SalesTech Star Interview with Jeff Manning, EVP of Sales at Cybera

Tell us about your journey into Sales. And, what attracted you to Cybera?

I don’t know if there is a traditional journey into Sales, so maybe mine is traditional in that it was never intentional. I morphed into a Sales role after cutting my teeth in Technology as a Project Manager, then a Program Manager, which required me to partner with solutions providers to solve problems. That evolved into various Business Development roles, which eventually spun into a direct quota-carrying Sales role.

At one point earlier in my career, I remember thinking to myself, “I’m the one doing all of the talking on behalf of my company, I’m the one with all the answers, and the customers are all looking at me. Why am I not the one cashing the big check on this deal?” That was the first step – being comfortable and betting on myself. It turned out to be a decent bet.

Twenty-five years and 25 pounds later, what attracted me to Cybera was the space, the situation, and the people. Cybera is focused on delivering application services to the highly distributed network edge, which encompasses a broad range of technology focal points such as the Cloud, Networking, Security, Application Delivery Services, and IoT enablement. Having those arrows in my quiver on an as-a-service basis was highly attractive. I felt like the opportunity to bring that service set into new markets while leaning on the existing business for support was a unique opportunity. Getting to work with the Cybera team made it an easy decision.

How is your current role at Cybera different from previous roles? How do you see the role of Sales continuing to evolve in the future?

Coming into this role was a bit different in that there was already a well-established core business (convenience store and petroleum industry) with a highly capable, experienced Sales and Leadership team. The mandate then was to extend that type of business across other verticals and geographies, focusing on growth strategies for markets where we didn’t have such a large footprint.

It’s a luxury to have a dominant market position that provides the cushion and experience you need to expand into new markets. Culturally, the company was an interesting mashup—about 15 years old and having gone through a few different offerings before evolving into the SD-WAN Edge space. It was a unique combination of dynamics in the tech world: an old startup with a new owner along with extremely high employee retention rates. It was almost a counter-Silicon Valley scenario. But that environment has turned out to be a valuable foundation as we’ve continued to build value throughout the broader market.

Sales has changed quite a bit over the years. I can recall having a call list where I would just pick up the desk phone and try to explain why the person on the other end should listen to me for 30 seconds. I quickly discovered that executive assistants were the most powerful gatekeepers. If I wanted to reach someone, I was better off establishing a rapport with their EA and getting on their calendar for 15 minutes.

Next came email, which was a groundbreaking way to connect without being overly intrusive. That worked well for about five minutes until spam and its subsequent countermeasures ruined email as a business tool. It’s getting harder and harder in Sales because we keep trying to fit an old paradigm into a modern reality. Nobody answers the phone anymore, and customer organizations spend millions to filter us out of their inbox. In short, our two primary business tools for outbound communication have become very low-probability methods if not rendered virtually useless.

We want to find our prospects and next customers, but the truth is that they’re now self-educating and finding us. So, the motion to market has shifted. To be effective, Sales teams must have a rock-solid relationship with their Marketing teams. Our outbound efforts are now most effective when they focus on value-centered tools that are available in the right forums for self-discovery and education.

That’s a hard pill to swallow in Sales. We now live in an on-demand, frictionless, zero-touch environment. We created these terms in the tech world, and now we’re living with them in Sales. So, we either have to adapt or die. When you ask how Sales will change in the future, it’s all about continuous adaption in response to shifting market behaviors. The market will continue to get smarter about what we offer as we continue to pre-educate potential customers before we’ve even met them.

They won’t ask what you do. Instead, they’ll say, “I know what you do, but how do you do it better than player X?” or “How can you save me money or help me make more money?” This is already happening, by the way. The good news for Salespeople is that the fundamental cornerstone of their value can never die because it is still human-centered.

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Cybera offers products and services that might not typically be considered a “Sales” solution, yet you sell into environments and to individuals where Sales and the Customer Experience (CX) is very much at the top of the priority list? Can you explain? 

Cybera is heavily focused on the petrol and convenience store market, and we’re rapidly growing in the retail vertical along with quick-service and fast-casual restaurants. So, we’re actually working with a lot of businesses where the Customer Experience (CX) is pervasive and immediate. With consumer expectations continually rising, all of these businesses must be able to elevate their levels of engagement and deliver a consistently good Customer Experience.

All of these businesses worry about security, compliance, and tech-savvy consumers who simply demand much more than they ever did before. This is where Cybera comes into play. We’re all about helping these distributed enterprises roll out new customer-facing apps and services in record time. We help them improve data security and enhance their customer loyalty programs. And we take a lot of the network management burden off their plate so they can focus on what they do best and capitalize on new business opportunities.

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Cybera recently announced that it is working with Shell to help it to drive value across its retail locations, generate growth and address evolving business needs – particularly in terms of meeting the October 2020 mandated outdoor EMV chip card compliance deadline – can you explain?

The 2020 EMV chip card mandate has been active internationally for years but had been lagging in U.S. adoption until recently. Fundamentally, EMV represented a collaboration on a multi-factor authentication standard requiring an embedded chip on credit cards and a customer-defined personal identification number (PIN). The objective was to reduce the likelihood of “card present” fraud. Legacy magnetic stripe cards are/were possible to clone and susceptible to skimming, whereas the chip is extremely difficult if not impossible to skim and duplicate.

Coupled with a unique PIN entry required at the time of purchase, the EMV solution is extremely secure, and exponentially reduces the potential for fraudulent card transactions. Outdoor EMV simply means that gas stations must enable the chip and pin transaction at the pump. This technology shift can be very costly for owner-operators, particularly if it requires a pump or pump terminal upgrade. Cybera’s role is to provide the network connectivity and enable that unique IP-based secure application transaction to occur through the Cybera cloud.

What current Marketing and/or Sales Technology platforms do you use in your current role?

The two platforms we rely most heavily on are Pardot for demand generation, email nurture streams, and various Marketing campaigns; and to track leads and maintain the actual customer base.

What advice would you offer to anyone thinking of entering Sales as a profession?

Sales is a craft or trade, so it helps to have a teacher or guide. Find someone to emulate or, even better, find more than one person and adopt the best characteristics from each. One thing is clear: you can’t learn Sales in the classroom. What you’re looking for is a repeatable process and a productive way to manage your time and relationships. You’ll need to conduct proper discovery, segment your addressable market in a methodical fashion, and fundamentally build and manage your pipeline.

That’s essentially the playbook piece you need to understand if you want to build and manage your business. The tactics are important and they’re most easily absorbed through modeling. But, there’s an even more important piece to the puzzle: cultivating empathy. Having a refined empathetic nature is the key to long-term Sales success. You can walk into Sales without it and get lucky and win some transactions, but the most successful, enduring, high-earning Salespeople have a highly developed sense of empathy.

Sales isn’t just about talking and selling all the time. Sales is truly about wanting to understand what problem someone needs to solve at a human level. It’s not just the stated business problems, but the unique underlying personal problems or objectives of everyone in the decision tree. When you can understand the unspoken and feel your way through the process, you’ll be selling at a higher level. That’s when you become a transformational figure in the lives of your customers, and they start to trust you in their decision-making process.

That’s also when you develop relationships and build a reputation that enables you to walk alongside the same business throughout your career. You create annuity accounts because you understand them in a way that brings them personal and professional value year after year. If you care for the customer first and always, they’ll take care of you for years as well.

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Thank You, Jeff, for answering all our questions. We hope to see you again, soon.

cybera logo

Cybera fundamentally changes the way distributed businesses use technology. Our purpose-built network services platform empowers companies with many remote business locations to rapidly deploy, secure, and optimize new cloud-based applications and services.

This includes retail, hospitality, financial services, and healthcare organizations with hundreds or even thousands of remote sites.

Jeff is a Experienced Executive and Board Advisor, with a demonstrated history of achievement and innovative organizational design in the Networking and Security industries. He is skilled in Sales: products, services, and recurring revenue businesses, pre-sales, go-to-market, strategy, business alliances, team building, and leadership.

Jeff is a strong entrepreneurial professional with an education-focused in Law, Psychology, and Organizational behavior and leadership, through the University of Massachusetts, Cornell, and Columbia.