Monday, August 29, 2011

Why we chose EMC

We have been leveraging videos with the sales folks quite a bit to stay crisp on our product knowledge and messaging.  We focus on differentiation, making sure that what we are saying about our company or the products we sell is not an "insert vendor name here" type of message.  To date, the reps have done a "Why Varrow?" video and a "Why UCS?" video.  If you'd like to see some of the winners of past video contests, go to: 

Although it is part of my job to torture the sales reps by making them do these types of things, I thought it would only be fair if I participated as well and so I did a medium-dive discussion on EMC.  It is an overview of EMC in the context of how Varrow came to the conclusion to represent EMC in the marketplace 4 years ago.  I start by talking about EMC the company, and then go through much of the product portfolio and discuss some of the key differentiating aspects of each technology.  It is a little long, but EMC's strategy and portfolio is broad, so I wanted to make sure I touched on the high points across most of what we represent from EMC.  Anyways, here it is:

Why we chose EMC from AJ Ragosta on Vimeo.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Are you lucky?

In my experience there are two commonalities associated with luck: hard work and the ability to recognize opportunity when it is staring you right in the face.  Here are some of my favorite quotes on luck:
  1. I’m a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it. Thomas Jefferson
  2. Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity. Seneca
  3. Diligence is the mother of good luck. Benjamin Franklin
  4. We must believe in luck. For how else can we explain the success of those we don’t like? Jean Cocteau
  5. Luck is believing you’re lucky.” Tennessee Williams  
  6. People always call it luck when you’ve acted more sensibly than they have. Anne Tyler
  7. There is no luck except where there is discipline. Irish Proverb
  8. Success is simply a matter of luck. Ask any failure. Earl Wilson
  9. One-half of life is luck; the other half is discipline – and that’s the important half, for without discipline you wouldn’t know what to do with luck. Carl Zuckmayer
  10. I think luck is the sense to recognize an opportunity and the ability to take advantage of it… The man who can smile at his breaks and grab his chances gets on.  Samuel Goldwyn

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

7 Personality Traits of Good Salespeople

Find below the results of a survey conducted by Steve W. Martin with the Harvard Business Review (defies many of the commonly held stereotypes of the traits of successful salespeople):

If you ask an extremely successful salesperson, "What makes you different from the average sales rep?" you will most likely get a less-than-accurate answer, if any answer at all. Frankly, the person may not even know the real answer because most successful salespeople are simply doing what comes naturally.

Over the past decade, I have had the privilege of interviewing thousands of top business-to-business salespeople who sell for some of the world's leading companies. I've also administered personality tests to 1,000 of them. My goal was to measure their five main personality traits (openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and negative emotionality) to better understand the characteristics that separate them their peers.

The personality tests were given to high technology and business services salespeople as part of sales strategy workshops I was conducting. In addition, tests were administered at Presidents Club meetings (the incentive trip that top salespeople are awarded by their company for their outstanding performance). The responses were then categorized by percentage of annual quota attainment and classified into top performers, average performers, and below average performers categories.

The test results from top performers were then compared against average and below average performers. The findings indicate that key personality traits directly influence top performers' selling style and ultimately their success. Below, you will find the main key personality attributes of top salespeople and the impact of the trait on their selling style.

1. Modesty. Contrary to conventional stereotypes that successful salespeople are pushy and egotistical, 91 percent of top salespeople had medium to high scores of modesty and humility. Furthermore, the results suggest that ostentatious salespeople who are full of bravado alienate far more customers than they win over.

Selling Style Impact: Team Orientation. As opposed to establishing themselves as the focal point of the purchase decision, top salespeople position the team (presales technical engineers, consulting, and management) that will help them win the account as the centerpiece.

2. Conscientiousness. Eighty-five percent of top salespeople had high levels of conscientiousness, whereby they could be described as having a strong sense of duty and being responsible and reliable. These salespeople take their jobs very seriously and feel deeply responsible for the results.

Selling Style Impact: Account Control. The worst position for salespeople to be in is to have relinquished account control and to be operating at the direction of the customer, or worse yet, a competitor. Conversely, top salespeople take command of the sales cycle process in order to control their own destiny.

3. Achievement Orientation. Eighty-four percent of the top performers tested scored very high in achievement orientation. They are fixated on achieving goals and continuously measure their performance in comparison to their goals. 

Selling Style Impact: Political Orientation. During sales cycles, top sales, performers seek to understand the politics of customer decision-making. Their goal orientation instinctively drives them to meet with key decision-makers. Therefore, they strategize about the people they are selling to and how the products they're selling fit into the organization instead of focusing on the functionality of the products themselves.

4. Curiosity. Curiosity can be described as a person's hunger for knowledge and information. Eighty-two percent of top salespeople scored extremely high curiosity levels. Top salespeople are naturally more curious than their lesser performing counterparts.

Selling Style Impact: Inquisitiveness. A high level of inquisitiveness correlates to an active presence during sales calls. An active presence drives the salesperson to ask customers difficult and uncomfortable questions in order to close gaps in information. Top salespeople want to know if they can win the business, and they want to know the truth as soon as possible.

5. Lack of Gregariousness. One of the most surprising differences between top salespeople and those ranking in the bottom one-third of performance is their level of gregariousness (preference for being with people and friendliness). Overall, top performers averaged 30 percent lower gregariousness than below average performers.

Selling Style Impact: Dominance. Dominance is the ability to gain the willing obedience of customers such that the salesperson's recommendations and advice are followed. The results indicate that overly friendly salespeople are too close to their customers and have difficulty establishing dominance.

6. Lack of Discouragement. Less than 10 percent of top salespeople were classified as having high levels of discouragement and being frequently overwhelmed with sadness. Conversely, 90 percent were categorized as experiencing infrequent or only occasional sadness.

Selling Style Impact: Competitiveness. In casual surveys I have conducted throughout the years, I have found that a very high percentage of top performers played organized sports in high school. There seems to be a correlation between sports and sales success as top performers are able to handle emotional disappointments, bounce back from losses, and mentally prepare themselves for the next opportunity to compete.

7. Lack of Self-Consciousness. Self-consciousness is the measurement of how easily someone is embarrassed. The byproduct of a high level of self-consciousness is bashfulness and inhibition. Less than five percent of top performers had high levels of self-consciousness.

Selling Style Impact: Aggressiveness. Top salespeople are comfortable fighting for their cause and are not afraid of rankling customers in the process. They are action-oriented and unafraid to call high in their accounts or courageously cold call new prospects.

Not all salespeople are successful. Given the same sales tools, level of education, and propensity to work, why do some salespeople succeed where others fail? Is one better suited to sell the product because of his or her background? Is one more charming or just luckier? The evidence suggests that the personalities of these truly great salespeople play a critical role in determining their success. 

Friday, May 20, 2011

Your culture is your brand

The title of this post is from the book "Delivering Happiness" by Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos. We give every new employee at Varrow this book on their first day. One of the big lessons in the book is the importance of culture in building a great company. In Tony Hsieh's words, "At Zappos, our belief is that if you get the culture right, most of the other stuff -- like great customer service, or building a great long-term brand, or passionate employees and customers -- will happen naturally on its own."

A company's culture begins and ends with the people. We at Varrow recently created a site within that celebrates our people and offers a glimpse into our culture. Check it out:

Friday, April 1, 2011

Healthcare Headlock

Until coming to Varrow, I had not worked regularly with healthcare organizations. At Varrow though, healthcare organizations represent a significant part of our business, so I have gotten to know this world much better.  What I have learned is both exciting on one hand and disturbing on the other. 

The exciting aspect of working with hospitals and other healthcare organizations is the notion that the solutions we are designing and implementing for our customers are directly contributing to improved patient care.  Being in the technology field, our opportunities to feel like we are really making a contribution is often limited to building strong relationships, helping those around us, and creating a special place to work for our employees.  But in working with healthcare organizations, we have the opportunity to do more and that is great. 

The stakes are high in the healtchare space though; mistakes or "downtime" can effect patient care and, in extreme examples, cost lives.  What I have come to learn is that many companies use this high risk landscape to their advantage.  Before I go further, it is important to explain a little about what we at Varrow do in the healthcare space.  Our scope and expertise is very specific.  We focus on the infrastructure that supports the EMR, PACS, and other healthcare applications that make hospitals go.  We handle the servers, storage, network and disaster recovery solutions that these applications run on.  We are specialists and we are the absolute best at what we do, but when it comes down to what the doctors and nurses see on a day-to-day basis, it is the applications they see.  It's all about the applications - they have all the visibility and they are the software solutions that directly improve patient healthcare.  Our role is really to make sure these applications are performing well, are accessible, and stay up and running.

I mention this because it sets the stage for the disturbing part of IT in healthcare.  Like I said earlier, the stakes are high in healthcare and mistakes can not be tolerated.  As a result, the IT leadership at healthcare organizations are extremely risk averse - and justifiably so!  But in my experience, often times application providers take advantage of this fear. 

Only in the healthcare space do application providers still wield enough power to dictate what kind of hardware infrastructure will be used to support their applications.  Many of the application providers dictate a short list of what hardware infrastructure providers they are willing to certify to work with their applications.  Given the stakes, I can understand this and if it stopped there I would say, "Ok, well they are just making sure that their applications are not running on sub-standard infrastructure."

The disturbing part is when these same application providers insist on reselling and implementing this hardware at the customer site.  This is not a core competency for them, they do not manufacture infrastructure hardware or software, they are not the best in the world at it, and they often don't have nearly the same level of expertise as the companies who specialize in implementing world-class infrastructure solutions. 

It presents an opportunity for the application provider to capture more revenue, but is it really in the best interest of the customer?  A comparable analogy would be if Microsoft or SAP or Oracle were to say, "Mr. customer, you can only buy this specific certified hardware (that we happen to resell) for our application AND you need to use our consutlants to implement the hardware."

Customers can push back and insist on buying infrastructure and associated design and implementation services from someone else, but they need to go up against an army of application consultants and account managers encouraging them to do otherwise...and, by the way, patients lives are at stake.

If I am the customer am I going to be bold enough to say to the account team for the Meditechs, McKessons, and Cerners of the world that despite their insistence on reselling and implementing the hardware infrastructure, I am going to leverage the infrastructure experts for the infrastructure portion of the solution?

Many customers are bold enough to do so.  But many more are not, so what ends up happening is they pay a MUCH higher markup on this infrastructure and related services and get a lesser experience during the design and implemention of it.

One example of a healthcare application provider doing things right is Epic Systems.  Unlike the application providers described above, Epic Systems certifies hardware but does not resell or implement it.  They insist on not doing so.  It is not a core competency.  They are also recognized in the industry for delivering projects on-time and on-budget...and they happen to be the best at what they do.  91% of the HIMMS Stage 7 Hospitals use Epic.  This is a certification that, according to HIMMS, recognizes hospitals for the following:
  • Deliver patient care without the use of paper charts
  • Are able to share patient information by sending secure standardized summary record transactions to other care providers
  • Use their vast database of clinical information to drive improved care delivery performance, patient safety clinical decision support, and outcomes using business intelligence solutions
  • Are best practice examples of how to implement sophisticated EMR environments that fully engage their clinicians
Note the last bullet.  Epic is arguably the best healthcare application provider out there and their customers are examples of how to best implement sophisticated EMR environments...and they do not try to resell or implement the infrastructure portion of the overall implementation because it is not their core competency.

So, for those folks considering a new EMR or PACS solution, consider Epic.  And if you decide to go in a different direction than Epic, stand your ground when your application provider tries to sell you the infrastructure and related services.  Ask them to break out these costs separately and on a separate quote, ask to talk to their presales and post sales engineers that specialize in the infrastructure, and then compare their cost and capabilities to your local integrator who specializes in this stuff.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Top Ten Reasons to Attend Varrow Madness (Next Week!)

Top Ten Reasons to Attend Varrow's Technology Uber-Event - Varrow Madness

#10 - All the cool kids (and even more nerdy kids) are doing it - over 350 people registered.  Click here to register:

#9 - St.Patty's Day + NCAA Tourney (Varrow will have TV's all over the place with the games running) = the perfect storm of reasons to get out of the office and learn about technology

#8 - VCE, Inc. will be bringing a real live vBlock with them

#7 - Varrow will be giving away 30 tickets to Rounds 2&3 of  the NCAA Tourney games in Charlotte

#6 - Science fiction will be represented - watch someone manage vSphere with hand motions (a really smart guy - Senior vSpecialist at EMC, Nicholas Weaver - wrote a program to manage vSphere using an XBox Kinnect )

#5 - Varrow will be runnning VMware and Citrix VDI labs throughout the day

#4 - Chad Sakac - nuff said (

#3 - Your brain will grow

#2 - There will be a Mini-Cooper with the newly announced EMC VNX unified storage platform stuffed in the back (see it for the first time)

#1 - Every one of your friends at Varrow will be there

Monday, January 24, 2011


One thing that each of us in the organization struggles with is making the time for personal and/or organizational improvement.  It is so easy to get consumed by the day-to-day duties required to meet the expectations of our managers, co-workers, partners, and customers.  In a sales organization, this is particularly true because the longstanding metric of success is the "numbah."  In many - if not most - sales organizations, this is the sole metric of success.  The "numbah" can become all-consuming and it becomes very easy to default to the short view and lose sight of taking the steps necessary to become better long term. 

One thing we as a team are trying to do to make the time for improvement is a program we are calling 2-1-1.  At the end of 2010, we asked each member of the team to answer the following in preparation for their Q1 planning sessions:

2: What 2 things do you do really well that have a huge impact on your success in your job? (can be anything – trait, habit, approach, etc)
1: What 1 thing do you find yourself saying, “I really need to do better on this,” that would greatly improve your effectiveness in your job or happiness in general?
1: What 1 recommendation would you make to help improve the overall effectiveness of Varrow Sales?

Every member of the team answered these questions and then during each of their individual planning sessions we discussed his/her 2-1-1 answers and identified one goal each person would strive to achieve before the end of the quarter.  The only ground rule for the identified goal was that it needed to be one with a very high probability of achievement.  The idea here being that we don't want to add yet another stressor (the "numbah" is stressful enough), but rather prompt each individual to carve out the time to achieve the goal and not just put on the backburner day after day, month after month, quarter after quarter.  It's really about making the time for improvement.

If every individual on the team achieves his/her 2-1-1 goal, the team as a whole will be rewarded with a team reward (still have to figure out what the reward will be).  We want people helping each other out and rooting each other on as they strive to achieve their individual goals.

Here is the list of goals the members of the team have come up with so far (our inside sales reps and our data center solutions principal have their planning sessions this week, so their 2-1-1 goals are not yet identified):

*organize a local technical training for the sales team in Charlotte

*organize an afternoon at the driving range for Varrow employees and provide lessons to those participating

*bring along the new sales rep on 10 sales calls and the inside sales reps on 5 sales calls so they ramp quicker

*get meetings with 3 of your top prospect accounts

*talk to all the engineers at Varrow and create a list of companies where they have relationships or have worked at in the past and with whom Varrow is not currently doing business

*get 5 of your customers out of the office and spend some time having fun

*introduce in-person your technical consultant into 10 of your long-standing accounts and your inside sales rep into 3 of your accounts

I still have to identify with the team my own personal 2-1-1 goal and add to the list.  I hope this is effective - I am optimistic it will be, but we shall see.  In the meantime, the dialogue itself was extremely healthy and look forward to having it every quarter throughout the year.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Action Item to Our Customers and Partners

Alright, the dust has officially settled on 2010.  We started our planning sessions with the teams for 2011 and the wheels keep on turning.  2010 was an amazing year for Varrow.  We brought on board many ridiculously talented and passionate people over the course of the year; some of the best engineering, sales and operations people around, who also contribute in a positive way to the Varrow culture - one where people work hard, play hard, care about each other, and do whatever it takes to create a unique experience for our customers. 

Our focus remains the second biggest reason for our success (the first being our people).  As our customers and partners invest more in us, we invest that money back into adding more expertise and delivering more capabilities and offerings around EMC, Cisco data center, and VMware.  In 2011, we will be announcing some new service-oriented offerings for our customers that will continue to enhance their experience with Varrow.

Overall, Varrow grew revenue 89% in 2010 over 2009.  Thank you to all of our customers and partners whose confidence in Varrow is what enabled us to achieve such growth. 

But, alas, it is a new year and the past is the past.  The responsibility is upon us again in 2011 to not only meet the demands of our customers and partners, not only preserve the quality of the Varrow experience, but improve upon it.  So, if you are a customer or partner reading this, please, the next time you are sitting down with one of your Varrow folks or if you want to just send me an email, either way, speak up.  Let us know what else we can do to really separate the Varrow experience from the usual.