Joe has spent 15 years working in and building managed services teams, and is currently the VP of customer success at IBM. He began his career as a marketing automation consultant and customer engagement manager, eventually moving on to lead the managed service organization at Appirio, a Salesforce and cloud consultancy. Joe brought that experience to 7Summits (acquired by IBM), where he was responsible for defining and growing the company’s managed services offering, partnering with sales to drive adoption and double sales. These experiences have given Joe a modern outlook on managed services — one that understands these offerings are critical to customer success, not just an extension of sales or training. Joe lives in Southern Indiana with his wife and two boys. In his downtime, Joe enjoys playing and working on guitars, spending time with his family, and enjoying all things music.
Why are you passionate about helping people-based businesses?
How often have we heard, “it’s business, it’s not personal”. Anytime you are dealing with people, it’s always personal (the degree to which we compartmentalize that is a different story). Through my time working in and leading various managed services teams with varying methodologies and philosophies, I’ve seen, first hand, that if you focus on people and relationships, you can withstand the inevitable ups and downs of any engagement. Happy workers make happy customers. Hiring the right people, providing them with the appropriate foundation and organizational philosophy, and giving them enough room to make decisions (and mistakes) results in engaged employees and thrilled customers.
You’ve built out world class managed services teams and offerings at 7Summits (now IBM) and Appirio. What are the one or two most important considerations in the early stages of building a managed services offering?
The first is to start strong: With a new offering, nothing fuels the sales cycle like positive customer testimonials. You need to convince customers that your people have the experience and skills to get the job done well, with as little hassle as possible. Build a core team of senior people who can think on their feet, operate in conditions that aren’t fully defined, and who are willing to wear multiple hats. Ideally, as the offering grows, these people will become your management layer. Early on though, they are your spine. Look for people who WANT this opportunity, see the value of these offerings, and are bought into your mission statement.
The second is to recognize your most important customer isn’t always external….it’s also sales. This is more than just enablement. You will be asking folks who carry a quota to spend time selling an offering that, most often, results in smaller opportunity amounts. Spend time with each seller explaining the value to them, as well as the customers. Sell your team and convince them that with a little effort up front (with your help along the way), they can get repeatable revenue that carries very little, if any, day to day hassle.
More organizations are looking to provide managed service offerings as a way to stay close with customers and as a source of ongoing, predictable revenue. How should leaders think about differentiating their specific offering?
Resist the urge for your value proposition to center around cost. If the only thing you have going for you is that you have low rates, growth is going to be hard fought. With today’s connected workforce, any customer who has basic needs that could get by with your junior folks is likely better off just hiring. The best case scenario is you get a one time sale before they realize this. In nearly every space there is a major player who can afford to go cheaper than you, to the point of losing money if the relationship is valuable enough to them.
Remember that at the end of the day, it’s a people business. Staff your team such that your offering is easy to use, flexible where it must be, and results in quality work without putting burden on the customer’s internal team. If you do this, not only is the difference in cost going to be easier to explain, it can become a strength. Lastly, don’t be afraid of who you are. Especially early on, there will be temptation to stretch to meet growth needs. Remember, what you need is positive customer experiences. Tread carefully and don’t be afraid to not be the answer for every situation.