Managing Presales at ServiceNow

A week ago a colleague of mine forwarded to me an HBR article on leadership. This HBR article struck right to the heart of management behaviors: which are productive versus counterproductive to the working environment (climate). And it was the the author Daniel Goleman’s description of climate that got me thinking.

[Climate] refers to six key factors that influence an organization's working environment: its flexibility — that is, how free employees feel to innovate unencumbered by red tape; their sense of responsibility to the organization; the level of standards that people set; the sense of accuracy about performance feedback and aptness of rewards; the clarity people have about mission and values; and finally, the level of commitment to a common purpose.

Ignoring Goleman’s primary thesis that different management styles effect climate differently, I’ll instead look at his idea of climate. And what we can do at ServiceNow to make a climate of presales success.

Flexibility — There are a hundred ways an SE may feel encumbered by corporate policy: expenses, accreditation, travel policies, etc. But policy is not synonymous with inflexibility. I’ve not yet worked for a company that didn’t enable presales to think creatively to solve a customer problem. Sometimes our options are limited due to product portolio. But that’s not a problem blamable to climate inflexibility.

As a manager at ServiceNow I see solution consultants (our presales team) show uncommon creativity in the problems they solve with our customers. Our platform is infinitely extensible and therefore fertile ground for new ideas. If anything, I worry that our SCs may not realize the full scope of which their creativity can be supported. As long as new ideas do not cannibalize existing products and introduce unnecessary customization I’m all for them.

Responsibility — Responsibility for outcomes is a requirement for any professional. SEs talk about getting the technical win. But this is simultaneously narrow and broad as a goal. It is too broad for long sales cycles, where responsible SEs, co-owning the sales cycle, must deliver micro-wins daily to move a deal forward. And it is too narrow because we can never claim a win until the customer has used our product to solve their business problem. We must all hold ourselves responsible for these daily and long-term goals.

Standards — standards for me are the double-edged sword for presales management. My peers at ServiceNow and every former employer would say they expect quality presentations, rehearsed demos, and planned customer meetings. But we managers are quick to forsake the standards that fall to us. And I challenge the managers at ServiceNow to hold ourselves to a high standard for our organization. Always make time for 1:1s. Communicate clearly, directly, and frequently. Listen. Coach. And be a sounding board and counselor when reviewing the travails of daily SE work.

Rewards — Annual compensation review (ACR) exists in all IT vendors. On top of that, EMC was respectable in recognizing heroes during quarterly and annual all-hands. But it was Nutanix’s SE director that impressed me by adding to annual and quarterly recognition a frequent shout-out. Every week or two he would call out great SE behavior that drove business, built teams, and ensured customer success. I’ve shamelessly borrowed his process and encourage managers in every organization to build culture through regular, frequent, specific, and timely recognition. Reward through compensation is as effective as a company’s ACR. But recognition and reward of good behavior is best addressed locally and quickly when merited.

Clarity — ServiceNow’s mission of automating IT process is valuable and relevant. But it is not the kind of “why?” of which Simon Sinek speaks. And it’s not the rallying call for which we get out of bed every morning.

But my belief on the primacy of a single, company-wide “why?” has mellowed. I discovered in my early weeks at ServiceNow that every person has his or her own version of the company’s “why?”. I’m OK with that. I think the goal of a manager is to make sure the team understands their collective “whys” so that we weave a fabric of common beliefs.

At ServiceNow we believe manual processes suck. And no where worse than the services every group provides for its customers. We want those processes optimized. And we in the solution consulting team cannot wait to tell you about how we can do it.

Commitment — It now falls to every member of the ServiceNow SC team to ask ourselves if we are committed to this vision. Only through commitment will we remain a team throughout challenge. Only when aligned with our internal compass will we run the extra mile to deliver results. Are you committed?

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