Staying Relevant in an Ever Changing Industry

Apr 23, 2015

Last month, I had the amazing opportunity to speak at the 9th annual Woman in the Channel event in Las Vegas. Although I have spoken in large groups before, never on such a personal topic, and I have to admit I was quite nervous about the event. This experience has been extremely rewarding for me, and the feedback from the ladies in the room touched me in many ways. Thank you to everyone who reached out, you really made my day. For those of you that missed it, here is a snapshot for your reading pleasure. I genuinely would love to hear your feedback. And for those of you who heard my speech, what have you done differently to stay Relevant in the last 30 days?

In case you missed it, check out the video or transcription below.

Hello everyone, I appreciate the opportunity to be here with all of you today. I met many of you back in October in New Orleans, and life was good. I had spent the last 4 plus years managing the sales team for a major Master Agency in the industry. I loved my team, numbers were good, partners were happy….. And then all of a sudden December 4th came, and I was without a job.

I was not fired for poor performance, I did not do anything unethical or illegal, rather the landscape of my company was changing, and they no longer thought I was the right person to steer the ship. I recall a conversation about a year back with my new President at the time, I told him I did not want to be labeled as the “agent girl” I wanted to support agents and VAR’s, I wanted to work both sides of the house. I think he remembered the conversation, and they no longer wanted the “agent girl” either….

At the time I was devastated, yet in hindsight what happened to me happens to so many, and there are things we can all do to be prepared. I was afraid of being pigeon holed, I even acknowledged it might happen. Yet did I do enough to overcome it, was I Staying Relevant in an ever changing industry. And are you?

All of us in this room are in Telecom. And if there is one thing we know about Telecom, change is constant. The book who moved my cheese was written for most of us in this space. So how do we stay relevant when the landscape keeps changing? How do we avoid being labeled? She sells POTTS lines so she doesn’t know network. She sells MPLS but doesn’t know anything about the Cloud. She supports agents so how could she sell to VAR’s? Everyone labels people, we draw conclusions based on what we know. So if we know the people around us make these assumptions, that means the responsibility is on US to communicate who we are today, what we know, and how we are evolving. How many of you have taken a class in the last 6 months, any type of training, raise your hand? And how many of you actually told your employer? Your employees? Your partners? Or even your customers you took that class?

As women, we don’t tend to share our accomplishments, our growth, and our new skills. Yet if we don’t share, how will anyone know? How can we remain relevant, if the people around us do not know what we are doing in the space? Just because you read a new book, tried a new sales method, learned a new technology, or sold a new product for the first time, it does not make you any more relevant if no one knows about it…..the saying perception is reality holds true here. If you do not tell anyone, you might still have benefited, but your relevance in the industry and how you are perceived did not.

There are several places we need to show our relevance. Let’s start with the work place. No matter what anyone tells you, it is YOUR job to sell up. Unless you are the owner, there is someone above you, and it is your job to make sure they know what you are doing, and not the other way around. And in this industry, that person can change, frequently, so this is not a one-time process. How many of you in the last year either have a new boss, or your boss’s boss is new? Whether it is during an annual review, a business planning session, a sales kick off, or your weekly one on one, It is up to YOU to make sure those above you know what you are accomplishing, what new technology you have adopted, what you have learned whether with their help or on your own. It is a little like interviewing for your position again. When I started interviewing with Fusion, I interviewed with the president, but I also spoke with the CEO, the COO and the VP of Marketing. It was my job to sell myself to all of them, and now that I have been there for 2 months, that job does not end. While my position is new, even if you have been with your company for years, the job you have today, might not be the same job you had when you started. After all, this is telecom…. You do not need to re-interview all the time, but it is worth asking your self today, does the person I work for right now know my history, my experience, and my success with my current organization? We have to sell up. This makes us relevant.

We also have to sell down. People respect managers that are relevant. At Fusion, I acquired a nationwide sales team, it was still my job to sell myself to them. We need to share what we are learning, pass on new ideas, and suggest opportunities for growth. We are all in technology. So just because my company sells Hosted PBX does not mean I shouldn’t learn about virtualization. It might not be my main focus, but to ignore the trends in this industry because it does not apply to you this week is too short sighted. Leadership is the ability to get people to follow you, I know I am much more likely to follow a person who is relevant, aren’t you?

And for those of you working with end customers, we need to sell around us too. Many of you have worked with the same large customers for years. You know their spouse, their kid’s names, and where they vacation every year. Yet how many of you found out a new agent or a new carrier was in there now, jeopardizing your relationship, simply because your contact wanted someone who knew about “the Cloud?” We all too often assume our customers know we are getting trained and certified, that we spend 3 days in Vegas learning what is new, that we attended 5 classes this year and have new certifications on our wall. But do they? Did you actually tell them?

And finally, what about our partners, how do they see you staying relevant? I know I have partners who have followed me from one carrier to another, they knew me from Cable & Wireless or PGI or MicroCorp. Ask yourself, do these partners only call you for one product, or one small piece of the pie? Are they aware of what else you are knowledgeable about? Or do they call someone else to talk about trends in our space? I can say 100% for sure, staying relevant in the eyes of my partners has helped to ensure my success.

It is a lot of moving parts, selling yourself internally and externally, and YES, you need to do them all. If you want to stay relevant in a market that changes, you need to address all the shareholders, not just one. This I can speak from experience, in my situation, I was displaced because of my lack of experience with VAR’s. Yet I had 3 carriers the exact same month ask me to expand their VAR channel. I obviously did a better job showing my relevance externally then internally.

The good news is I think many of us are staying relevant, we are going to trainings, and we are embracing the new technology, we are eager to learn new products, new processes, and new emerging markets. We are engaged with Channel Partners, CompTia, Woman in Channel. We read the industry blogs. So that means, all we need to do is SHARE IT. The main take away from today is to be conscious of this, be conscious of the fact that you need to sell yourself, not once, but always, for as long as you stay active in this community. And you need to sell up, down, right and left. Not just to one place, or to the other, but everywhere. Because it is all of these groups that keep you employed, help you find your next opportunity, help you meet your sales goals, the list goes on and on. But most importantly, is acknowledging that this is your responsibility, staying relevant is up to you.

The good news for all of us is we are part of a community, the telecom channel is a small one. I honestly had over 100 phone calls in under 7 days. I landed a fantastic job as VP Of Channel Sales for Fusion, I got to stay in the cloud which was important to me, and I got a nice raise to boot ☺ As I look around today, WiC was amazing and I had numerous people in this room contact me right away. LinkedIn was my best friend and still is. I cannot say enough about what LinkedIn can do for you. It was the single fastest way to spread the word, it expedited my job search immensely, and it kept me in contact with everyone. Trust me when you change cell phones and laptops, you lose contacts. One suggestion for all of you, LinkedIn is a process, something that you must commit to daily and weekly, not once a year. You do not always know when you will need it, so it is best to keep up with it for that rainy day. Thanks to Rebecca Rosen and some great advice I had received last year, my LinkedIn was ready. Is yours?

I think with every experience we go through, good or bad, we must learn from it. This past quarter I have reminded myself I am strong, I am resilient, I have amazing friends in this industry, and it is my job to make sure I stay relevant. It is your job to make sure you stay relevant too.

About Stacy Conrad

43_Stacy-Small-Image Stacy Conrad has been in telecommunications for 20 plus years, and is proud to have been in the Channel since 2001. She is best known for her outgoing personality, her high energy, and her desire to make her partners and her employees successful. She just recently accepted a new role as the Vice President of Channels at Fusion, leading the sales channel team for a Nationwide Cloud Communications Provider. Previously she led the Channel Sales Team at MicroCorp, one of the largest Telecom Distributors, and also managed a sales team at Premier Global. Stacy started her career with 10 years at Cable & Wireless. In her spare time she enjoys relaxing with her husband Mike and her two dogs Bandit and Buford. She is frequently boating and when vacation calls you will usually find her on a cruise ship.