Do It Again Part 1: My Past Comes Full Circle

When I was a young corporate system engineer (CSE) I helped a field sales team in the mid-west close a large deal at an insurance company. This was during the transition period from SNA to Client/Server networking and the deal included core, regional and branch nodes. The deal was the biggest in the company history and it provided me with a promotion to be the CSE manager. All was well in my world until six months later when the COO told me I had to go back and fix the account because we were having serious issues and we were on the verge of losing it.

During my first week back onsite at the customer we did the typical triage of issues and put a plan in place to resolve the technical obstacles. During many of the cross-functional team meetings with the customer, I noticed there was one customer employee who was strongly negative towards our solution. He was one of the only network admins who had been managing the IBM Bridge and LAN environments. He was also a >25 year veteran of the customer. I remember watching our account System Engineer (SE) snipe with him during meetings.

Later, I pulled our SE to the side and asked him what was the issue with this person. Eventually we figured out that the issue was about knowledge transfer and change. He was threatened by our technology because he did not know how to use it and the equipment we were replacing in the network was his primary job function to manage. This led him to think he would be replaced too, only late in his career when it would be difficult to learn new skills or worse a new job.

I remember gathering the team together and stating we have to make this guy our champion. There was opposition to that because he had been such a problem for the account team that the relationship had become personal in a negative direction. What I realized about this person was he tended to set the mood or perception inside the customer across the IT team. He was not a manager, he was not a technical leader, but he was well liked and personable. We had to neutralize his negativity. We learned that his negative energy was a result of ignorance and fear of change.

We took the time to educate him and then equip him with specialized knowledge; which were tricks and tips on how to use our products. This made him feel indispensible to the IT team; the company and thus he became our champion and an important ally for us. He was not a decision maker, but he knew everyone and everything going on. When he became friendly, our control in the account increased immeasurably and within six months the account team considered him a friend on a personal level.

I make many sales calls trying to sell what I think is SDN and I acknowledge that there are many definitions of SDN. A few weeks ago I had a déjà vu moment at a Fortune 100 company selling the idea of SDN and that story is the theme of part 2.




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