Creating Sales Capacity: Iron Mountain Meets RFP Deadline

How does a RFP team effectively create capacity for sales? Learn about RFPs and how Elise Gilbert of Iron Mountain creates sales capacity.

Published on 27 October, 2015 | Last modified on 1 November, 2022

What is your role at Iron Mountain?
I am the Director of Sales Support Services at Iron Mountain for North America and now, Western Europe.  My team of 20 focuses on easing the administrative burden within the sales cycle. Our charter is to “create capacity for sales”, so they can focus on core selling activities. In a sense, we do all the heavy lifting for the 600+ person Sellers at Iron Mountain.  We give them back time to focus on selling.

What are Sales Support Services?

Our team charter is to create capacity for sales. We are all focused on easing the administrative burden for their team. It’s all of those tasks that would fall into the traditional job responsibility of a sales rep, but in doing so, takes them away from selling and building those relationships. This includes responsibilities such as creating pricing for customers and prospects, understanding what a customer is already purchasing from us, and getting copies of existing contracts. We also manage our sales content platform, the customer reference platform and operational contractual documents like statements of work and the business terms within agreements. Sales Support Services creates capacity for 600+ Iron Mountain salespeople in North America, Canada and Western Europe.

How did you get involved in the sales support function?

It started at Iron Mountain in 2004 when I was the Manager of Sales Tools, as part of the Sales Operations team which was just starting to be built. I was focused primarily on CRM and our proactive proposal tool and to keep sales accountable to disciplines like forecasting. It was a lot of stick and not a lot of carrot before it began to evolve.

You’ve been in Sales and Sales Support related roles for 22 years.  How has the discipline changed during that time?

It really started as a function to react and be an administrative type of support for sales. That has since transitioned into more of a proactive approach that adds value to the sales process.

What was one of the first challenges you tackled in your new position?

One milestone occurred in 2007 when we realized our biggest pain point: RFPs and the response process. Sales was spending too much time managing responses themselves. This became a major opportunity to create some capacity for our sales team. The Proposal Services team was born.

Was there a particular event that led to that realization?

Yes. In late 2007, we had just built an enterprise sales team. Iron Mountain worked with global leaders, and these companies issued high frequencies of RFPs.

One day, one of our senior sales leaders saw typos and bad graphics within a three-ring binder that was falling apart and it was for a very important deal. Sales reps were basically putting these together themselves. Everyone who got involved was working at their maximum bandwidth, even over the weekend at times. You had a lot of people working on these, but none of which were proposal specialists. We all sat down and decided that it was finally time to create a centralized team.

What were the immediate results of creating such a team?

As we discussed laying the groundwork for creating the team, reps were spending 30-40% of their time on non-core selling activities. The immediate results of this team created capacity for sales and gave them their time back.

In addition to utilizing software such as SAVO for sales and proposal content we relied on Mimeo for the printing and distribution of our proposals, eliminating any more binders that would fall apart.

Mimeo as a tool allowed my team to be highly efficient in building these proposals and responding to more as a team. As the relationship with Mimeo quickly grew, we relied on them as an extension of our own team.

Are there any memorable responses?

I recall submitting a proposal and missed the 10:00pm cut off by 5 minutes. I picked up the phone to Mimeo Customer Care: ‘Oh my gosh, it’s due tomorrow in Alabama at 2:00pm, help!’ Well, it missed the FedEx truck, my fault. But you guys put it in your own truck, drove it to Alabama and delivered the proposal. Mimeo did that, and we won the RFP!

What other benefits has your organization received as a result of creating this team?

Creating this team has significantly helped to attract top sales talent. When a sales professional is evaluating companies to work for, we can now, in a sense, say “Hey, we’re better than any other company in the sales opportunities we offer. Look at the level of sales support you have at your disposal.” Sales professionals don’t want to do administrative tasks or have the responsibilities of a proposal specialists. They want to sell. Iron Mountain enables our salesforce to do just that.

What are some website, associations or resources that help you stay current in your role?

The Association of Proposal Management Professionals (APMP) has been a key to helping us build our strong Proposal Services team. For Sales Enablement and Sales Support topics I leverage Sales Benchmark Index, Corporate Executive Board, SiriusDecisions, various LinkedIn groups, the SAVO User Group community and other topical and timely resources.

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