An interview with Brian Shimkus, a former engineer who made the transition into IT sales and hasn’t looked back 

Brian Shimkus is an Account Executive at Dell. He is from Gilbert, Arizona, and has held various tech roles throughout a 20+ year career in Information Technology. We talked to Brian about his engineering background, how and why he chose to make the transition into sales, and what it’s like to work in IT tech sales in today’s ever-changing world. 

You’ve been selling for over 10 years. How did you get your start in sales? When did you know it would be your career?

I started my sales journey as a presales engineer, supporting “Tier 1” customers including Commercial, State, Local, and K12 sectors. Having been a customer myself, I always appreciated working with sales teams who understood my industry, presented innovative solutions, and provided valuable insights. It was during a challenging project with a customer that I realized my passion was for showcasing how technology, combined with people and processes, could genuinely solve real-world problems and bring immense satisfaction.

You sell IT services and cloud infrastructure for Dell. But you also have an engineering background. Do you have to be technical (speak code) to sell IT/cloud solutions?  If someone wanted to break into IT/cloud sales where should they start?

In the realm of technical sales, one must be adept at speaking multiple “languages.” Interacting with various stakeholders like application owners, infrastructure teams, and business process owners requires tailoring your communication to their specific needs. Some are deeply technical and seek configuration details, while others focus solely on business outcomes, emphasizing risk reduction, cost savings, and simplicity. While a technical background is beneficial, it's not an absolute requirement. Understanding business and corporate finance basics can also prove invaluable in comprehending how organizations function. For those pursuing technical sales, there are plenty of online courses available, such as those offered by CompTIA. Community college-level courses are also a great way to dive in without too much upfront investment.

You’ve been selling tech solutions nearly your entire career. How has tech sales changed since you started 10 years ago?

Over the past decade, I've witnessed a shift from point products to comprehensive solutions in the industry. Integrating multiple vendors can be overwhelming for organizations. Decision-makers are now more concerned with complete solutions and aligning technology purchases with their business goals. Working for a company with a diverse portfolio has transformed my approach to tech sales. Unlike earlier in my career, where we had limited offerings, my present organization covers multiple lines of business applicable to a wide range of customers. This shift requires a mindset focused on end-to-end solution selling and delivering direct business outcomes.

What does a typical work day look like for you? Walk us through it. 

Each day in technical sales is unique but shares common themes: meeting with customers to understand their priorities and upcoming projects while exploring how our products/services can help achieve their goals. Internally, we engage in product updates, industry and technology trends discussions, account planning sessions, and more. Additionally, I actively participate in post-sales efforts, ensuring smooth transitions from the pre-sales phase to implementation teams. With an average of 10 to 15 customer-facing meetings per week, time management becomes crucial, especially when dealing with any unexpected customer satisfaction issues or “fire drills” that arise.

What's the one thing you’ve found that helps you be successful in sales? 

Active listening and understanding the unique priorities and needs of different stakeholders is essential. Whether it's an Infrastructure Manager or someone from Procurement, comprehending what matters most to each stakeholder is key. Staying up-to-date with the latest industry trends and news is critical in remaining relevant to customers. Valuable information can be gleaned from various resources, including CIO-related newsletters, magazines, and industry-specific publications or user groups.

What are your long term career goals? Early retirement or future CRO? 

Making it to the end of the fiscal year  🙂

Joking aside, my long-term goal is to excel in the sales arena, supporting other sales teams with complex opportunities. Within our organization, the "Office of the CTO" provides internal enablement and customer-facing services. A role within that division would offer me the chance to enhance the skills of fellow sellers while continuing to engage with customers. Additionally, I find the blend of technical expertise, business outcomes, and customer feedback in Product/Program management intriguing and aspire to explore that avenue as well.

What is your favorite sales movie?

When it comes to sales movies, it's hard not to mention Glengarry Glen Ross, which depicts the highs and lows of the sales profession and the demanding expectations of zealous sales leaders. Another noteworthy film is Boiler Room, a masterclass in cold-calling and high-pressure sales tactics. On a more inspiring note, The Pursuit of Happyness is an uplifting story of overcoming challenges and achieving success in the sales world.

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