When I first joined 1E as pre-sales Solutions Engineer nearly 11 years ago, I spent two weeks in London soaking in everything I could around our product offerings, building close relationships with our Support team, developers, and everyone else I could think of who might be able to help me if (when!) I got myself into a jam. This proved to be a successful strategy back then as we had something like 60 or 70 total employees.
Everybody knew everybody else!
Fast forward to today, and a total staff nearing 300, and this sort of support network is pretty much impossible to duplicate. As 1E grew over the years and new hires were brought on board, I was often called upon to travel to our NYC office to spend a few days helping the newbies to understand the basics of Microsoft Configuration Manager, and then to show how our solutions can integrate with and leverage that product. This would at least begin to help those people to have at least a basic understanding of our market as they embarked on their new career with 1E. In those early days, this was an ad-hoc kind of process, especially if I was already engaged in a sales opportunity and unavailable to go to NYC.
One area that was somehow overlooked in this process as time went on were those new hires brought in as “Business Development Managers“ (BDMs).
These are the folks whose job it is to be handed a massive list of names and phone numbers gained via any number of ways (conference attendee badge scans, web site visits, and so on) and then make that all-important first call. The goal of that call, of course, is to determine what the individual is looking for and why, and then encourage them to have a meeting with one of our sales professionals to commence the actual sales cycle. Key to that success is an understanding of the prospect’s business role, the problems they typically face in the execution of their role, and to understand why a problem is impactful to their business. Only in understanding all of this can our BDM talk intelligently about their business needs and how one or more of our solutions can help alleviate their issue, make the problem simpler, automated, or eliminated outright.
Sounds straightforward, right? Well, think on this a bit: Regardless of the 1E job you were hired for, if you came from a previous position that didn’t expose you to Configuration Manager, and/or you didn’t get a solid understanding of our portfolio during your indoctrination period, imagine your first weeks on the job, especially if you were a BDM or a salesperson! Even worse, imagine if you didn’t even come from a technology or IT background at all! Talk about high anxiety!
This was exactly the scenario our BDM recruits confronted some years ago when the team was first formed. There wasn’t a good understanding of what this role really required to be successful. Anyone can strap on a headset and work an auto dialer, right? Make enough calls and a few are bound to result in a meeting, right? Just make more calls to get your numbers up! This was not a good situation, and it didn’t take long before our senior management began to realize this. Finally, some much-needed changes began to happen. The first thing that happened was the elimination of ineffective leadership that wasn’t addressing the problem. This was followed by the elevation of a long-time team member – who’d been in the trenches long enough to know what worked and what didn’t – into the leadership role.
This new team leader instinctively knew where to start to turn the ship around. One of the very first things he asked for was a real training program for the existing staff, and ongoing training for new hires as they joined the team. By this time there was a formal technical familiarization process now being done by others for all new hires. The new BDM Manager, however, knew that this was insufficient for his needs in the BDM team.
What made his needs different, you might be thinking? On one hand, he knew his entire team needed to be better trained and level-set with the basics of Configuration Manager and the 1E solutions. He also knew that newbies needed more in-depth training than many of the other new hires (sales professionals, consultants, pre-sales engineers, and the like). Many of the BDM hires were traditionally younger, junior professionals with some cold-calling BDM skills, but no knowledge of our marketplace at all, or anything of the necessity in any business of the Microsoft product. Computer software or even IT, in general, were often foreign concepts.
So, how to tackle this seemingly insurmountable task for the newly appointed BDM Manager? He thought back to his own indoctrination period and the training he received. He wanted the same person who had trained him to now training his team.
He was hired at that time into what was then called an “Inside Sales” role targeting the sub-5,000 seat organization. His role combined what we now call the BDM role and a sales persona. He had to do it all.
When he was trained, it so happened that this was way back when I was the one doing the tech aspect of his indoctrination week. After Day One, he went home and told his wife that he’d made a huge mistake, that this role was way beyond his ability. His wife, thankfully, suggested he go back and let his instructor know this. Fortunately for us, he did exactly that, taking me aside and explaining his concern. As an instructor, this was hugely important feedback to me as it made it clear that I was not doing my job adequately. I then dialed back the depth of the training, revisited what had already been addressed to his class, but in simpler terms this time, and continued from there. It was a watershed moment for me, and my students.
This long-time employee has now gone on to continue to grow through that inside Sales role until it was abandoned, then into the BDM role, on to the BDM Manager, and is now a key contributor to our Data Analysis team pulling amazing information out of our SQL data farm.
How did this renewed training model ultimately work out? I’ve spent a lot of time explaining the backstory to help set the stage around the commitment 1E makes to help properly train our new hires. This BDM storyline will hopefully illustrate how all of this comes together, taking a broken process and applying the right resources to fix and improve it. Part 2 will address what is happening today and how this team is thriving and growing.