Post by Rob Collie
A Kindred Spirit Revealed!
Me and Chris Last Week at the Microsoft Offices in D.C.
(Their Electronic Signs Are Awkwardly Truthful.)
For about a year I have been working closely with a Microsoft employee named Chris Finlan, the BI TSP for Microsoft’s Mid Atlantic Sales District. Loosely translated, that means that when it comes to Business Intelligence, he’s the “go to” resource for all of the Enterprise sales teams in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia.
On the face of it, that may sound like “well of COURSE you two work closely together – he sells MS BI, and you teach/help people to use it.” But there are a LOT of technologies in the MS BI stack, and we (at PowerPivotPro) are specialists in the New Wave – not just the newer technologies like Power Pivot and Power BI, but also in the way that the tools are positioned, evangelized, and sold.
Even though we’re 100% aligned with Microsoft’s direction, it takes time for habits to change – both for large companies AND the software sales teams who work with them. Neither is particularly incented to take risks – the consequences of a failed experiment are high. So, it’s natural that not everyone has rushed to embrace the New Wave as the total paradigm shift that it is.
The traditional Microsoft BI sales strategy can be loosely characterized as “top down” (pitch/sell the software to the people who write big checks) whereas I think Power Pivot is often better pitched bottom-up (prove its value to a single department or group of users, and the checks come later). Neither is an “incorrect” approach of course, and they are not mutually exclusive. In particular, I’ve long believed that “bottom-up” messaging can be an effective part of a “top-down” engagement.
But changes to the script require a LOT of confidence. The “game” just isn’t set up to reward experimentation. So ultimately, it often requires someone who’s wired a bit differently.
In my world at least, that person first “surfaced” in an email I received about a year ago. Chris just dropped me a note and said “hey I’ve been adapting some of the messaging on your website for use with customers, and it’s been working. Can we have a phone call at some point?”
And at that moment I scrambled for the phone. The rest, as they say, is history. Chris and I talk probably three times a week, cooperate on multiple customer engagements, ran classes in Philly (last year) and DC (last week), hatched Insight Center (more on this below), and generally just pester the hell out of each other all week long.
On to the Interview!