Barry Carr is both the point guard and head coach of the Imaging Office Systems’ sales team—yes, the rare player-coach!
During the last nine months of the pandemic, he and his squad of sales consultants have had to make key “halftime adjustments” to sales strategies and tactics to align with the Covid-era business environment.
But staying on the move and adjusting to “on-court” realities is second nature to this one-time pupil of legendary college basketball coach Bobby Knight.
That’s why I was excited to sit down with him and attempt to peel back the layers of Barry's game...for sales, that is!
OK, we've probably achieved triple-double digits on these gratuitous basketball analogies by now...enough to tip off this Q&A, at least! So, let’s give him the ball out of the backcourt and start our conversation with Barry Carr, "The Galactic Sales Manager!"
Q&A with Barry Carr, National Sales Director of Imaging Office Systems
How long have you been in the sales game, and what was your first sales job?
Back in 1995, a young computer science major decided it was time to stick his foot into the real world. I knew I liked people, so I figured sales would be a good fit. I went into a recruiting office and told them my skill sets and that I’d like to be in sales, and right off the bat, I was interviewing with a build-your-own personal computer technology company. I knew about personal computers and told them I could do it. And I did. But just like everything else in life, you learn the basics in school and college, but the real learning comes on the job...and in that first job is where I learned the ropes of technology sales and the art of getting to know your prospects, what their needs are, and how you can help them.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned about sales from your first day on that first job to now?
It was the realization that people put their trust into people they know. So, getting to know your prospects and your clients and what their issues are, what gives them angst, and what they’re trying to do to make money is incredibly important. The quicker you can put yourself in their shoes and demonstrate that empathy, the quicker you can become an ally...and people like to buy from allies. So, now, I’m always trying to get to know my clients better. Not just their business, but who they are, how they operate on a personal and professional level, how they make decisions, and what their goals are.
What does it take for somebody to go from being a “salesman” that someone tries to avoid to being an “ally” that they look forward to hearing from?
A lot of it is truly caring about the client. It’s not just about having a tablet in your hand and saying, “What is it you need...I’ll get you a quote.” It’s asking questions like, “Why do you think you need that?” or “What kinds of problems do you think that’s going to solve?” And sometimes, it’s asking, “Hey, what are you doing this weekend?” Getting to know your prospect in ways other than the business context is important. All of that goes into building their trust that you have their best interests in mind. The old saying out there is that the customer is “always right,” and that is certainly a good one to live by, but a lot of times, the customer doesn’t know what they’re really asking for or needing because the solution is foreign to them. They know where they need to go, but they’re not sure where to start or how to get there. So, to give that customer a level of comfort that we know what we’re doing and a level of confidence that we’ve done the research for them and can give them their best options, so they can confidently make a decision...I think that’s the trust that builds the glue between a customer or prospect and a sales consultant.
During the pandemic, how has your job changed? What are you doing now that you weren’t doing last year, and how have you had to adapt?
There are a lot of Zoom meetings going on, but I’m a people person. I like to be in front of people. Normally, I’ll do an in-person meeting even for the smallest things. A lot of times, the business part of the conversation may last for 20 minutes, but there’s a lot of things you can uncover from a customer needs standpoint by then talking to them for an additional 20 minutes—and I miss that interaction. So, I’ve had to adapt and reformulate my approach around Zoom meetings and phone calls. The second thing is understanding our customers' new set of immediate needs because of the pandemic and helping them put a digital “band-aid” on business processes that became problematic with everyone working from home...and using little pieces and parts of what we do to implement that for them quickly. Right now, in the pandemic world, nobody wants to pause to think about the bigger picture. If they have an immediate need, they need to address it right away and worry about the big picture later...and that is a bit of a different mindset than people had before the pandemic.
Let’s roll back the clock a little bit to 18-year-old Barry, who got recruited by the great Bobby Knight to play basketball at Indiana University. Talk about some of the high points and low points of that experience...and maybe any lessons from it that you carry with you through today.
I was a good basketball player, not great. The opportunity to walk on at Indiana University was a great one. One high point of that time was that I was there at a great time...a national championship in 1987. I made a lot of good friends that would last a lifetime. The low point was that I didn’t take it as seriously as I should have. I didn’t give it the concentration and focus that it required. Another lesson that I carry with me through today is the realization that life has a lot of twists and turns. Some things are served up for you, and with other things, you don’t necessarily know what you have until it’s gone...I think there’s a song about that. I also learned that when you embark on achieving a goal, always embrace and attack that goal with all the fervor you can muster. Give it 110 percent. Also, Coach always preached, know your competition as good or better than you know yourself, exploit their weaknesses while guarding against them exploiting yours, and maximize your strengths. Those principles are very relevant in the business world, too.
What do you think is the most important guidance you could give someone about relationship-building?
I would say the most important thing is be a great listener. When we look at people and companies and how they’re going to market today, the internet affords everyone the ability to do their own research. They can go online. They can vet a bunch of different companies. But when it comes to actually talking that person, do you have the ability to stop and listen? Too many times, from a consultant’s standpoint, we want to show everybody how much we know, and we end up vomiting out information about content management, technology, cloud-based services, and conversion services in an effort to show how cool we are. Instead, we need to just pause and listen, and let the customer talk to us about what’s grieving them and what their overall goals are. If they’re having trouble doing that, then we need to ask more questions that allow that to flow more freely from them. In the pandemic world, this ability to listen and empathize is more important than it’s ever been.
What makes your job easy, and what makes it hard?
It’s kind of the same thing for both. The speed of technology makes every solution and implementation different, so you never get bored. And that makes it easy to get up every day and do it. It’s like, “Wow, what am I going to learn today? What problems am I going to solve today? Who am I going to help? What relationship am I going to forge?” Meanwhile, the speed of technology also means I must stay in a constant state of learning. I can never become complacent with what I know in the technology industry because everything may be completely flipped on its head tomorrow...we see some of that happening right now.
Where do you see the future of our industry, namely information management and cloud computing? What things are you excited about, and what should our customers be excited about?
I guess the idea of a paperless office was put into play a good 15 years ago. The microfilm industry was really the beginning before that even. But digital transformation is the coined term being used a lot now. It's front-of-mind not just for large businesses, but all businesses. And with the pandemic, it pushes the issue even harder. The future of our industry is bright. And with information management becoming paperless and moving to the cloud, it’s even brighter. Cloud computing—not just from an information management standpoint—but also the core technology behind cloud, data centers, and software applications...and access to all those things is moving to the cloud. And from the security and storage standpoint, cloud computing has matured to a level we’ve never seen before. It's now ready to handle the heavy lifting of information management, big data, and big applications. From a software application and software deliverable standpoint, there is a big push to use the cloud as a mechanism to where you can purchase what you want, when you want it, and turn it on and off instantaneously, as needed. Gone are the days of a 3-week implementation schedule. The universe of cloud-based information management is quickly becoming like the Apple app store or Google Play store model for business solutions and applications.
What are the biggest, most common struggles you see customers and prospective customers having out there?
Right now, I think there’s information overload out there on the idea of digital transformation. I think everybody out there running a business knows they need to do it—and they want to do it—but they have no idea where to start.
The scariness of the term “digital transformation” is very real for a company that may have done their accounting on paper their entire existence or somebody whose HR department was a filing cabinet and a single computer. Those companies need people like us to explain to them how they can start to go down the digital path and what the overall picture could be like following a digital transformation. If done right, they will hopefully get as excited as you are about the possibilities.
What do you see as the biggest benefits of migrating out of paper and into a cloud-based, paperless office or business?
The natural efficiency gains that you get from a digital environment vs. pushing paper...multi-person access to documents...security from fire, flood, acts of God, and physical theft...and also the ability to act in real time and make decisions in real time with data and information that’s presented to you in real time. From a knowledge worker standpoint, in the old days, if there was a question about whether an invoice has been paid, you might have had to go to a file cabinet and pull the invoice and look at their PO to see if line items jived. You had to do a bunch of footwork and maybe get information from a couple different rooms or people to make that comparison. In the digital world, from start to finish, you can have all that information available at your fingertips instantly.
What’s one thing you wish today’s Barry could tell 18-year-old Barry...or Barry’s 18-year-old, three-sport athlete son, who may have aspirations to go play college ball someday?
One of things you always tell your children is that you wish you could put your brain in their body, so they can avoid some of the missteps that you made. I think one of the things I’d tell 18-year-old Barry—and something I do tell my son now—is to embrace these times, as you’ll never have them again. Don’t sweat some of the little things that you sweat now. Don’t become anxious about change and decisions that you need to make...but make a decision, and go after it with all the vigor you have in you. All of us have opportunities, and a lot of times we don’t recognize them. Things may seem scary. Change seems scary, but it’s important to adapt, make a decision, choose a road, and go after it with all the strength you can muster.