Amy Manchester: Best of Class

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At first blush, you’d think Amy Manchester’s initial career was a major departure from her present one. Early on, as a special education teacher, “I dealt with emotionally disturbed teenage boys,” she recalls. Today, she sells Workday’s business applications to large, complex Wall Street organizations and to other strategic accounts in the northeast. “Same skills, different audience,” says Amy. “I’m selling to people with unique and special needs. It requires me to communicate, establish objectives, develop trust, set strategy, and make strategic decisions that will have an impact for the future. This is not much different than teaching.”

TEAM EFFORT

Having sold multi-millions of dollars in software during her career, Amy believes that selling, like teaching, is about developing confidence and a plan – for oneself, as well as for the client. “It’s about doing,” she says, “not just thinking.” Teachers participate in ongoing professional development, and so should sales professionals, she urges. “Every single day there is room for improvement. I want to improve myself, learn from others, and always move forward professionally and personally.” Amy learns from the losses, “which I don’t see as personal failures,” she says. “It’s never one person doing the sale. It’s a team effort. It’s the team who wins. Losses are a result of not listening carefully for cues and clues. Go with your gut and focus on the people who are not on your side. If you don’t pay attention to the challengers, you will almost always lose the deal.” Amy advises sales professionals to continuously set goals and consistently achieve them. “I am not afraid of challenges,” she says. “They energize me. I am results-oriented. My kids say I think in lists and goals, which is true. It’s not that I know more but that I do more.” Amy has energy to spare.

Selling, like education, is a team effort. Amy takes time to recognize the efforts of others she works with. She prides herself on not only working to sell the customer but also to sell the team. “It’s about bringing in the right people at the right time,” she says. “I appreciate the opportunity to keep teams engaged with one another as well as with the client,” she says. “The product does not always sell itself, no matter how good it is. Orchestrating and coordinating the team effectively provides you with an additional competitive advantage. The people factor can differentiate you, your product, your company, and your personal values. That’s what our team does and how we beat the competition!”

Amy began her software career at mainframe financial software vendor McCormack & Dodge, where she moved from customer education to sales. A decade later she joined PeopleSoft, where she gained critical experience managing complex global sales to the largest financial services organizations on Wall Street. When Oracle acquired PeopleSoft, Amy joined SAP where she managed several teams, including a National HR Sales team. She saw the need for the next technology shift to meet the needs of today’s complex global workforce. Workday’s Software-as-a-Service model was that next generation of software, and she felt fortunate when she joined the company early in 2007. At the time, she says, there was a tremendous need to develop awareness, educate the market on cloud computing, and let people know about Workday, which was founded by visionaries Dave Duffield and Aneel Bhusri. The efforts have paid off, and Workday is exploding in growth. Amy is proud of her track record delivering results quarter after quarter.

HONESTY, PASSION

Amy likes to set the tone with new clients by establishing an honest, trusting relationship early on. “Trust is critical,” she notes. “When the prospect has had early negative impressions about the company or product, it’s very hard to turn that around.” Nonetheless, she has managed to turn around a few big customers through persistence, consistency, and frequent face-to-face visits. In turn, she asks the prospect to agree to a plan. “Making a decision of this magnitude requires personal and professional trust,” she says. It’s not always easy to say “no,” but it builds trust. She wants her customers to win, and they know it. And she sticks by their side after the sale – another area where she differentiates herself. “The good and bad is that I don’t go away after the sale,” she says with a laugh. Amy is always available to make sure that her customers are successful.

Growing up as a middle child, Amy says her parents respected each of their children’s unique strengths. The result: she has always believed anything was possible, as long as she worked for it. “If I wanted something, and I was willing to work hard and be honest, I was made to believe I could accomplish it,” she says. “My parents were always supportive and thought achievement was based on effort.” She has tried to instill the same values in her two grown children, who have achieved great success academically and entered the job market in fantastic positions upon graduation. She’s proud of their success and who they have become as adults. This, she says, is her greatest achievement and biggest win.

There are some things even former teachers can’t teach. Amy is often asked about her keys to success and how others can learn from her experiences. She believes that sometimes you have to go with your instinct and that salespeople, like teachers, love a good challenge. “I have a tremendous amount of energy and love the dynamics of complex relationships.” Those relationships need constant “care and feeding” and by nature, she tries to “fix problems” and take care of those she is closest to- whether it’s a customer, a family member, or someone on her team. For example, she’ll often invite customers to dinner as a way of showing her appreciation and encourage them to network. Additionally, she recognizes the effort of her team members and tries to reward and recognize them appropriately. “Wouldn’t you want someone to do that for you?” she asks. “You’d do it for someone you are trying to sell to, so why wouldn’t you do this for your own team who helps you succeed?”

Looking back on her big wins over the years, Amy cites the core values she learned from her parents as critical keys to success. When she first began selling financial systems, she was the only salesperson who lacked a background in accounting or computer science. Her expertise was in understanding people and their unique needs. “Family Circle magazine was my first deal that I closed as a salesperson,” Amy recalls. “The CFO wanted to meet me at the end of a competitive sales cycle, and I was scared to death he would ask me about debits and credits!” Amy’s VP was planning to go with her in hopes of closing the deal, but at the last minute she came down with the flu. “I begged her to get up and come with me,” says Amy. “I brought orange juice and flowers hoping she would recover enough to join me. But she told me I could do it on my own,” she says, “and gave me confidence that I can fly solo and win. During the meeting, the CFO awarded us the business…it was so exciting! I knew my product; I understood my customer, and I had the support and trust of my management. I got my first win, and it felt great.”

THE RIGHT VALUES

Many of Amy’s large opportunities take time and patience. Closing one of the biggest deals of her career took five years. The deal was in progress while 9/11 hit New York City and while her greatest supporter, her mother, was dying. It was an enormously draining time, both with the prospect and with hospice. In order to move the deal along post 9/11, at year-end, Amy’s boss told her to discount the price significantly at the 11th hour. “When I called the procurement contact on the phone, voicemail picked up ,and I just fell apart,” she recalls. “I tried to erase the sobs from the message, but I knew it had been recorded. When the client called back, I was so embarrassed! But because of our strong relationship, we laughed together, and he swore never to tell anyone about my voice mail! That was one sale I will always remember,” says Amy. “The best part about this significant competitive win was when the top executive said that we were a company that delivers on their promises and that he’d never seen a salesperson who reflected the values of her company like me. I was very proud of that.”

“My success stems from working for great companies that I believe in. Plus, I work with some amazing people.” In fact, she says, at Workday, the reward is being part of the team. Her wins are not focused only on the financial rewards, although the payoff has provided a comfortable life for her family. Amy is truly passionate about the company and her job. “Some people like gambling,” she says. “I like selling”. Selling as a career is risky for many people since there is no textbook for how to handle each opportunity or situation. As a salesperson, you are either wildly successful or just getting by. The challenge is being consistently successful and constantly driving revenue. “You have to know your customers, support your team, and feel passionate about your product,” she says. “I know I have truly won when I am not just a vendor, but a trusted partner.”

In addition to integrity, teamwork, and self-improvement, we need to add one more trait to the list of virtues required for a successful sales career: Humility, which, of course, Amy does not cite by name. “I’m not smart enough to do this on my own,” she replies when asked to expound on her success. “You should interview my team. They are the true keys to my success.”

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