Elizabeth Smith is Vice President of Sales at Unisys Federal Systems, and has over 25 years of experience working with the US Federal and State Governments, commercial systems integrators, and private health care and technology firms. Prior to joining Unisys, she was with Booz, Allen & Hamilton, Inc. as a management consultant for eight years.
WashingtonExec chatted with Smith about her role at Unisys, changes in the company, trends in federal sales, the importance of math and science, and more. Read on below for our interview with Elizabeth Smith.
WashingtonExec: Please tell us a little bit about your background and role at Unisys.
Elizabeth Smith: I’ve been in the federal market for pretty much all of my career. I have a Master’s in Public Health and a Bachelor’s degree in Science and Biology. I started my career in Washington as an intern at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). From there I went to Booz Allen and learned management consulting and to EDS where I learned sales. I came to Unisys two years ago when they decided to centralize federal sales I worked to stand up a strong services sales organization with a rebuilt pipeline of well-qualified deals. It is exciting to see the momentum building in our federal business unit.
WashingtonExec: How do you think a background in math and science has influenced your sales leadership?
Elizabeth Smith: I like to really get into the metrics of sales to make sure that we have very solid plans and very solid strategy based on things that we can prove. The science and math background taught me a lot of analytical approaches, so I have detailed plans that the teams can execute on and ensure that we are resourced correctly and are efficient.
About two years ago, we centralized sales. As part of that, we created new processes that bring together all of the federal divisions to support each other’s sales efforts and leverage the entire company’s portfolio of offerings. We hired a lot of new talent into our sales organization. We rebuilt our pipeline to include a significant focus on maintaining our base business while selectively targeting new opportunities to expand our client base.
WashingtonExec: What are some federal sales trends?
Elizabeth Smith: I think the major trend in sales is the need to bring government efficiencies and lower priced solutions to help customers with their budget issues. We foresaw these issues a few years ago and, in talking with our commercial business units, found that our global commercial clients had just weathered the same issues. So a key component of our sales strategy then was created to help our customers to leverage a lot of our commercial best practices into cost savings and more efficient use of IT.
WashingtonExec: What do you think a larger corporation can learn from smaller entrepreneurs?
Elizabeth Smith: Smaller businesses have to be very proactive as there is not a corporate structure that generates work for employees. There is also a minimum of meetings in more entrepreneurial settings. Larger corporations can definitely learn from this to try to maximize productivity from their employees.
WashingtonExec: What are some of the changes Unisys has made recently?
Elizabeth Smith: About two years ago, we centralized sales. As part of that, we created new
processes that bring together all of the federal divisions to support each other’s sales efforts and leverage the entire company’s portfolio of offerings. We hired a lot of new talent into our sales organization. We rebuilt our pipeline to include a significant focus on maintaining our base business while selectively targeting new opportunities to expand our client base. And now we are starting to see the results of these efforts with some key new wins such as our contract with IRS for storage as a service and our contract with GSA for database and middleware as a service.
WashingtonExec: How do you recruit top talent at Unisys?
Elizabeth Smith: Unisys is one of the few companies left that is a global systems integrator and is vendor-independent. We are also small enough where the salespeople can have a real impact on our decisions and our business success, and strong salespeople like our centralized model. Using my experience as an independent consultant working with dozens of companies to help them develop strategies and business development best practices, I developed a large network of contacts that has helped me recruit top folks.
One of my mentors early in my career told me that I should always have a job that either generates revenue or creates revenue. So my career in sales and delivery has always focused on being in one of those two categories.
WashingtonExec: How do you think the U.S. can get students more focused on STEM classes or careers?
Elizabeth Smith: I come from a long family history of people in science, engineering and medicine. Bringing people into those areas is really critical. It’s important to make sure that there is mentoring and career growth and recruitment programs for students in those kinds of focus areas. I also think that we need to be clearer about how our STEM education program ties to future job opportunities through internships. That is how I got my first job in this industry.
WashingtonExec: Who is someone you admire?
Elizabeth Smith: The person I think of most is Steve Jobs. What I liked about him is that he was a unique thinker who wasn’t afraid to be different or to have a different opinion than others. I think he also had tremendous vision and the ability to implement that vision.
WashingtonExec: How is Unisys using social media? Have you been able to pinpoint ROI?
Elizabeth Smith: Our company encourages both internal and external use of social media and blogs. Everyone from our CEO, to the president, to people in sales and portfolio are connected and blog regularly. We find it a great way to help connect a global company. It helps us with the time change differences. We use it to get questions answered internally as well as broadcast successes. Externally we use social media to interact with our customers and our teaming partners.
WashingtonExec: How has the industry changed since you started in federal contracting?
Elizabeth Smith: The industry has grown tremendously both in size and sophistication over the last few decades. There are people now who are retiring who have spent their entire careers in government contracting, which was not the case in the early 80’s. Over the years we have seen a steady increase in contracting dollars, and correspondingly the market grew. It is also increasingly active in the acquisition arena with many companies strategically buying into parts of the market. With the projected downturn, we are seeing the community become increasingly aggressive.
WashingtonExec: What phone app do you use most often?
Elizabeth Smith: I am an avid horseback rider, so I’m outside a lot. Probably the one that I use the most is the weather app.
WashingtonExec: What is something most people might not know about you?
Elizabeth Smith: One of the most interesting projects I worked on was the Presidential Task Force for VA/DOD Sharing, and I helped develop the vision and strategic themes of that process. I also really enjoy politics and have spent many years on the Hill and working with political strategists on the legislative process.
WashingtonExec: What is the best advice you have ever received (and from who)?
Elizabeth Smith: One of my mentors early in my career told me that I should always have a job that either generates revenue or creates revenue. So my career in sales and delivery has always focused on being in one of those two categories.