Market Dominance Guys

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Will They Stay or Will They Go?

July 28, 2021


This week on Market Dominance Guys, Chris Beall is once again flying solo while Corey Frank is out traveling the world. Chris’ guest today is Helen Fanucci, Strategic Accounts Global Sales Leader at Microsoft — and Chris’ fiancée! The topic today veers away from competing with other companies for market domination, to competing with other companies for market talent. It’s just another result of our almost year and a half of working from home due to the pandemic: People now want flexibility in where they work and when they work.

Helen explains that, because of this, managers have to manage and hire differently today, and provide the flexibility that workers might prefer. “We have to manage for outcome and results,” she says, “not just how long people are spending in the office.” Companies need to understand how to get the best out of their teams, building in that flexibility so that people want to continue to work. Another change is the necessity of asking how your team is doing on a personal level. Helen tells Chris, “If members of your team aren’t doing well, how can your company meet customers’ needs?” Employees exercise more power now with their decisions to stay at their current job or look elsewhere for a company that is willing to meet their needs, so it becomes imperative for managers and companies to be the kind of people that employees want to work for. Want to know more? Then listen to today’s Market Dominance Guys’ episode, “Will They Stay or Will They Go?”


About Our Guest

Helen Fanucci has been a valued employee at Microsoft for 13 years and is currently their Strategic Accounts Global Sales Leader, heading up an incredible global team of seasoned sales professionals who are working with some of Microsoft's most strategic accounts.


Here is the full transcript from this episode:

Chris Beall (01:50):

Hey, everybody, welcome to an unusual episode of Market Dominance Guys. For one thing, we are missing my co-host, the estimable, maybe inestimable, I don't know how to estimate him, Corey Frank, who is off somewhere. I don't know if he went off on this cruise ship behind me or if he's doing something else, but he's not available today. And so we're going to have me play the host. And with me today is Helen Fanucci. And full disclosure, Helen Fanucci and I are engaged to marry each other. That's how it works is you marry each other. It's not a passive voice, like to be married, it's active voice because we're active people.

Chris Beall (02:30):

And Helen is working for Microsoft. She calls herself a sales manager. I think that's accurate. She is a sales manager, but she manages some really, really big strategic accounts at Microsoft. But Helen has a substantial career in sales and sales management, also in marketing and actually an MIT-trained engineer, mechanical engineer, which is pretty unusual in the world of sales. So Helen, welcome to Market Dominance Guys.

Helen Fanucci (03:01):

Thanks, Chris. Delighted to be here and delighted to be here with you.

Chris Beall (03:05):

It's pretty cool. So Helen, we've been talking on Market Dominance Guys for 80-something episodes about one thing, which is dominating markets in terms of competing for customers and particularly competing for markets. So markets are all those collection of customers that are inter-referencing, so if you sell to one, your risk and the cost of selling to every other single one within the market.

Chris Beall (03:30):

You have been looking at the world of successful companies, being successful and being successful as a sales manager and being successful in all these ways, in a completely different way. Basically, turning the lens around almost exactly 180 degrees and talking about something that we have literally never mentioned on Market Dominance Guys, which is how the world is structured now, with regard to companies competing with each other.

Chris Beall (04:01):

And your thesis appears to be that companies are now competing for something completely different from customers and it's much more important. So first, tell us a little about what that view is and then kind of how did you get to that view, and what led you there throughout your career? Why would you think such unusual thoughts?

Helen Fanucci (04:22):

Well, thanks Chris. So you're right, we used to compete for customers, and now we're competing for talent. And the big sea change that's happened is really accelerated by the pandemic. So during the pandemic, it became painfully at times clear that what really mattered as a sales manager, sales leader is how my team was doing. If we individually aren't doing well, we can't possibly serve our customers and do our best for our customers.

Helen Fanucci (05:00):

And so the expectations of employees has really changed, and we probably would have gotten there eventually. But as Satya said, a few months after the pandemic started, that we did two years worth of digital transformation in two months. And I think it's largely the same with the relationship between employee and company, employee and manager.

Helen Fanucci (05:30):

So when I say employees expectations have changed, there's a lot of data on that now. They expect to be known personally, first and foremost, and their whole life included, not just a work life. We used to think of going to work as to be professional at work is to not talk about personal things and just talk about work things. That doesn't cut it, and that's an outdated notion. And so employees like flexibility. So we compete for talent and the expectations have changed.

Helen Fanucci (06:09):

So 73% of respondents in a survey want flexibility of where they work. 92% want flexibility on when they work. And so we're a great example, by the way, Chris. The day after Amy Hood, Microsoft's CFO said, "Hey, returning back to the office," and this was May 2020, "returning back to the office after the pandemic will also have a component of choice." And so we looked at each other and we said, "Well, let's buy a house in Port Townsend because I'll have a choice of whether I go back to the office. So it gives us the flexibility of not just living in Seattle, but we can live on the Olympic Peninsula overlooking Discovery Bay and looking out towards Victoria, Canada.

Helen Fanucci (07:03):

So that trend is happening all over the place. And then I have employees that actually want to work from different countries from time to time. I have an employee that asked about working in India for a month. Family, he lives in California, but his country of origin is India. And so I said, "Sure," because if I don't start providing that flexibility, they're going to go work for somebody who does. And so this idea of coming back to the office is really, it's not going to happen. The genie's out of the bottle and it's not going back and employees aren't going back.

Chris Beall (07:42):

And the genie is granting the employees, in a lot of way, all knowledge-worker employees their ultimate wish, which is, you're in charge. I mean, you can choose for whom you want. We always used to say it's a free country, but maybe suddenly it's a free world with regard to employer-employee relationships. And that seems very new.

Chris Beall (08:02):

And if I was recruiting at one point in the Bay Area, I'd be either recruiting from people who already live in the Bay Area or people who are willing to move. And if they're willing to move, don't they have to move their whole family? So maybe I'm getting them before they are married and have kids or whatever it is that might be binding them together, but maybe not. And do they have to uproot their spouse, their kids, the school, all that stuff? I think that's the way it used to go, and now it's like, now the employee gets to make that call.

Chris Beall (08:33):

They might love me so much and "Oh, I really want to come to work for ConnectAndSell in Los Gatos, California," which by the way we don't do. ConnectAndSell, we just let you work wherever you want. But they might love me that much. But that love is a tax, right? I've got to actually raise the bar to get them to love me so much that they'll move close by to work physically together. And somebody else might say, no, you can work wherever you want, work for Helen Fanucci. She'll let you work where you want. You would out compete me in that case, all else being equal.

Chris Beall (09:05):

Of course, your company is much more, got a lot of good qualities. ConnectAndSell is a bit of a pain in the ass to work for. But you get my meaning, right? Are you seeing this play out in practical ways already with regard to, is it more with regard to retention or is it with regard to attracting new talent or is it both equally? What are you seeing play out already, that's really impacting folks ability to compete in the marketplace because they have the talent that they need.

Helen Fanucci (09:33):

Well, the first order of business is retaining talent because why hire new talent if you can't retain the ones who have? And so I think the data is four million workers quit their jobs in the month of April, and so that's huge. And every employee is probably thinking about quitting, at least checking out what's out there, because there's so many jobs available. I think it's like 9.3 million jobs or something like that available.

Helen Fanucci (10:07):

And so retaining is first and foremost, and retaining requires flexibility. And so a company I know that I'd rather remain nameless, is requiring their workers to come back to the office. And in fact, it's been told to me that their CEO counts cars in the parking lot. And what they're experiencing are workers, employees are quitting left and right. They're not going to put up with being required to go into the office. So counting cars in the parking lot is actually emptying the parking lot.

Chris Beall (10:51):


Helen Fanucci (10:52):

I know. And they're having a tough time retaining talent. So that's a real example that's happening now. You may have heard about Apple and Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase wanting to require workers to go back to the office. That ship has sailed, so to speak. No pun intended with your beautiful ship in the background. Hybrid work is here to stay.

Helen Fanucci (11:16):

We actually compete with everyone around the world for talent because we can hire from anywhere and they can work from anywhere. It opens up a competitive landscape. So while you might say Microsoft is competing with Google and AWS and Salesforce and all these tech companies, in reality, all of a sudden overnight our competitors for talent are really all companies, including ConnectAndSell.

Helen Fanucci (11:45):

You may offer such great flexibility and training and skill development in what you do, that I can't hire SDRs at Microsoft because you develop people in a way that we can only dream about, as an example. So then you become our competition, even though from a product point of view, we don't directly compete. So yeah, it's happening all over the place. Retaining talent is the first order of business.

Helen Fanucci (12:13):

Also, we're seeing municipalities, states and cities now flipping from trying to attract companies to come work for them to attracting workers to come work in their location. Just yesterday, I was on the phone with a colleague who lives in Greater Minneapolis and has a house in Northern Minneapolis. Whereas he said, there's more deer than people up there. He's now seeing job listings that list jobs in Northern Minnesota where there's not really any companies. And he says, "Oh, it's all work from home." You can work here. The job is up here where you want to live. And then the job, actually corporate headquarters or what have you, is someplace else.

Helen Fanucci (13:04):

The other thing that I think that we miss a lot is if we are requiring people to come back to the office or not requiring them to come back to the office, as it actually is going, as a sales manager I might say, "Oh, well, I need somebody in California next to the customer so that they can go meet with the customer." But where are the customers? The customers aren't going back to the office either.

Helen Fanucci (13:30):

So one of the phenomena I think we will see is that we'll probably organize travel differently. And so we'll probably have fewer in-person meetings with our customers. And when we do travel, we'll travel to bigger meetings. Maybe it's an executive briefing that's held at Microsoft corporate headquarters, or maybe it's a hotel near the customer's location or at the customer's location, but people are flying in, both the customers are flying in and the sales team.

Helen Fanucci (14:06):

We have an annual sales kickoff meeting that traditionally has happened in Las Vegas every year. Now, we haven't had it in person last year and we're not having it in person this year either, but those could be catalysts for meeting in person. And maybe those kinds of get-togethers end up being extended. But I think we'll see less travel overall because that's part of, also the changing expectation. People want to travel less. They want to work from home. They don't want to commute. We used to commute by planes, trains, and automobiles, and now we commute by logging in.

Helen Fanucci (14:48):

But there is a cost to all of that, to the logging in and working from home that has become researched and evident, that these back-to-back meetings, the data shows that 70% of workers are working three hours more a day. It's just been relentless. I notice that my calendar, when I block it, it doesn't get observed and people want to meet with me nonstop. And so, one of the things I've ended up doing is setting a default in my Outlook settings, so that when I schedule quote-unquote what was a half hour meeting, it's only 25 minutes, or an hour meeting is only 50 minutes because it is really essential for brain health and wellbeing that we take breaks.

Helen Fanucci (15:40):

And Microsoft research did data on that and showed the degradation of cognitive function and that increase in stress just by doing three back-to-back meetings without any break and what it does to your brain. And so we've got to work differently and workers and the talent is demanding that different expectations and different ways of working be in place in order for them to go work for the company that has the jobs.

Helen Fanucci (16:17):

So I think we've got to get a lot more creative. And what this also means for managers is we've got to manage differently and hire differently. We've got to think through the menu of flexibility and choices that a given group of workers might prefer. And when we're managing them, we've got to manage for outcomes, impact and results, not just showing up in the office. Activity doesn't equal results. And so I'm going to pause there because I've said a lot of things, but those are some of my thoughts about how things have changed and really what are some of the core components on the war for talent.

Chris Beall (17:46):

That's fascinating stuff. As I think about it, I always think about, you know me, I was thinking about what's the one thing somebody can do to screw something up or to do it well. And often when we keep doing the same things we were doing before, inadvertently when there's big changes, because big changes don't happen very often. But when there's big changes, we have a hard time shedding old habits. And so as you look at this world that you're basically saying the world is turned upside down.

Chris Beall (18:14):

It's almost like, I think there was an episode of Market Dominance Guys where I talked about the fact that sales has done traditionally is an outgrowth of factory capitalism. So the idea was that factories get capitalized with a bunch of equipment and enough cash to be able to have working capital in order to buy raw materials. And they had access to a supply chain, and then they made widgets. And the widgets must go. They got to go into the market, right? So what did we do? We dumped the widgets, so to speak, into the territories and the salespeople take care of turning the widgets into gross profits that then come back to the company.

Chris Beall (18:55):

And we did all sorts of things called discounting and having specials and bundles and this, that, and the other thing to try to move the damn widgets because the widgets otherwise pile up. And we spent money to make something that we don't get any money back for, right? And now the world has changed to where companies like yours, like Microsoft, I'd say Microsoft's leading the way. And Microsoft and Apple are probably the two leaders in this, turning the world into software.

Chris Beall (19:21):

Basically, software eats the world and now everything is software, including physical products become very software-like, so we don't have a lot of inventory. And so my point was, hey, here we have this change, which means which we should change how we sell. And we shouldn't just assign territories and dump inventory into it. But you're saying there's a different change entirely, which is, it's not how we sell, it's who's on our team to help us sell, whether they're sellers or somebody else.

Chris Beall (19:56):

And I hate to say it, people are going to think I'm some kind of a lunatic, but in a weird way, it's almost like Karl Marx is finally right. That is the means of production in the world of sales and other things, has actually fallen into the hands of the workers. It's the products that you guys make at Microsoft that let workers like me, for instance, working today with my data concierge, who's been on the show, Tom Jung, where we're working together for ConnectAndSell. Right.

Chris Beall (20:25):

But we actually had the power to do that for anybody without having to pick up and move. So, that power shift seems like such a big deal. So what do you see all of us failing to do, failing to shift in our own mindset or our own actions or how we organize, to keep up with this massive change? Because it's such a massive change, there's no way we're keeping up. We have to be blowing it. So how are we blowing it?

Helen Fanucci (20:54):

Okay. So a couple things there. So the Karl Marx analogy might be a step too far. The power has shifted to the workers, yes. However, we still need an organizing collective that is called a company to help structure and organize the output productivity of the workers. I'll just say it that way. Then it probably sounds all factory work and I don't really mean it that way.

Helen Fanucci (21:28):

So for example, me as a manager, I need to make sure I'm understanding how to get the best and the most out of my team, and my team as an extended team. I have about 600 people that touch my customers. I have a big territory, global strategic accounts, et cetera. And so we have a more defined set of accounts we focus on, but how we go about our job and how we organize that is really critical.

Helen Fanucci (22:02):

And so building in that flexibility so that people want to continue to work. And by the way, as I said, a few minutes ago, about 4 million people quit their jobs in April. And so if you have nobody to do a job, it doesn't matter how you organize the work. And so from that point of view, the workers have power. And in fact, just a quick digression or story, my daughter left her job in January of this year and she's not going to go back to a company. She left her job to pursue her dream, which is starting her own business with her husband.

Helen Fanucci (22:46):

And there's a very low barrier to entry. They are creating an app and an approach to help parents of young children be able to employ behavioral modification techniques to basically help the parents be better parents. And they're doing it through technology and asynchronously and enabling a parental therapy if you will, for behavioral modification at scale and at a lower price point. So she's never going back to an office.

Helen Fanucci (23:25):

So we've got to be sensitive that employees have a lot of choice. And so yes, they have power that way, but we have people in roles and we have coordination that needs to happen in order to serve our customers. But none of that actually is possible unless you have a foundation of a corporate culture. And one of the things that Satya did when he first became CEO of Microsoft in 2014, is he started addressing the Microsoft culture because he knew that we couldn't be competitive and change if we didn't have a strong culture.

Helen Fanucci (24:07):

So there's a lot of work that's done in terms of expectations, of being inclusive, hiring diverse talent. And being inclusive means that people feel included, not just they're on the team. You can hire diverse talent, but if they don't feel included, they'll leave. And so while we used to expect tellers to meet their quota, and that was sufficient, it's no longer sufficient.

Helen Fanucci (24:42):

So for example, you also have to behave consistent to our cultural expectations. And if you're leading a team or interacting with others, and it's not consistent with a culture of inclusion and trust and valuing others points of view, then that's a problem. And you end up, me as a manager, I end up needing to address that. So I would say that the employees have the power, but then it becomes imperative for managers and companies to be the kind of people and the kind of organization that the employees want to work for. And that includes more and more employees want to work for companies that are taking a stand on social justice issues or DACA, have principles that are consistent with their values.

Helen Fanucci (25:43):

It's more complex, I would say that it used to be, to attract talent and it's across many more dimensions. One of the things that we did in Microsoft US, it's an organization of about 10,000 sellers and managers is our president, Kate Johnson brought in Brene Brown and everybody from corporate vice presidents, to directors, to individual contributors, all got trained on dare to lead because we want to have more courageous sellers and leaders. And one of the things we learned is that there is no courage without vulnerability. And so what does it mean to be vulnerable? That's a scary thing for folks.

Helen Fanucci (26:34):

And then as a manager, how do you have empathy for your team? And empathy as distinct from sympathy is about really putting on the other person's shoes and understanding their situation. And so all of that becomes super important in order to build a culture where people feel valued, can communicate. We had a whole module on clear is kind, and being clear on expectations. And being able to, as Brene would say, rumble with vulnerability, like have tough conversations. Because tough conversations actually in a respectful way, unlock innovation and new possibilities.

Helen Fanucci (27:23):

So things have dramatically changed, but we can also carry that to our customers because our customers are struggling with these things too. And so I actually spend quite a bit of time talking to customers about our culture, the changes that we've made, why it matters, how to build teams, how to retain teams, how to manage teams remotely. So there's a lot to unpack here, but those are some of my, I guess, not-so-short thoughts on the subject.