In June 2015, I made my decision to leave the military and walk away from a promotion to the rank of Major. I had a fairly successful career in the U.S. Army, which made this veteran’s journey a particularly difficult one. Career progression in the military is much different than the civilian workforce. Additionally, there are assigned career managers for every rank cohort. Now a veteran, I was stepping outside of that familiar construct to be mired in ambiguity – all in an effort to have more control over my life.
Not knowing at the time what would best suit me, I knew I needed to do some self-discovery. I realized early on that I had an affinity for, as well as an innate disposition, for sales. I took multiple aptitude tests that would assist in my decision to pursue a particular career path – everything pointed to outside sales. I began researching industries and became increasingly enamored with high-tech sales.
I was already working with a Junior Military Officer (JMO) veteran recruiting firm prior to identifying my real interest in high-tech sales. At that point, it seemed like the right recipe to facilitate my transition – except there was no path to high-tech sales via the recruiting firm I was partnering with. In order to get into the industry, I wanted to as a veteran, I’d have to leave the comfort of knowing I can get “a job” with this firm to pursue what I really wanted to do. Ambiguity was my new normal.
Now a “free agent” in my transition, I began reaching out to military veterans that were account executives in the high-tech space. I had a few informational calls with directors and VPs where I quickly realized I needed validation in sales. Though they were impressed with what I had learned from reading numerous sales books, it wasn’t enough. I received a lot of “sorry, but not yet” answers.
A mentor referred me to Tech Qualled, a company that trains veterans to break into the high-tech space in outside sales roles. Tech Qualled’s Launchpad Academy was the sales training/validation that I was looking for. The program’s instruction is led by former Cisco executive Jim Sherriff, CEO and co-founder of Tech Qualled. The first seven weeks consisted of virtual training focused on laying the foundation of sales knowledge utilizing the Challenger model from CEB’s book, The Challenger Sale. The challenging, self-paced curriculum stimulated my intellectual curiosity and pressure-tested my business acumen. Tech Qualled’s program culminated in a two-week sales boot camp that is – in my opinion – the most valuable experience of the entire program. It was a tremendous opportunity to sharpen my sales skills and validate that I was ready to take on an outside sales role.
Tech Qualled’s Sales Boot Camp is hosted in downtown Fort Worth, TX where I met the other 15 members of my cohort – all high performing officers in the military. We kicked off Day 1 with the Dallas Improv Troupe to harness our active listening skills and polished our communication skills on Day 2 with intensive public speaking training from DMH Consulting. These experiences set us up for the rigorous role-playing we would conduct for the remainder of the boot camp.
In rapid succession we rehashed every part of the sales process and heavily reinforced the material with role-playing led by Jim Sherriff and other Tech Qualled staff members — many of whom are veterans with experience in high-tech. Their coaching and feedback were tremendously helpful as they ramped up the intensity of our experience by bringing in C-suite executives to participate in a panel discussion and role-playing as well. Therein lies the greatest value of Tech Qualled’s program – the invaluable feedback by a former Cisco sales executive as well as the insight and feedback from CXOs whose peers we will be calling on.
Our two-day capstone event, Victory Forge, was our chance to piece together our experiences in hopes of closing a deal with our tough, tenured role players. Broken up into small teams, we had to secure an initial meeting, identify opportunities within a few short sales calls and execute a plan of action on the chosen opportunity or opportunities to pursue and close.
Tech Qualled provided me and other veterans with both an extremely valuable experience as well as high-quality sales training. My new manager has referred to Tech Qualled’s program to be like a “mini sales MBA” designed specifically for military veterans. Within a month following graduation from the program, I accepted a position as a Business Development Manager with CEB selling for their middle market HR practice. I would not have been able to break into sales at the level I did without a program like Tech Qualled.
The conventional way for JMO veterans to transition is to leverage recruiting firms and get a job in a role they can best sell you as. The better way forward is to identify what you really want to do and take big, bold steps to get there. If you are a veteran and you want to get into high-tech sales, mitigate the level of ambiguity and take your big, bold step with Tech Qualled.