Profile

Jacob Thomas

IMSE Undergrad Class of 2016

Trane – Ingersoll Rand

 

Trane is a global leader of manufacturing large, custom, commercial HVAC systems. These systems center on the heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning systems that make the air and space around us comfortable. My area of focus is on the controls behind these systems, ensuring that they meet the occupant requirements as efficiently as possible.

 

Current role: Account Manager (Sales), Building Automation Systems and Controls

 

How I get to my current role:

  • Sigma Space Intern – NASA James Webb Space Telescope Summers of 2013-2014
  • Industrial Energy Auditor – Industrial Assessment Center 08/2014 – 05/2016
  • Associate Account Manager, Controls – Trane 06/2016 – 07/2016
  • Controls Graduate Training Program – Trane 08/2016 – 12/2016
  • Account Manager, Controls – Trane 01/2017 – Present

 

A day in life of Technical Account Managers (Technical Sales) –

You will likely hear this a lot, but there are no “typical days” for most professionals today, but in particular salespeople or “Account Managers” have incredibly diverse workdays. Some days, I am out of the office all of the time meeting with customers. Some of these customers may be friendly, and I am checking in. Some may be prospects that I am trying to figure out how our business interests align, and others are furious at me or my company and I have to manage the situation. For me, these customers range from the direct owner/operator of our control systems, the consulting design engineers who specify our systems to be the basis of design in competitive bids, or the mechanical contractors who purchase and install our systems on competitive bids. This a brief look at the “direct” vs “indirect” sales avenues, and I have to try and handle both to build a pipeline of work.

 

Other days, I am working from the office. These are mostly to coordinate big jobs that are coming down the pipe in a week or so. Very few sales at this level are made by oneself. You are almost always going to sell as a team, where each account manager goes after one leg of the “stool” (owners, engineers, contractors). So typically on Mondays, we have a group sales meeting to get everyone’s input on big jobs that will have lots of hands in the cookie jar.

 

I often work from home in the time that I am not on site interacting with customers or at the office. I find that I can get more work done from home because there are less distracting coworkers around me. It also allows me to manipulate my commuting schedule which is critical here in Atlanta. Whatever data I gather from either customers or coworkers in the mornings, I bring back to my home office and work on it in the evening until I am done. Some days this is a lot of work, and others not so much. On the “not so much” days I will finish work from home ending typically at 5:00. On the days where I am slammed with a lot of work its closer to around 9:00.

 

Before I started as a full-time account manager, Trane put me through 18 weeks of training, with 14 weeks of that being held in St. Paul, MN. In this training I basically went through “HVAC Bootcamp”, took part in sales training courses, and got to meet the various product managers for the company. This was a great experience that helped me integrate into the role and organization as smoothly as possible.

 

Below is an example of a recent day I’ve had.

Thursday, 4/27/17 5:30 AM

I needed to wake up early today since I was driving out to a customer site about 2 hours away from my house. I don’t typically drive that far, but this was a special circumstance. We have a customer that is doing renovations to their building, and they need to move a control panel over 3 feet. They wanted to get a technician on site to give them the A-OK to move forward. I wanted to be on site when this happened for a number of reasons:

 

  1. It was an opportunity to get out of the office and see what actually happens in the field. There is much more to learn from the technicians actually installing and servicing the systems that I sell than reading a book or resource in the

 

  1. I wanted to establish a relationship, and show my commitment to this customer. When you are starting off in sales, you don’t typically get a lot of great accounts. Therefore, you have to go the extra mile and cast a wide net to develop a list of accounts to call on. It turned out that this was a larger customer than I expected, and they were doing a lot of renovation work, so there could be opportunity down the

 

  1. I had engaged another younger account manager on the equipment side about this job because it was likely his mentor’s old customer. He had no knowledge about it but asked for me to provide them with his business cards in case they had an equipment issue. He has pulled me in before on other opportunities, so it was only fair and right that I do the same for him. In reality, I will probably get more from him pulling me into jobs instead of it being the other way around, so I have to bend backwards a little at the

 

So I woke up at 5:30, got ready, and then hit the road at around 06:00 to get there around 08:00.

 

8:30 AM

Because I had forgotten about how horrible Atlanta traffic is, and I missed a turn, I ended up getting to the site 30 minutes later than expected. The good thing was that my tech was not supposed to show up until 08:30, so aiming for a 30 minute early arrival ended up helping me out. In my opinion, you should always plan to arrive 30 minutes early to a customer site. Reasons include: exhibit A above, the easiest way to lose a customer is to waste their time, and when you get to the site 30 minutes early, you can always make calls or respond to emails in the time in between, so there’s no lost productivity.

 

I enter the site and begin catching up with my tech who got there slightly earlier than myself.

 

After spending time soaking in the situation, I was able to learn a bit about how our techs tie in multiple system controllers into a single panel. I also got to personally know one of my techs, Joey, and he gave me some insight into whom to take care of and what to focus on as a salesman. His biggest advice to me was to spend time with the techs who install the systems (he is a post install service tech) because those are the guys who will bail me out when I sell a bad job, which is bound to happen. He also told me to dig into the issues surrounding system security, so that I can be fluent when I talk to customers and their IT staff. IT Security is typically the biggest concern for customers of advanced building automation systems.

 

10:00AM

I check my email before I leave and realize that there are some fires that I need to put out. So as I’m driving back to the office I stop by a McDonald’s on the way and stop to use the WiFi.

 

At the moment, I needed to help out a consulting engineer with the design of a remote display screen for an HVAC unit serving an operating room. The units were purchased with the screens mounted on the units…but those are located on the roof. So the screen isn’t really of much use. To compound that, the surgeons had no way to see the real-time temperature and humidity in the operating rooms, so they were quite irate about this.

 

The issue I needed to solve was: is it possible to remotely mount the display screen away from the unit, and can there also be a dial-pad temp/hum sensor located in the operation room in addition to the TD7 screen? This would allow for the remote control screen to be located inside the hospital where it is easier to access, and would also provide a way for the surgeons to see what’s happening in the room in real time.

 

In order to figure this out, I called some more experienced counterparts to get their knowledge on this. My gut said that you could remotely mount the screen, but I needed to be sure. And if that was true, I needed to figure out how far the screen could be mounted. The bigger questions for me was combining the room sensor with the TD7.

 

The first issue was easy to address, because the answer was right in the product info sheet listed on our company’s internal website. For the latter issue, I ended up needing to call central technical support to answer it. They were able to tell me that this was possible, and that the surgeons would be able to control the temperature setpoint from the simple room thermostat, but they wouldn’t be able to set a humidity setpoint or schedule the unit to run on/off. But this ability should suffice for the application, so when I told the engineer he was relieved because the job had already sold and he would’ve been hung up on this issue.

 

This activity right here is what most of my time is spent on. I try to work with the consulting engineers the most because they are the gatekeepers to placing Trane product as the basis of design on new construction. The more that you help them solve their problems and familiarize them with your products and services, the more likely they are to spec you as the basis.

 

When we are listed as a preferred vendor, it basically gives us an inside shot to win the job because we will always be more cost competitive when bidding jobs that are intended to be our products compared to the competition. The competition can still win the job if we get greedy and put in too much profit margin, but it makes our chances much better. Ideally, you find an attribute that your company can only do, or do at a huge cost advantage that has a serious tangible benefit to the end-user of the system.

 

If you try to be slick and convince the engineer to put in a system that essentially “flat specs” your product (locks you in completely) without any additional tangible benefit to the end user, word gets out quickly that this consulting engineering firm and this vendor will basically lock you in and nobody likes being told what to do, or what to buy. The better you are at identifying the legitimate, practical, and vastly better system design practices, the more you make everyone happy, and the more work that you can secure with less stress.

 

11:00 AM

Leave McDonalds to drive back to my office.

 

During the car ride, I have a discussion (on a hands free device) over the phone with the lead Sales Support manager. He wanted to get my opinion on a training class I had attended in Baltimore the week before, because he had gotten some negative feedback that it was a waste of time. I shared my opinions with him about how the course could be restructured to be more beneficial for certain target segments. The issue I thought was they used a “one size fits all” training course which would only be useful for the most basic of users. Most of the operators of our systems were former technicians, so they already know the easy stuff. They just need to personalize the training experience a little better.

 

I also discussed with him my efforts to develop a standardized letter to send to customers regarding a nearly obsolete product line. Surprisingly, there was no standard template to be used with all of Trane’s customers across the country, so I ended up having to foot that responsibility myself. For a new account manager, calling on existing customers with older systems is essentially a goldmine for system upgrade jobs. These are a great way to get work right away and to build my own relationships, so I have been very adamant about moving on this issue. I asked him to give me his input on the letter so I could make the proper corrections to the message and verbiage so I could start sending it out to customers.

 

12:30 PM

Get back to the office and have some discussion with colleagues about what I just did. Mostly I needed to update the counterpart I had mentioned earlier to let him know that I had followed through on his request. I also discussed signing up for a golf league and how they make equipment selections, which I may end up having to do in the future. This is where I make sure to spend some time with my colleagues, so that I am still in the loop just enough, but not spending too much time with water cooler talk.

 

1:00 PM

Begin typing up this day-in-the-life letter up to this point.

 

2:00 PM

Need to drop off my old apartment keys after I had finally moved into my house. I also needed to get my cars and home bundled together for insurance to try and save some money. After this I head home early to avoid traffic and work from home for the rest of the evening.

 

2:30 PM

Change of plans. There were new drawings released for an older job that I had put together a controls package for. My equipment teammate Scott had asked me to review the new drawings by 3:00PM so that I could send a list of questions through the contracting chain. I head back to the office from the apartment where I dropped my keys off since it was on the way home anyway.

 

3:30 PM

I reviewed the drawings and saw no changes that would have affected our scope of work. I make sure that I communicate that to everybody internally and double check on pricing to make sure we are consistent. They then take my input and finalize their proposal to send to the mechanical contractors on this job. I leave the office and try to escape the traffic.

 

4:00PM

Get home and look over finances. I use Mint for tracking my expenditures because it automatically tracks everything and compares it to your budgets that are set each month. Pay my mortgage and other bills.

 

5:00 PM

Talk with my wife for an hour until she heads off to work. She works as a night shift nurse at the moment so I try to spend some time with her before she leaves, and then I work a little after.

 

6:00

I begin to fill out what we call a TIP sheet, which is a “Transitioning Into Procurement” sheet. This TIP package is what I need to fill out to inform the assigned project manager and engineer of what I sold. Once I fill out the TIP sheet, about a week later a TIP meeting will be scheduled, and that’s where I explain the system sold and have my PM and PE scour over the details. This is the final stage before we begin actual work on installing the systems, and we try to find potential landmines ahead of time.

 

If there is anything that I missed in the pricing proposal, I will either need to find a way to remove another portion of the job scope or reduce our profit margin. Ideally, I involve my PMs and Engineers early in the process so that I don’t have many of these types of issues went it gets transitioned. This is a really critical activity because as a Controls Account Manager if the project slips due to misses in an pre-sale estimate, then the project fulfillment team with back-charge my commission code and they will take money out of my next commission check.

 

7:00

Today was the first day of the 2017 NFL Draft. There was a college student at an engineering firm who I referred to be hired by Trane, and he is coming to work for us in the fall. He invited me over to watch the draft with his friends and family and I felt that it was a good idea to try and connect with my future colleague and get his input on how to work with firms like his. We watched the draft for the first 20 or so picks and then after discussed various strategies to grow Trane Controls in our local market. This was extremely valuable because he knew a lot more about the construction design process and how we can inject ourselves into that process to get in front of the actual customer and operator of our controls.

11:00

Head back home and go to bed immediately.

 

Note:

This day was particularly busy. It looks like it was a 12 hour workday, but really it was like 10 because of all the driving that I did. I try to make the most of my time in car by listening to podcasts that I like. This way, I get to spend some personal time in the car with no-one able to bother me.

 

Why choose technical sales?

There are a number of reasons why I think that technical sales is one of the best places to start a career:

1.      Complex Sales Skills

 

  1. In my opinion, the single most valuable skill in business is sales. Nothing happens until someone sells something. If you are the one that has the ability to bring in consistent, high profit work and grow a business, you are likely one of the most valuable people in that

 

  1. Learning how to sell is critical to life. Ever have to convince your significant other to do something around the house? You have to sell them on it. Ever need to have someone give you a better interest rate on a mortgage? You have to sell them on it. Sales is all about finding what it is that your “customer” really, truly needs. It is much more about learning and listening than it is preaching and

 

  1. The other wonderful thing about sales is that you really can’t make excuses for why you are underperforming. This may seem scary to some people, but in one way or another your contribution will catch up to you. Corporations are continuously downsizing and looking at employee productivity more than ever. The last thing I would want is to have a false sense of security around my job and have my world fall apart. In Sales, you do not have that potential outcome, because you succeed or fail in real

 

2.      Implementing Tangible Solutions

  1. I am in the business of selling solutions. I work with customers who don’t understand what is going on inside their buildings. The maintenance staff is tasked with maintaining older and older buildings, with less and less money, and not enough young technicians to fill the gap. Safe to say, many of them are stressed beyond belief, or have given up for the most part. My job is to change that.

 

  1. Really, we can sell anything to solve a problem. A building technician gets horrible cell service in his mechanical room? I can look into different cell service boosters, get quotes, buy the one at the right price/quality, place a fair profit margin on it, sell it to the customer, follow through on installation, and the end result is a happier customer. You really learn how to help people using your technical and process engineering abilities, and get paid a lot of money in process!

 

  1. My favorite part of the job is when I can provide insight to a customer that is having everything thrown on their plate. And instead of just saying “Well I recommend you implement X, Y, Z procedures to streamline your process by W% points”, I’m actually on the hook for making it happen. Because in order to make it happen, I have to sell and install the product, which is the only way I get paid. You have a lot more accountability, but that is why you get paid a lot

 

  1. Sales really forces you to like and appreciate other people, which just makes life more fulfilling in general. Unless you plan on screwing people over all the time, but that is not a formula for long-term success. In today’s connected world, everything follows you, and people learn really quickly to not trust or work with

 

3.      Money:

 

  1. I agree with people that say money isn’t everything, but when push comes to shove, it certainly means a lot. I cannot think of any other job that allows you to earn significant, almost guaranteed income at such a young age. You still have to perform, but if you are driven to grow and learn, this is the best job to have in my
  2. When you are fresh out of college and have a lot of energy and no kids, you can almost throw yourself completely into the job, which accelerates the whole process. For a couple of years, you will actually make less than your other counterparts from engineering school. But if you throw everything you have at the right segments and customers, within 2-3 years you will fly past everyone from an earnings standpoint. In my office, there are multiple 26-28 year olds earning

$150-200k in this Account Manager position.

  1. The really nice thing about earning a lot of money at a young age is that it allows you to invest a lot and take advantage of compounding interest. By the time you are 30-35, you could have so much saved up that you no longer are obligated to work, which gives you a lot of flexibility in regards to what type of work you do, and when you do it. You’ll never stop working because in order to be here you have to have a strong drive to grow, but you no longer have that monkey on your back that many people carry for the rest of their

What’s the end goal?

My end goal is to work in this role and industry for about 10 years, and then try and start my own ventures. I save and invest most of my earnings, so in 10 years’ time I will have a big “nest egg” to sit on and buffer that “in the red” start-up period. I am also married to a Registered Nurse and hopeful Nurse Practitioner, so by that point her earnings alone will be enough to cover the cost of our living. She has the guaranteed, solid cash flow, and I chase after the high earning potential opportunities. But who knows, right now this job is a lot of fun and the longer you stay in it the less time consuming it becomes. I may find that I really love this job, but I feel like I would like to take a break after I make use of my youthful twenty-something energy.

Most surprising thing that I didn’t expect coming out of college:

If you act professionally and strive to add value, most people treat you like an equal peer. I was surprised at how easy it is to get along with people in their 40-50s. It’s a little different with those in their 60s, but they are going to be retired soon anyway, so just treat them with the respect they deserve until then.

Least favorite thing about Corporate:

Being in the office. I avoid it like the Plague. Try to hit the road and be in front of customers as much as possible.

 

My 2 Cents

Don’t let others convince you that “college is the time to relax and have a good time!” Your entire life should be the period of “having a good time”.

If you think these 4 or so particular years are it for “fun”, then that’s just a super miserable outlook.

If you do not 100% enjoy your role in Corporate America, have a plan to get out, or find a way to make it fun. Don’t just shrug your shoulders and say “Well I guess that’s how it is. Everybody else lives that way.”

Find joy in working toward a grand goal or valuable skill that almost everyone else overlooks.

Also: Don’t be a suckered consumer. True joy comes from meaningful creation, no

Contact Us

We're not around right now. But you can send us an email and we'll get back to you, asap.

Not readable? Change text.

Start typing and press Enter to search