Insights, opportunity, and one impeccable swan dive: An interview with Veritas SVP Michael Cremen

Michael Cremen.jpgWith any fresh professional role, some time is required to feel at ease in its day-to-day efforts and interactions. And while it’s common to encounter suggested definitive timeframes to adjust – “It’ll take you about six months to settle-in” – differences among people often amount to different experiences.

For Senior Vice President of Americas Sales, Michael Cremen, the wade-in period at Veritas Technologies looked more like an impeccable swan dive.

I’ve had the opportunity to get to know Michael and his staff through my work supporting Americas Sales on the Veritas Social and Community team. Even at the close of my first conversation with Michael, I knew his background and resulting perspectives were worthy of highlight; accessible yet aspirational, Michael’s approach to sales aligns to the values of Veritas Technologies and its representatives across the globe. 

A background bolstered by the ability to offer business insights.

Alexandra: You began your career as a Divisional Accountant at Hitachi Data Systems – a start that would eventually carry you through over 20 years with the company. What inspired this professional loyalty?

Michael: My loyalty was inspired by two things – belief in the company and its charter, and its possibilities; the vision for the company was clear and I wanted to be a part of it. I was also invigorated by the evident opportunities to learn – to engage my curiosity. But that’s a bigger story. 

Alexandra: If you’re willing, I’d welcome hearing the bigger story.  

Michael: I was initially recruited to join the accounting division of Hitachi Data Systems. While the financial focus aligned to my academic background, I was almost immediately drawn to other areas of the business, quite literally. 

When you exited the elevators onto the floor of the Hitachi building, to the right you had the accounting department; it was a subdued area of the business, and the office setting reflected this. But to the left of the elevators you encountered the sales department, and the feeling of the floor was palpable. I sensed the sales environment would offer a challenge – a chance to apply my skills in innovative ways, and I wanted in. 

I began seeking opportunities to host meetings in the sales department supporting the representatives. And with my knowledge of commercial data, I was able to provide a unique perspective on existing and potential customer accounts – a perspective bolstered by business analytics, or insights.

Soon, representatives were actively seeking my involvement. Because of the value I was able to bring to customer meetings, I’d established trust among the sales staff of Hitachi and its leading customers.

Within my first year, the divisional Vice President offered me a sales role spanning Long Island and Westchester, New York. I remember couching my acceptance in a comment on my experience: “I don’t have a focus on sales.” He responded, “You sell every day and you don’t even know it.” He was right.

The advantage of doing things differently.

Alexandra: So, your New York ventures were successful. What about your approach set you apart from your peers?

Michael: Let me tell you how different I was – I was not technically savvy, and could not carry a technical conversation. A lot of our sales representatives were brought over from IBM, and their customer conversations were focused on the technology; they could explain the technical value of Hitachi products in ways that were undeniably impressive, but may not have instantly interested those outside IT.

But me – I was listening and sharing business insights with my customers; offering balance sheets personalized to a customer’s business, including details on their primary competitors and industry predictions. I presented Hitachi solutions as solutions to our customers’ unique environments, becoming a collaborator in seeing their organizational goals to fruition, not just another individual with an invoice.

By the time I closed my New York tenure, my sales records were some of the strongest in the region. I can earnestly say this success was due to my ability to provide business insights. With this attention to and awareness of my customer’s companies, I inspired confidence and trust, and ultimately won long-term business that scaled.

Identifying opportunities to provide true value to Veritas customers and partners. 

Alexandra: That brings us back to the topic of “insights” – a theme that has touched every aspect of your career. Can you describe the power of insights?

Michael: To provide insights is to teach. I believe the most meaningful aspect of a solutions relationship is in the act of teaching – educating your solutions organization, sales representatives, and ultimately your customers and partners. Teaching establishes credibility and trust above all else, and quite frankly, it fills a void.

Let me explain: Our customers today encounter massive challenges in seeking a solution, with prospects feeling less compelling. What they need is someone to help them break beyond the noise; to understand where to go, yes, but also why. Insight selling is helping customers understand what they don’t yet know, deriving value from their data in ways they’d never even considered.

And insight selling isn’t just external – it can and should be internalized at a company. All members of an organization, from its human resources staff to its engineers and sales representatives should understand the ‘why’ behind the sale.

Alexandra: You have experience implementing customer-focused initiatives in multifaceted global sales environments with success – an impressive feat given the human nature of insight selling. What’s the most important facet of a customer relationship; what drives the human side of sales?

Michael: The most important aspect in engaging customers is being disruptive – and realizing disruption is not an unreasonably intense position, but one of a trusted advisor. Don’t ask your customers, “What keeps you up at night?” Instead, seek to understand your customer’s business and its people; solving customer problems in a collaborative fashion is the greatest opportunity for the sales representative.

People talk about relationships, and people will often say, “People buy on relationships.” But a relationship is created once a customer is committed, because we’ve earned that commitment. What Veritas provides – our products and solutions – then become the happenstance outcome of a compelling customer and provider relationship. 

Looking ahead at Veritas Technologies.

Alexandra: The future at Veritas is bright. What do you find most inspiring about the possibilities before the company?

Michael: The possibilities before Veritas Technologies aren’t fully defined, and that is what I find most inspiring; I don’t believe we’ve yet defined the greatness we can accomplish. There’s a plan and vision, and we’re proceeding, driven by a robust strategy. 

And from an industry perspective, the value of data is evolving. Quarter over quarter, we see new, incredible opportunities – opportunities for our customers, partners, and for Veritas. We’re the enterprise leader, and we’ve never been more relevant.

People will always be the most important aspect of any company, but next, it’s data and the resulting business insights. Being the source of these insights – this is how we will help our customers create value.

This is how we will continue to thrive, at Veritas.