know our teams are working together but if there’s ever anything that I can do specifically to help you implement a solution to help support your mission, please reach out to me directly.” I also proactively offered up technology briefings on different solutions that we were already implementing. A simple email or text which is maybe non-intrusive to get the conversation going, certainly followed up by a real phone call – those phones actually make phone calls still so I encourage phone calls – as well as video collaboration, all the tools that people have.
You can make a quick introduction on an email or a text but you really can’t have a meaningful dialogue unless you’re talking, and even better so, face-to-face. At Verizon we mirrored our customers in relation to actual going into a facility, we’ve been ultra-conservative on our employee’s behalf, health well-being being first and foremost. We’ve had very little face-to-face interaction with our clients meaning live face-to-face in an office environment but we’ve utilized the heck out of all these collaboration tools. Government has adopted collaboration already, they had adopted it but they really accelerated and they accepted. I’ve used social media, I’m not a big Twitter person although I have an account, I really embrace LinkedIn. Most of your clients whether that be in the public sector or enterprise have a LinkedIn profile. Simply reaching out, extending an invitation if you know the person, there’s nothing needed other than an invitation.
If you don’t know the person, send a little message along LinkedIn, let them know who you are and why it would be important for you to connect with them. There’s a need out there across the government – across all customer segments – for qualified, highly responsive, highly knowledgeable people in their field of interest, in their specialized field. Don’t be a wall flower, be proactive and don’t overdo it. You probably have enough clients to contact, you don’t have to call the same one every 10 minutes. Be discreet at first if you don’t know them, customers expect and I think encourage it, they need help.
Fred Diamond: Let’s talk about that for a second. Actually, we have a question right now that comes in from Julie and Julie is in London, England. Thank you, Julie for being on the Sales Game Changers Live. Julie wants to know what the Verizon sales organization top priority is right now. It’s interesting, we just came out of the federal busy season where the federal fiscal year ended. One of the cool things about doing a webinar every day is I’m just reflecting back on how things have changed from March 15th when we started doing a daily webinar through the summer and now we’re in October. What are the priorities right now for an organization like Verizon? Again, you just finished the fiscal year, this isn’t going to change, we keep seeing reports that COVID is going to continue. The IES, prior to the pandemic we were doing a live event a week, we’re probably not going to do a live event or an in-person event at least until April at the earliest. We have a lot of large companies as members and their companies are telling them, “You can’t go to a hotel” or, “You can’t go somewhere where there’s more than 15, 20, 30 people.” Talk about priorities, what do you think the priorities of a sales organization should be right now?
Mike Maiorana: We’re not only 7 months into the pandemic, we’re coming out of the federal fiscal buying season as you just indicated. Typically the third quarter of a public sector team is the busiest quarter so first and foremost, our priorities are delivering on our commitments that we’ve already made to our clients. Past performance and delivering on your promises, meeting your scheduled implementation dates and delivering on the services you’ve sold is first and foremost the priority, to get those services up and running so those clients can ultimately utilize those services to enable on their very important mission. I would say that’s job #1 but job #2 is to continue to look over the horizon and help our customers innovate, help them understand what new capabilities, new technologies, new services are available now as well as coming onto a federal contract or into Verizon in the next 30, 60, 90, even longer period.
We have to keep our customers informed, we want to earn their trust, we want to be the first people that they call when they have a need for a certain technology because we’ve earned the right, we’ve earned that trusted rapport. We’re also looking well over the horizon as you would expect in the federal segment in particular, there’s a very long sale cycle. Large procurements will be coming second half of 2021, those may be in the pre RFP or even RFI, Request for Information stage. We have to be ready to respond accordingly and to put meaningful thought and responses in so when the RFPs do drop, Verizon is positioned well. Bottom line, we look at our business as delivering on the commitments we’ve already made through the sales that we’ve already made which have been quite strong this year. #2, the 30. 60. 90 pipeline ensuring you’ve got enough opportunities in your funnel, you’re meeting with your clients and your prospects across multiple engagements and you’ve got enough in your funnel to achieve or exceed your plan for the next 30, 60, 90 days. Last but certainly not least, looking over the horizon, positioning yourself on the pre-bid solicitation work like our Request for Information’s.
Fred Diamond: Mike, we have a couple more questions coming in here from the audience, we have a question from Nick and Nick is in Baltimore, not too far from the DC Metro region. What are some of the biggest positive surprises for you that have come out of the last few months? We all know the challenges and it’s interesting talking about positive things during a pandemic, we’ve talked about these over the Sales Game Changers podcast. What are some of the positive things or surprises on a positive note that have come out of the circumstances that we’ve been in over the last couple of months?
Mike Maiorana: From a personal note I’ve been able to spend more quality time with my wife and children over the past 7 months than I have over the last 7 or 17 or 27 years. The silver lining to this is I think American families are able to spend more quality time together, share more meals together, share more laughs together and really forge the family unit. I’m personally blessed with that situation here in my home. In relation to working with our customers and working with my fellow Verizon teammates, I was extremely pleased by the amount of engagement that we saw from our government clients rushing to deliver on the mission at hand, having a sense of urgency, having a sense of accountability and really leaning in to innovative technologies and innovative solutions to help their employees stay productive and effective as well as help deliver on their end mission objective.
I’ve always had a great respect for those that serve in the public sector whether that be state, city, K-12 education, federal, civilian or DOD national defense. You’ve got a lot of talented people that are dedicated to the mission serving in our government that really took ownership and accountability to elevate their outcomes for ultimately their constituency. Then seeing how my team at Verizon rallied around that and met the customer mid-way, really pleased with the efforts of all of our teams across sales, engineering, customer service, implementations, the proposal teams. Within a public sector group if your sales are going up, so is all the other work involved in your sales including your quoting, your contracting, your legal reviews, your pricing exercises and everybody really showed up for our customer, put them #1. The work that we have done in the last 7 months and the relationships that we’ve forged and the trust that we’ve built will help us in years to come.
Fred Diamond: Mike, we’ve got time for one more question here and then I’m going to ask you for your final thought and action step. We like to end the webcast and the podcast with an action step that people can take. Again, you’ve had a great career with Verizon, you’ve been with Verizon for close to 30 years, you’ve gone various organizations, commercial, public sector, you’ve risen to the highest level. First off, congratulations on all your success, you’ve done a great job not just for the organization but for all the customers that you’ve served. Congratulations on that, congratulations on such a fantastic journey that you’ve had at Verizon.
What are your expectations for sales professional right now? As a senior sales and business leader that’s run a huge organization – and I’m going to ask that in two-fold – what is your expectation for seasoned sales professionals? People who’ve been selling for 15, 20, 30 years, and what are your expectations right now for junior, maybe people 5 to 7 years or even less than that?
Mike Maiorana: Let’s start with the seasoned professionals like myself. October 20th will be my 20 year anniversary here, I started at Verizon selling car phones that used to get installed in people’s cars. Many of our viewers may not even recognize what that is but look at an old movie and you may find those in movies back in the day. Bottom line, stay relevant. Don’t rest on your laurels, have a learning mentality, make sure that you are always searching out for new knowledge on the products and services that you sell, the industry that you are part of, the innovation that’s happening in the industry, the competition. Stay relevant on what the competition is doing and really nurture your customer base, nurture the referrals, nurture the referenceable customers, be proactive with them and remain relevant, remain top of mind to your clients.
In addition to that, nurture your internal relationships with the people that you depend on at the company that you work, the other support organizations, be respectful of them, be incorporating with them, be collaborative with them and maybe lastly, be open to working with other companies. Be out in front with regards to partnering with other industry partners that will ultimately help you enable solutions for your clients. Sales is sales but we want our more tenured team members to really stay aggressively pursuing knowledge, being a thought leader, an adviser to other clients and their junior counterparts. The newer team members that are just coming in, same thing, you have to really know your products, your services, how you position those within the marketplace. You have to know your competition, you have to know how to get things done within the company that you work, you have to have great relationships. When you call someone within your company to help you with a sale, you want them to answer the phone, you don’t want that to go to voicemail so be respectful of other people and have a good understanding of why their role is important in the structure of the company so you can add value to what they are doing as well.
Newer people, they have to develop a client base, they have to be more proactive, be out there on LinkedIn, be out there with different industry associations networking. You can still network, this is an opportunity working with you, Fred, to network. There are countless groups within the DC Metro area, across the globe that are business networking opportunities. Don’t think that everything is going to happen through the company that you work for, learn what’s happening in the industry, what’s happening around you and certainly get smart on what your customer’s most pressing issues are. You may not necessarily know what your customer is going through, what their board of directors’ top initiatives are, what their CEOs’ top initiatives are, what their customer’s biggest pain points are. Get to know your customers just as well as they know their customers and understand how your products, services and solutions either help your customers deliver great sales or help your customers be more efficient and more effective internally, be more productive and so on. That would be my advice in five minutes or less.
Fred Diamond: Mike, it’s great to see you again, congratulations once again on all the success that you’ve had and will continue to have and for your service to the customer. Again, I always enjoy seeing your LinkedIn posts about what Verizon is doing for all the various agencies and your commitment to the customer helping them achieve their goals. I want to thank everybody who’s sat with us today on the webinar, if you’re listening to the Sales Game Changers podcast, thank you as well. Mike, give us a final action step, something that people should do today, give them something they should do right now to take their sales career to the next level.
Mike Maiorana: Understand how your actions and your products or your services impact the customer’s desired outcome, the companies’ that you work for desired outcome. As a team, how what you’re doing impacts the team that you work with and for extra credit – and we do this all the time at Verizon and particularly the public sector – how your solutions or your actions impact the societal benefits of what’s happening. Show up for your communities that you live in, that you work in, that you educate in, think of things that you can do whether inside or outside of work to do something positive and proactive for someone else in need. It is extremely rewarding for everybody involved and it really keeps you grounded in what you may think to be big problems. Other folks in this country, in this day and age have much bigger problems. Be that shining light and help someone else get to a better place.
Fred Diamond: Mike, once again, thank you so much. For everybody who watched today’s webcast, thank you so much. Mike, good to see you again, best of luck in all your continued endeavors and everyone else, thank you so much.
Mike Maiorana: Bye-bye, thank you.
Transcribed by Mariana Badillo