Alumni Spotlight – David Knisely
memoryBlue recently sat down with a number of former employees to discuss how their careers have evolved following their time with us. The goal of these Q & A sessions was to uncover their viewpoints on everything from sales as a profession to their own personal career highlights. It is our pleasure to share their perspectives and valuable professional sales experiences here.
Name: David Knisely
Role: Senior Manager, Federal Capture
Company: Intel Security (formerly McAfee)
Tell us about your current role at Intel Security.
I lead a team of Capture Managers. Capture is a relatively new type of role in the tech software publisher world. This role is traditionally done by System Integrators to capture contracts. I work cross-functionally with Sales, Business Development, Legal, Proposal Management, Finance and other departments to make sure we win a contract. We help shape RFPs so that our team will win, and we then project manage the proposal process for a handoff to the delivery team.
Describe how this role utilizes skills that may be central to sales jobs.
I would say the sales team members are my partners and my customers, not just the Government customer. Capture augments their efforts in advanced capabilities around contracts that an enterprise sales rep doesn’t always have. But I am still a type of sales person, and still a field/inside sales rep at my heart. I constantly use what I learned as an inside sales rep – making cold calls, conducting guerilla lead generation efforts – things that are similar to my work at memoryBlue. Those sales processes are still the same ones I use today to prep a call with a prime contractor, VAR, or Federal customer.
What are some of the transferable skills you picked up at memoryBlue that you find valuable today?
The people that did well at memoryBlue were the people that prepped well before getting on the phone vs those who just hammered out calls. The fine tuning of your message certainly is one piece of what I loved and use often today, and then conducting online research to ensure that I understand a lot more about the person I’m about to call before I get in touch with them. I used to always think of the prospects I called at memoryBlue more as a lead that I didn’t want to lose, instead of my role being one where I was begging a person to listen. A prospect should want to talk to me and I really try to view it that way. My mindset is such that I’ll be shocked if my prospect isn’t interested in what I have to discuss with them.
Another simple skill that I find universal is that when I call somebody for the first time, I always ask if it’s a good time to talk. It’s a basic professional courtesy that opens up the conversation and gives you a few directions to go depending on the response you get. Even if the response is “no” you’ll still have some opportunity to discuss things and set a next step.
Why did you choose to launch your career at memoryBlue? You were employee #2 at the company – paint us a picture of what company life was like at that time.
I recall that we found each other through George Mason University, where I was finishing my Senior year at the time. I had been doing business internships and knew I wanted to get into the Federal contracting or IT space. memoryBlue offered me a sales job and I had a little bit of applicable customer engagement experience through jobs such as working as a server in restaurants. That experience, combined with my marketing studies background, kind of pushed me towards considering sales as a profession. It ended up being something I found I was good at and it was a good fit for me. I will say, though, when I first started out in sales, I don’t think I fully understood what I was getting in to! When you sit down in a chair to call on prospects for the first time, it’s a little overwhelming.
What was memoryBlue like when you were here?
We had a brand new office and we barely had desk chairs. Chris and Marc were in an office with glass windows right in front of me and it was an energetic environment. Eventually, I shared an office with Marc. This meant that every call I made gave him the ability to hear how things went and coach me right on the spot. I had two clients and I became really close with one of them in particular. I absolutely felt like I was part of my client’s extended team.
You were the first of several GMU grads and personal references that came to memoryBlue. Do you still keep in touch with any of those folks you paved the way for?
Yes! Sohale Razmjou joined memoryBlue after me and we talked about the job before he accepted his offer. He had the same kind of mindset I had that led him to take the role. Our two companies have a business relationship today, so we still see each other and have the chance to catch up fairly often. It’s great. And then there’s a long list of others that joined memoryBlue after that, as well. The common thread behind that group of folks is I think all of us saw it as a strong company and the perfect place to learn a great deal about professional selling while launching yourself into the technology sales industry.
Given the size of memoryBlue at the time (extremely small), you were certainly taking a risk joining such a small practice. Was there something about Chris and Marc that made the leap of faith easier?
Yes, it was a friendly, fraternal team atmosphere. When you got a lead, you stood up and celebrated right on the spot – fist bumps, high fives – that sort of thing. We didn’t have enough money for a gong back then, so we made do.
What advice would you give to a new Sales Development Representative at memoryBlue?
Stay persistent – it’s extremely key in sales. Something I didn’t totally learn until later is document everything and be thoroughly organized. Keep notes in your CRM system and always be prepared before you dial. Don’t just have calls to have calls – make sure you’re working to move every prospect forward in some way. Go in to things with a plan, set a good agenda for a call, and follow-up quickly with actions/next steps.
Also, you would be surprised how rare it is for people to receive really good sales calls. If you focus on being prepared and well-informed, it’ll be easy to stand out as a knowledgeable professional that captures a prospects’ attention.
What is the highlight of your career up to this point?
I’m proud to have come up through the ranks at mid-tier, yet well-known players, and now moving on to some really well-known companies like McAfee and VMWare. I’m proud to have had a well-rounded experience with all types of technology companies. But most of all, I’m really happy to have found my niche in the Public Sector capture and technology space.
Given your experience and knowledge of sales at this stage, what makes it a great profession?
The beauty of sales is there’s a million ways you can take your career once you have the fundamental skills. You can remain an inside rep as an individual contributor if you don’t want to travel, move into inside sales management, or move to the field and hunt big game. Or, many folks enjoy the technology side so much that you can move your career onto a sales engineer path. In my case, I found capture and winning contracts through RFPs or other methods – and I really only hire capture people that also are sales people. I need people that understand our customers. At the end of the day, all of our paychecks are paid by sales. Just like any support organization, if you’ve already been a salesperson, you’re going to be better at serving in those operational roles and you can better understand the way sales dramatically impacts everyone’s jobs at your company.
David Knisely is a George Mason University graduate and worked as an Account Executive at memoryBlue in 2004. He is an outgoing leader with more than 10 years of capture experience and maintains a broad understanding of how technology gets inserted into the Public Sector. To learn more about David and his full professional background, visit his LinkedIn profile online.
Kevin Harris is the Director of Marketing at memoryBlue. A seasoned professional with over 23 years of experience in public relations, marketing and content management, Kevin oversees all major internal and external communications programs for the firm. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Communications from James Madison University.