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[EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a replay of the Sales Game Changers Panel Webinar hosted by Fred Diamond, Host of the Sales Game Changers Podcast, on June 3, 2020. It featured sales leaders Frank Dimina (Splunk) and Craig Mueller (FireEye.)]
EPISODE 240: SALES GAME CHANGERS LIVE: What Sales Professionals Need to Be Doing Now with Splunk’s Frank Dimina and FireEye’s Craig Mueller
CRAIG’S TIP TO EMERGING SALES LEADERS: “One of the things people struggle with right now is prospecting for new business. If you are mindful and empathetic of their situation and you can talk about other successes and proof points that folks have, customers want to understand that. At the same time, they’re not going to be interested right now in a longer-term strategy. It must be relevant to helping solve a problem they have today. Do not be afraid, make the call, send the email but just understand what it’s like from that customer’s perspective.”
Frank Dimina: It’s been a very interesting few months and there’s a lot of lessons learned, there have been a lot of amazing things we’ve been able to witness, there’s been a lot of heartbreaking things we’ve been able to see throughout our company, our customers and just our country in general. It does certainly feel like at times we’re living in the Matrix and I don’t know if I took the red pill or the blue pill. Craig looks like he’s been trapped living in a city by the earth’s core so there’s that aspect of Matrix.
I’m incredibly lucky, I have an amazing team at Splunk that I get to work with and when I say team I’m not just talking that we have 300 of the best inside sales folks, channel, business development, sales engineering, even legal. How many folks in sales say they have a great legal team? And our partners, our distributor Systems Integrator. I consider myself very lucky because we’ve been able to have some wins with our customers and keep our team together. In any type of major disruption like this whether it was 2001 or the 2008 financial crisis, these disruptive events or whatever you want to call them, they can crush organizations or bring them together. I’ve been really excited, really proud to see how Splunk’s team has come together throughout this.
Fred Diamond: I need to ask one quick question. When we did your Sales Game Changers podcast you mentioned that you’re a big fan of 80s hair bands. Is there any particular band that you’re listening to right now to help you get through this?
Frank Dimina: Yes. It’s funny, this has come up on some Splunk all-hands. Every Monday night Metallica posts some of their old concerts online on YouTube so I look forward to Monday evenings during the quarantine.
Fred Diamond: Do you have a go-to Metallica song?
Frank Dimina: It’s a tough one, they did a poll, there’s like a tournament, what’s their best song ever? I’d probably go with ‘Shortest Straw’, it’s one of my favorites.
Craig Mueller: And ‘Justice’.
Fred Diamond: [laughs] Craig Mueller, it’s great to have you also on the Sales Game Changers webcast today, thank you so much for being here and for dressing up for the occasion, we appreciate it. How about you? What are some of the big priorities you’re working on right now?
Craig Mueller: Thanks for having me. Before I get into the big priorities, I couldn’t agree more with Frank in the importance of culture in an organization and I think when you have a strong culture it allows you to get through times like this and these are obviously unprecedented. Each day changes, you’re not really sure what’s going to happen but the ability to have a strong culture I think brings everybody together and the ecosystem that we have is very similar to the one that Splunk has, it’s not only just the outstanding sales leaders and salespeople but it’s everybody that’s in that organization and our partners all coming together to help customers solve problems.
Right now it’s interesting, our big priorities really haven’t changed. It’s still ensuring that we’re intimate with the customers, understanding their mission, trying to be mindful that their situation has obviously changed, understanding how the work-from-home is impacting their day-to-day business. Election security is something that we’re really focused on, folks that might not know, there were some primaries yesterday. I was just emailing back and forth with the mission manager for CISA for election security and they put in an 18 hour day yesterday, tax payers definitely got their money’s worth out of that team. Really just making sure that we’re mindful of the fact that our customers are working every day that might not be in their offices but nothing has really changed as far as our focus on customer intimacy and customer success if that answers the question, Fred.
Fred Diamond: You guys manage a lot of people, you have a lot of responsibility. How do you think you’ve changed as a sales leader over the last three months? Craig, why don’t we start with you, how have you changed? Again, we’re all remote, there’s that but how do you think you’ve changed as a sales leader over the last three months?
Craig Mueller: Frank and I were talking a little bit earlier before we got on so I’m going to steal a line from him but I’ll attribute it to him at least. We were talking about missing the opportunities to interact with people in the office and what Frank astutely said was when we’re in the office, information comes to you. I’m very cognizant now I have to go find information so I miss the intimacy of the water cooler talk, the chance to have a discussion with somebody you might not have seen for a few days and it doesn’t have to be a direct report, it’s other stakeholders in the organization. One of the things that I’ve tried to do is just make sure that I’m calling people, three or four people a day, just picking the phone up and asking them how they are, just catching up with them because that’s one of the things that I really do miss, the day-to-day interaction with the team and other people that I was used to seeing for the past six years. That’s the biggest change for me.
Fred Diamond: Frank, even though Craig stole your answer, how about you? How have you changed as a sales leader over the last three months?
Frank Dimina: I agree with everything Craig said. It’s funny, I had a staff meeting with my managers in the past week and we talked about what these past two months or 10-12 weeks have really exposed for a lot of folks is what is the difference between leading and managing and those two words can often be mutually exclusive. I think for the leaders some of the challenges are you’re making very important decisions, tough calls with imperfect information. Funny enough, that really stresses their need for data. If only there was a tool out there that could help us make more data-driven decisions. [Laughs]
Craig is shaking his head but I think what the past few months have taught us, first off it really highlights the need for listening, as Craig said. When we’re in the office or when we’re in our normal cadence a lot of information especially sales leader coming at us all the time and now we have to make a much more concerted effort to seek out folks and pull that information, be better at the listeners and also to folks that don’t get a full voice. We need their input and there might be remaining quiet because they’re not physically visible.
I think also from a leadership perspective when we talked about the last podcast, one of my team’s greatest assets is their immense creativity and during a time like this, I think creativity trumps every other skill set. No matter what you’re good at, creativity is what matters and I believe strongly that the role of sales leaders or any leader right now is to unlock their people’s creativity. Most of the initiatives and projects we put forward in the past 10-12 weeks haven’t been my ideas but I’ve been able to resource them or get them support or help them get what they need to make that a reality, give them air time with the right executives. I’ve seen so many of them it’s really been exciting so I’ve never been more proud to be a Splunker and work with my team because of the creativity we’re witnessing.
Fred Diamond: That’s a great thing. As a matter of fact, that’s why every Friday the webcast that we’re hosting is actually called the Creativity in Sales webcast and we noticed that from day 1. There’s three key words that have permeated the four webcasts that we’re doing every week, one of course is mindset which we have a whole webcast devoted to that every Thursday at 2:00, creativity every Friday at 11:00 and the other one is courage. These are challenging times for a lot of people, a lot of people are faced with things that they’ve never had to face before. Craig, I want to ask you a question.
Again, we’re talking about some of the challenges, I want to ask you what’s something positive that’s come out of the last 12 weeks, give us a positive surprise. By the way, someone also asked via the question panel, he’s complimenting you on your suit and he wants to know if it’s velvet, that’s from David Ide, thank you, David. The first question is, “Is that suit velvet?” and then secondly, give us a big surprise, something very positive that’s happened over the last two to three months.
Craig Mueller: I believe it’s crushed velvet, yes, and there could be some roses in there as well. The biggest positive, I think we’re probably doing the same thing that a lot of other folks are doing. It started out with these virtual happy hours to making sure that everybody was talking together, our channel team instituted a series every Thursday morning at 9:00 o’clock, Coffee with Coil and we’ve got anywhere from 60 to 80 people at any one time on this and we’re just talking about cybersecurity situation writ large. I would say that the biggest positive is just the responses that we’re getting from our customers. I think all companies have a challenge today with trying to establish new relationships but what’s been really exciting for me to see as the leader of the public sector for FireEye is just how busy and active and how many conversations we’re having with our customers to solve these mission problems and two super cool things.
When Dana Deasy, the CIO of the Department of Defense and B.J. Shwedo actually gave their first COVID-19 briefing, the only company that they mentioned by name was FireEye and talked about what we were doing to help stop some of the phishing campaigns we’ve seen. Then the following week we had five senators including Mark Warner write a note to Cybercom commanding general and Chris Krebs who runs CISA and once again, they referenced some of our threat intelligence reporting in that saying, “Please don’t take your eye off the ball, the Russians, the Iranians, the Chinese are still out there doing bad things, let’s be aware of this while we’re going through the COVID situation.”
It’s super exciting when we’re going through a pandemic for these senior people to mention our company by name because we’re making such an impact on the mission and then the interactions with the team and our customers, it just makes me really proud to be here at FireEye.
Fred Diamond: Frank, let’s talk about that for a few moment, conversations with customers.
Frank Dimina: I was thinking about something Craig said there and something that I will take zero credit for but because of our roles, Craig and I get to work across state and local governments, local counties and cities, educational institutions and federal government, what’s really something that I think is impressive and positive, you look at how the government responded to support their employees. I think the enormity of that fee is not understood by a lot of folks. Think about the shift just for the DoD, Craig brought up the DoD CIO, Dana Deasy, as he said, what they accomplished in the shift to work-from-home, that was the largest roll out ever implemented in the shortest amount of time. Almost a million users pivoted over to a remote work situation.
Us in FireEye and Splunk and many other vendors put out tools to help them, we put out a tool called Remote Work Insights to help companies and agencies do that. When you think about it, according to the Washington Post only 40% of federal employees were ever set up before COVID to remote work or work-from-home and the fact that they were able to do that while also handling the increased demand on government services, small business loans, unemployment websites, access to test the information, we’re talking a lot about being in sales but I think it’s a chance to just tip the hat to what folks in public service pulled off over the last two months.
Fred Diamond: I would agree with you. Let’s talk about those conversations. Here we are, it’s June 3rd, we’re nearly three months into when everything shifted. One of the big words that happened in the beginning was empathy and we’ve discussed empathy a lot over the Sales Game Changers webcast and also our Mindset webcast and Creativity in Sales as well. Prior to the work-from-home and everything that happened, being an empathetic seller was something that came up all the time from a lot of the leaders that we have as members at the Institute for Excellence in Sales or on the podcast. Then people started getting a little bit tired of empathy because they may not have understood what it meant but let’s talk about empathy for a second or two.
Why don’t you take it first, Frank? Then I want to also get a little bit deeper into the types of conversations that you’re having with your customers now. A lot of the people who are attending the webcast are asking, “What should I be talking about now?” Again, we’re three months in, you actually made a great point, a lot of the companies that service public sector have actually done quite well. They’ve served the customer and you just talked about the great transformation but I can see some of the people on the webcast today who sell to the entertainment space, there’s no entertainment space today.
Frank Dimina: To put a footnote on that, I think there’s parts of government that are just distressed. I don’t think just because we work with government I would say that everything’s great, there’s a lot of folks that are extremely stressed from a fiscal or budgetary perspective or from a manpower or just from the health of their employees being exposed because they’re essential workers. We’ve discussed empathy a lot and I agree with you, it’s becoming a happy hour buzz word people drink to but in my coaching with my team we’ve taken three lenses to it and I think it’s not just about COVID, if you look at what’s going on in the country in the past two weeks, it’s very applicable. First off, when we talk about empathy, recognizing that our customers, our business partners, we have no idea what they’re going through.
We are working with a customer on a big project and that customer was at work till midnight every night and back at 6:00 a.m. the next morning, a career of 20+ year public servant and you have no idea what they’re going through. I think giving them some flexibility and some leeway and really, back to the point earlier, increasing your active listening to help them because you may not understand why they’re asking for what they’re asking, if they’re really untapped why are they asking for that right now? We don’t have that understanding. I think the second lens is with our teammates. Many folks have the ability to easily adjust to work-from-home or may have help or family situations and many have zero support, zero help. Recognizing and having empathy that it’s really hard for some folks to work from home, for example if you have young ones you don’t have daycare options. Lastly, something I’ve talked about and it’s asking my team for patience with me is empathy for our leadership, even for my executive staff.
Coming up through the ranks we often think leaders have all the answers and there is no online or MBA class on running a business during a pandemic. Giving them some leeway that everyone in leadership is going to make mistakes, we all have the right intentions but we are committed to listening and getting better. I think the foundation of empathy right now is much more active listening.
Fred Diamond: Craig, how about you? Why don’t you cover that topic as well? Empathy and the conversations you’re having with your customers.
Craig Mueller: I wish you had asked me first because Frank basically said the majority of anything profound that I would have liked to have repeated. I do think it really is the active listening piece. I’ve got an 11 year old and a 14 year old, they’re happy to social distance from me with their devices all day but if you’ve got young kids, the door opens and the next thing you know they’re on your web call. One of the things that we’ve emphasized is really ask your customer, “How is it like working from home? What’s different? How have things changed?” and then map out, “How should I be contacting you? I want to be sincere in how this interaction is going and what this sales campaign or project or whatever it is.”
I think it’s super important now to be upfront, straightforward and ask people because it used to be a situation where we would blob an email in and if you didn’t get an answer back, somebody picks the phone up. Everything’s different now. The other piece that I think we want to make sure that we’re doing just as leaders is re-empathizing to our team that it’s okay to take time off. I don’t care if it’s a daycation for a week or if it’s an hour a day to go outside and walk or play with your kids or do something but make sure that you don’t fall into a rut where it’s just the same thing over and over again, schedule that up. As far as the conversations, it really is. We have two of these [points to ears] and one of these [points to mouth], we should always be doing a better job of listening than we do overall as salespeople making sure you’re asking the customers how are things different.
What has changed? We used to do it this way, now how is it moving forward? You’re going to get an answer and sometimes they won’t know. “I don’t know.” We’ve got customers that are trying to push projects out and support the mission and they can’t get procurements done in the same time that they used to because they don’t have as many people in certain offices to get things done. We’ve got to be aware of that and we’ve got to ask questions of, “What do you need from me? How can we best support you?” and listen, write it down, repeat it back. It’s sales 101 but I think it’s just so much more important to do it that way in these times.
Fred Diamond: We have a bunch of sales leaders who are watching today’s webcast as well and a couple of them asked a similar question. “What does your day look like?” Obviously you’re not driving places and Craig just made a pretty good point that it used to be it might take three weeks or a month to schedule a conversation with a customer but now we’re all in the same type of a situation. People working from home, everybody knows what’s going on, there’s not a whole lot of time for things that aren’t really helpful right now, especially with the customers that you serve. The question is, “What does your day look like?” Frank, why don’t you start with us? You’re over here in Northern Virginia, are you getting up any earlier? Are you having meetings at 6:00 in the morning? What does your typical day look like?
Frank Dimina: I think there was a time, it’s normalized so I would say for March and April we were in an all-out sprint, there was a lot of nights and weekends and early mornings. I think part of that was we were trying to not just adjust to the new work conditions ourselves. We have an amazing CEO at Splunk, Steve McMahon, we pivoted to work-from-home the entire company in about a day but our customers were going through that. That was a longer process and a lot of it was triage mode on how we could help them to figure that out. Also, what solutions do our customers need right now? How do we support them changing business requirements?
Other than that, the majority of my day is spent like this on Zoom or on a webinar or on one of the various, I think I have four different products installed on my laptop right now. It’s been a lot of, as Craig said, making more efforts to have one-on-ones, to get in touch with people. For example, I’ll give you a picture of this week for me. This week I’ve spent a lot of time checking with our external business partners, we have some amazing small businesses, resellers that we work with, Blackwood, ClearShark, NuHarbor, WWT, Red River, we have some amazing partners, Craig I know works with most of them as well. Just trying to check in with them because they are small businesses but the system that helps support the government and keeps certain projects moving and operating. What is the impact going on in these small businesses? I would want to check in, I was concerned about that. Other things we’re doing is looking at and adjusting our hiring plan tree.
Anyone who is still operating on a business plan that was developed in January and hasn’t adjusted it is going to fail, you have to relook where you want to make your investments for the year, particularly in the things like how do you support acceleration to cloud. I was talking to a government CIO recently who said anyone who’s not moving to the cloud right now could be out of work in another year or two. I think tactically checking with the right internal employees, checking with the right partners and now where we’re pivoting in the last couple weeks and going forward is how do we support the getting back to work. A lot of it at first, as Craig mentioned, was securing the remote work, helping supporting remote work initiatives and now we’re working on tools and projects to help get workplace inside. When I’m back in the office or I’m at campus or in a government facility, how do I help keep my employees safe and support them in accomplishing the mission?
Fred Diamond: Craig, what do you think about that? A couple people were asking that same question. I know a couple of our corporate members are moving back as early as next week, some people are okay with it and some people are not quite as sure. What are some of your thoughts on eventually moving back and how you’re going to integrate and make your sales team as effective as possible during that?
Craig Mueller: We did a poll at FireEye and asked the entire organization, not just sales but the entire company what they thought and actually on my boss’s leadership call on Monday we had the VP of HR, she shared some of those results. At the end of the day it’s going to be a personal choice, we’re not going to ask anybody to come back to the office if they’re not comfortable. Depending on what the situation is, it can be different in California in our headquarters than what it is in Virginia which is going to be different than our office in London and Tokyo. The biggest thing that I miss is the interaction in the office, those things that we talked about earlier.
As sales leaders, Frank and I actually don’t want to see our salespeople in the office, we want them to be with our customers, we want to see everybody else that supports us, those are the people we want to see in the office. One of the things that I’m definitely going to do once things hopefully change a little bit in July is do something outside with a larger group. Obviously I’ll get it cleared through human resources and facilities and we’ll make sure that it’s something that’s safe and it will be optional, but I just want to be able to make sure that we can see all those faces that support our success, the reason that we’re able to be successful to support the customer to all those other people. I think we’re going to have to play it by ear but I just want to make sure that all those folks that we depend on know that we care about them and I hope that answers your question.
Fred Diamond: Frank, you had mentioned before that Splunk had come out with a new tool for your customer. We have a couple people asking how quickly did that turn around but some related questions about how sales should be working with product management right now. I’m curious, what are some of your thoughts on today getting feedback from the field to product development? You both mentioned internal organizations as well so a lot of angles to that question. Give a little insight on that, Frank, working with internal organizations, sales driving product.
Frank Dimina: The first few weeks of this going back to early March the pace was really insane. You think about for us for what we do, Craig and I, our teams, the customers that we work with are at the forefront of the fight against COVID. Anything from a local school system up to the government HHS. We found that one of the casualties or potentially negative byproducts of having such a creative team is that we had so many ideas coming forward, our org was getting overwhelmed with ideas and people are struggling to just do their day job trying to pivot and help our customers unlock good ideas.
This won’t be a shocker, when you have a lot of really smart people working at insane pace it creates a giant mess. What we figured out pretty quickly is that during a crisis or whatever label you want to put on this, the need for coordinated decision making and the alignment across teams, I can’t understate, it’s enormous. The magic for us was trying to find that right balance. We had times where we pivoted too much information, we have too many internal calls, lots of information being shared, making sure everyone was okay. Sometimes too little, how do I get access to the right resource or who’s building which content or are we duplicating efforts in building a product? Which I’ll talk about one more piece of that.
People were stepping on each other so what we ended up doing across the org both at a corporate level and within my org was create a virtual room, virtual team where instead of taking people out of their day-to-day function and representing the different teams and organizations at least within my public sector organization, they would meet a couple times a week to coordinate with a couple goals of first, taking care of our employees, what do they need, becoming almost a sales desk for COVID, the first stop for answers. Then to help collect and share information about what projects were bubbling up that had merit, momentum and value. What happened is we started hearing from our customers that their biggest challenge in March was how do we get a handle and how do we better support this rapid move to remote work?
So we worked with some folks across the entire company, some of our sales engineers actually initiated this project on developing Deskforce data analytics tools to understand everything around remote access whether you’re using tools like Webex and Zoom or VPM products or security products like FireEye and understand are you at capacity? Are they functioning properly? Are you getting the security data you need off of these devices? Are your users protected? Because like Craig mentioned, there’s a big increase in cyber-attacks during these disruptive events. That created a big project and it’s now on our website, that became a cross-functional team, we call it Remote Work Insights, RWI, we’ve made free for our customers that anyone in public sector can benefit from.
Fred Diamond: Craig, I have a question for you. Look at the poll, 20% of our guests watching today’s webcast said that they’re concerned about their job and the future of their company. I don’t know if it’s the situation right now but how have you helped some of your employees who might have been over-stressed? You mentioned go take a daycation, take an hour, go for a walk but as a leader are you seeing that? Frank, same question to you. What guidance have you given? You mentioned, Frank, in the beginning people with kids at home, there’s a lot of uncertainty right now going on. How have you worked with your sales team to keep them as positive and focused and removed as much of the anxiety as possible? Sales is hard enough as it is, especially with some of the customers that we deal with here, there’s a lot of challenges, it’s a big customer, it’s an important customer, we know sometimes the results of what we’re offering them in the public sector markets is going to impact the world. Craig, why don’t you take that one first? Then Frank, I’m interested in your thoughts on how you’re helping your employees through the stress and anxiety.
Craig Mueller: What I stress to my leaders was be over-communicative. Once again, I think sometimes we forget, we don’t treat all people the same. I think good leaders understand how to motivate individuals differently, they understand how people are driven and how to work with them to get their maximum effectiveness. Once again, this is a unique situation because it’s completely different for someone who’s single, living by themselves versus someone who’s working at home with a family of four. They’re all of a sudden responsible for a sales quota as well as being the home room teacher making sure that dinner’s on the table, it’s a totally different paradigm like Frank said, daycare is out of the mix with this. What we really stressed was make sure that we’re being over-communicative to the team.
One of my sales leaders, Charlie Baisley, he does a quick 15 minute check-in with the team every day, just quick video call, “How’s it going?” and then once a week they have a mystery guest. We’ve had some really interesting people that have been mystery guests, from our founder of FireEye, Ashar Aziz to a Wounded Warrior who’s a motivational speaker too, a gentleman who is an award-winning videographer. It’s just being communicative, making sure that we’re mindful and emphasizing, “We invested in you as a person. We know how hard sales is, it’s a two-way street, communicate and then be mindful and we’ll all get through this together.” I got to tell you, the sales folks on my team and the SE’s that they’re partnered with, the attitude that we’ve had has been great and even you look at the state and local market that Frank talked about, what’s going on in the education world right now? Some of these colleges might not open. I was watching that thing on CNN the other day where they talked about potentially not only having to lower tuitions in certain places but maybe colleges just not opening. We’ve got folks that that’s how they put food on the table. I think by communicating and being respectful we’re all going to get through this together.
Fred Diamond: Frank, I have a different question for you, we’re getting questions coming in from the audience. This question has come in a bunch of times, Frank and you mentioned how customers have to change how they’re going to be doing business because of everything that’s changed. Talk about the profile of the high performing sales professional moving forward. Again, things change, obviously everyone’s home, people are going to start going back into the office but it’s going to be tough going into customer locations and there’s some talk that some buildings won’t be open for at least the beginning of 2021 potentially. Talk about the ideal profile, what should a sales professional be skilled at right now if he or she isn’t skilled at that?
Frank Dimina: I do want to just add something to what Craig was saying. I won’t take credit for this, I don’t remember who the author was but someone mentioned recently we have to recognize our folks are not working from home, they’re at home working during the pandemic. I think that’s very powerful, accepting that productivity is going to be down and we’re going to stress people out and we’re going to be stressed out and flexibility is key. I’m going to go and answer your question with that, I think flexibility and working hours and our patience with folks with being okay with interruptions while you’re on a group Zoom, dogs, we’ve met everyone’s dogs during this pandemic [laughs] my kids jumping out. I was on a late night Zoom with a large group of executives, a few other folks in Splunk and my son taking a shower running naked, hopefully it wasn’t on screen, it’s really awkward because he’s 17 [laughs] I’m just kidding, he’s 9.
I think having a lot of flexibility right now is important, that ties into your second question about what success criteria really help right now and certainly flexibility is one of them. The coaching we’re giving right now is really around two things. You take a lesson from government, we’re at war with the virus, we’re at war with the health situation. The government and military operate very differently during work time versus peace time and during war time what matters is the short-term, short-term opportunities and some of the long-term projects are going to get pushed back a little bit or efficiencies are always the top priority. The same can be said to the way sales folks should approach their business and their territory and I’ll unpack that with two thoughts, that’s what we’re looking for. What I mean by that is first, urgency and speed is more important right now.
Being extremely short-term focused, if I’m a sales rep what can I get done today? What can I roll out this afternoon? How can I make progress in the next 24 hours? The situation is too fluid to really plan out, no one could have predicted 6 weeks ago even where we’d be right now and you know what’s going on in the stock market and the economy. I think second, and this is the mindset we’re looking for with our sales reps, is perfect is the enemy of good. Many successful reps in normal times are successful because they excel at getting things perfect. The perfect pitch, the perfect presentation, the perfect proposal and when getting back to my first point with urgency and speed, that’s more important than perfection right now. What is the minimal viable solution? This is really hard for successful, smart sales folks because it’s against their DNA because their DNA is to tweak, improve, iterate and if they do, their normal operations, you’re going to miss windows of opportunity. I’ll end with contradicting myself by also saying now’s a great time to completely relook your long-term plans after you get through that triage because like I was saying earlier, there are different factors that are becoming more important.
Our customer’s cloud is now a bigger priority for many government leaders right now. Being able to also while you’re doing that carve out some cycles to relook at your long-term business strategy and business plans which we’re doing constantly now during this crisis.
Fred Diamond: One of our favorite expressions is perfect is pretty but done is beautiful. Craig, how about you? What are you looking for? What do you think would be the ideal traits of the top sales professionals moving forward?
Craig Mueller: I wish I was a partner with somebody else on these things because you’re asking the questions and he’s too damn profound so anything that I say I’m just like copying or not holding up my end. Look, I think the thing that we’re really lucky with at FireEye is we have people that are mission focused, they understand the importance of what we can bring to the table and how we can impact the customer’s mission and I think moving forward it’s even more important that you understand what the customer’s mission is, understand their challenges, how you can help enable that mission and to exactly what Frank said, right now it is about effectiveness. It’s about executing in the short-term but at the same time that’s when you also need to look at that longer-term strategy. I remember when I started at FireEye I had a conversation with the state department and they said, “We’re never going to move to the cloud.”
Believe me, people that don’t think they’re going to be moving certain applications to the cloud are going to be moving applications to the cloud in an expeditious fashion. To understand the mission of the customer, the constraints that they have as government, as that entity and then to be able to sit down and ask the right type of questions, that’s how you’re going to be able to build a successful plan but right now it really is just about executing.
Fred Diamond: Frank?
Frank Dimina: I just have one more thing, Craig triggered another talk too talking about the most successful sales folks. Prospecting for new business, building pipeline right now, that is a different skill set. I’m extremely lucky, I have an amazing field marketing team, one of the best digital sales organizations in the industry but they have been masters at working virtually for a long time. When we’re able to as a company come together – I know FireEye did the same – and put together new campaigns and new material, new content that is more applicable or addresses more of the urgent requirements now, the seller can look for the ones who can pivot and use that content. It’s really just about leverage, folks who understand how I can take all these tools, resources and material, content being built by people in my org and leverage that in this virtual environment with new virtual events, with a virtual executive briefing center. At the end of the day right now I think what a lot of senior successful sellers do, they’re really good at telling a story of what’s possible, an art of the possible vision and that’s not what customers want to hear in this world. They’re looking for something they can use right now, a shovel-ready project.
Fred Diamond: I want to thank all of our guests today, we have people from around the world. Craig, I’ll give you the first final thought here, I want to thank you guys so much for the great insights, I appreciate your being here, I appreciate the great work that you guys are doing not just for your team but also for your customer as well. Craig, give us a final thought to send us home and then Frank, you’ll bring us home as well.
Craig Mueller: Thanks Fred, thanks again for having me and I appreciate you putting up with me, Frank. One of the things that I think people struggle with right now is should I be prospecting for new business? How do I have a conversation with a person that I don’t have a relationship with? I would encourage people to listen to your webcast on Friday. To me it’s really simple, if you believe in what you’re doing and what you’re selling and the impact that you’re making for customers that you have a relationship with, it’s a very simple conversation to go have it and start that conversation up with someone you don’t know. If you’re mindful and empathetic of that situation and you can talk about other successes and proof points that folks have, believe me, customers want to understand that and they want to hear about those things but at the same time they’re not going to be interested right now in a longer term strategy. Like Frank said earlier, it’s got to be relevant to helping solve a problem they have today and you’ll get an audience, you’ll start to move things forward. Don’t be afraid, make the call, send the email but just understand what it’s like from that customer’s perspective if you can.
Fred Diamond: Frank, why don’t you give us a final thought and bring us home?
Frank Dimina: I think the only thing we can predict right now is that we’re on a roller coaster ride and the next few weeks and months are going to be as crazy as the past few weeks and months. To Craig’s point, I talked to folks who work for other companies who don’t necessarily work in government sales but there are sales opportunities that can be unlocked. I think Craig nailed it, we’re seeing sales folks have success because they understand their customer, they understand their mission and they can come in with a conversation of value about a real solution that could be used and leveraged now, not, “Let’s talk about building something that you could use in a few months” or it might have been last year’s priority, “If we all get together and spend a lot of money we can build this really cool science project.” They need things they can deploy right now and those are the salespeople that are finding success.
Transcribed by Mariana Badillo