EDS HQ in Plano, TX

“You’ve got 10 minutes. Change my mind.”

Voice over IP

Cisco 7960 IP phone

Walk into Bank of America and you'll see Cisco IP telephones. Lots of them. Want to know how they got there?

Let me tell you my best sales story.

The first time I saw voice and video work over a data network was at our Cisco sales lab in Raleigh. My boss Matt Mullady was standing beside me, watching a demo, shaking his head. “This is amazing.” he said. “This is going to change everything.”

When Cisco acquired Selsius Systems, I started working with IP telephones and Voice over IP (VoIP). Later I became one of the first Consulting Sales Engineers for Cisco Unified Communications (voice, video, & data over a single network).

While telephony was new for me, migrating to VoIP was similar to network systems integration I'd done at John Deere a decade earlier.

In Dallas Tomorrow

EDS HQ in Plano, TX

In the MidAtlantic Sales Area, Bank of America was one of our best accounts. But when BofA decided to outsource their network systems we ran into a problem. EDS in Dallas was poised to win the contract ... and our Cisco team there had dropped the ball.

It was Saturday afternoon and I was in Greensboro with my family & parents. My pager went off. When that happens on Saturday it's not good. It was Matt.

“Hi Matt. What's up?”

“Hi Doug. What are you doing?”

“Umm ... I'm in Greensboro with my family, enjoying my day off.”

“What are you doing tomorrow?”

“Umm ... not enjoying my day off?”

“Sorry, but yeah. I need you down in Dallas tomorrow morning. We're going to loose the Bank of America voice network to Nortel.”

You've got 10 minutes.

Analog clock

I left Raleigh on the first flight Sunday morning and walked into EDS in Plano, TX a little before 10am.

The BofA account team – Jim and Vann - had gotten there on Saturday and were already doing damage control.

“Are we glad to see you. You've got to get in there and turn the deal around. This guy (the new EDS program manager for BofA) is going to sink us.”

I had a five minute briefing, no slides, and barely time to sip my coffee.

I walked into the conference room, expecting Jim and Vann to follow behind me. The project manager got up ... walked across the room ... and closed the door. It was just me and him.

“I don't know you. I don't know Cisco. I'm not sure I like Cisco. In fact, I'm not sure I even like you. I know Nortel, I like Nortel. You've got 10 minutes. Change my mind.”

A (Very) Short Story

4 dry erase markers

I took a second and gathered my thoughts. Then, picking up a couple of markers, I wiped off the whiteboard and started to draw.

I drew BofA's remote branch offices, corporate data network, server clusters ... everything I could think of. While I drew, I talked through a scenario of how we could replace their voice network and call centers.

I talked about local calling, long distance calling, and how to interface a new Unified Communications network to the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN). I also drew how calls would re-route if core parts of their data network failed.

I filled the whiteboard from one wall to the other.

Exactly ten minutes after I started, he said “OK. That's it. You're done.”

I thought to myself “Oh no, I just lost the account.”

Can we make money?

Pile of money

His next words startled me. “I like it. I'll give you two hours. Tell me how you're going to make money for us and save money for BofA.”

So I started to ask questions.

“How many times a year do they move staff?”

No answer.

I tried again. “Any idea?”

Stoic faced, he finally replied. “No, not really.”

“Ok, let me make some assumptions and see how it goes.” The EDS guy left the conference room. Jim and Vann walked back in and stared at the whiteboard.

I grabbed a chair and said “He liked it. But he's still being a jerk. We've got two hours to make EDS some money.”

About 1pm the program manager came back. We showed him how over 3-5 years we could make both EDS and Bank of America very happy. He looked up and with a slight nod said “You've got the business. We'll go with Cisco.”



I can't claim credit for closing a $60+ million deal (180,000 IP phones ... and _lots_ of networking gear).

A bunch of Cisco folks spent years piloting and installing Bank of America's new voice network ... but that Sunday morning was a tipping point.

So what did I learn?

One – drawing pictures can be more convincing than any Powerpoint slide deck.

Second – tell a good story and show proof - make it real. And if you really want to convince them, let them try it.

Matt was amazed when he saw a demo of Voice over IP, but he was blown away the first time he picked up a phone and made a call. So were our clients.

We built portable demo kits, demonstration centers, training rooms, and proof-of-concept labs to prove what we said was true. We gave our customers a WOW experience when they talked on a Cisco IP phone. In the end, I believe that's how Cisco beat Nortel, Avaya, and other competitors.

Category: Stories
Topics: Technology, Work & Career
Tags: Doug Foster


  1. Harlan Pedretti on 2012-12-22 at 11:07 pm

    Doug, It sounds like “you da man” on this one. They must have had a lot of faith in you to have you go one on one with this man. No matter how good the product, you need to be able to convince the customer that you have the best product. It sounds like you had the right demonstrations and were able to convince this man that you represented the best product. Good job!


    • Doug Foster on 2012-12-23 at 8:59 am

      Thanks Harlan. I don’t think it sunk in until the flight home about how big of a deal this one really was. I chalk the win up to being both a blessing and a bit of luck. It is kind of fun though to walk into a Bank of America branch – see a Cisco IP phone – and just smile.

  2. Roberta on 2012-12-23 at 7:21 am

    Excellent story!

    • Doug Foster on 2012-12-23 at 8:55 am

      Thanks Roberta! Oh – and it was Sunday – did I mention all the praying I did on the flight down that morning ;-).

  3. Pat Regan on 2012-12-23 at 9:16 am

    Wow you impressed me again. Have you ever thought of helping people quit smoking? You would be fantastic! The product you would have to sell is their good health. Think about it. Pat

    • Doug Foster on 2012-12-24 at 1:41 am

      Thanks Pat. Now there you go again … always thinking. You know, I’ll have to give that some good noodling. You realize – when the guy who taught me to “cut & paste” before computers could – makes a suggestion, I’ve learned to pay attention 😉 .

  4. L.E. Foster on 2012-12-25 at 8:33 pm

    Great story, Doug–
    I well remember that weekend, and the amount of time you spent leaning against a car in the parking lot talking to your boss, then coming back and telling us you had “a litlle job” you had to go on the next day. I’ve known you from the day you were born, but you still manage to amaze me every so often. Always remember – when a door closes, another opens, and often with greater opportunities than before.
    My very best wishes always, Dad

    • Doug Foster on 2012-12-25 at 11:02 pm

      Hah! Thanks Dad. I forgot how long I kept talking to Matt that day – I think I was trying to talk him out of it ;-). Probably a good thing I didn’t, huh?

      You’re so right. Didn’t you tell me that on a cloudy day all you had to do was fly up high enough and the sun was shining somewhere?

  5. David Lewis on 2012-12-30 at 11:19 am

    This is a fantastic story, Doug – and lots of sales people (especially the techie guys like us) still haven’t learned to paint a picture and tell a story in order to win big. We simply can’t talk protocols and hardware specs and expect to convince customers. When we show them a real roadmap of benefits, and how we’ll get the job done and make them successful, we improve our chances 1,000 percent. Nowadays, when I walk into a tire store, or a retail chain store, or almost any bank, and see Cisco phones, I am instantly taken back to the very early days when we were doing the first roadshows in 1999 – 2000. You have a right to be proud of your success with what was then – and may still be – the largest deployment of this technology. It was fun being right there on the leading edge of what has become the industry standard. We are now visiting customers who made the wrong decision eight or ten years ago, and they are adopting the right solution this time around. And despite what our detractors say, we never say “I told you so.” Nor do we act arrogant about it. We show up, solve business problems with complex technology, and support it after it’s installed. We were part of a team that is unmatched in the world of high-tech; and we were also in the right place at the right time. Those detractors and competitors, as you know, are all seeking jobs with the business partners and the manufacturer offering the best technology solutions. That speaks volumes about how fortunate we all were to have been there on the inside during those years. We are also thankful to our families for their flexibility and understanding when we were absent from family events while away on this mission.

    • Doug Foster on 2012-12-31 at 2:01 pm

      Thanks for the great comments Dave. It’s fun to look back on that time isn’t it? Matt was right, it did change things – lots. I can still remember the first time the telecom director from ECU picked up an IP phone and called his counterpart at NCSU over an Internet trunk. He looked at me a said “This sounds great! It sounds better than a regular phone.” I smiled, nodded, and replied “You’re right. Want to know why?” It was the experience that sold him, not me.

  6. Sabrina Finkbeiner on 2012-12-31 at 7:09 pm

    You are amazing! See you Friday at 8 am!

    • Doug Foster on 2013-01-01 at 11:17 am

      Thanks Sabrina. Looking forward to a great new year with the Athens Business Alliance!

  7. Dave Corley on 2013-12-20 at 1:52 pm


    I did a search on Selsius phones today. Your link was near the top of the list. What a story! Fantastic to walk into BofA (the banks and Merrill Lynch offices!) today and Cisco brand on phones throughout the company. As a trailblazer – you helped make this happen.

    9/11 offered another story as you know. While the twin towers were in flames but still standing, the Lehman Brothers CIO was running down the stairs of the south tower, calling his staff to take disaster recovery steps. Lehman IT had a significant presence in the tower and surrounding buildings in Manhattan. Within a day, the Cisco sales, support and engineering teams delivered an outline to Lehman of how they could quickly recover business operations. No time for powerpoint slides. Whiteboards and buckets of coffee were the tools of that day. The CIO knew he could trust the Cisco team to execute responsively and efficiently. And they did. Large financials took notice of the BofA, Merrill Lynch, Lehman examples. Chase, Fidelity, Morgan Stanley and others came to Cisco for their IP telephony solutions as a result of these early successes. There are now over 50 million Cisco IP phones deployed throughout the world because of resourceful folks like you.


    • Doug Foster on 2014-01-02 at 8:17 am

      Hi Dave! Wow, near the top for Selsius … I’m humbled.

      The day after Cisco acquired Selsius I was in Dallas looking at what you guys had. I was impressed. It is amazing how it grew from custom protocols like SCCP and an MS Access database into what it is today. We pushed it because we believed it was the future. And it is. At the time I remember telling other folks “This is just like when we went through the first mainframe to PC migration in the 80’s – and it’s going to do nothing but grow.” With you leading the product and us in the field selling/feeding back requirements – it was the best example of a team effort that I can think of. Kudos to you Dave!

  8. Dave Corley on 2013-12-20 at 2:05 pm

    Another story…

    I was fortunate enough to be in the lab with four other Selsius employees in June, 1997, when the first call was made from one Selsius IP phone to another. We could not believe the quality. As voice guys, we had almost convinced ourselves that voice could not be carried with quality over ethernet. That day, everything changed. We knew we had a winner on our hands. Twelve months later, Nortel made an offer to acquire Selsius. The employees knew that Nortel would put Selsius in a corner to die. The employees rejected the Nortel offer. A day later, Mario Mazzola led the Cisco offer to acquire Selsius. We were jubilant. We knew the entire Cisco team would support and grow what we had started. In our first production year at Selsius (’98), we sold three thousand phones. Today, Cisco manufacturers and sells three thousand IP phones every hour.

    • Doug Foster on 2014-01-02 at 8:23 am

      Three thousand IP phones an hour? No wonder I see them in so many movies :-). I can imagine the excitement on your faces.

      The first time I had the telecomm director at East Carolina University call his counterpart at North Carolina University on a trunk carried over Internet2, you should have seen his face. He looked at me and said “This sounds better than a regular voice call!!” I replied “You’re right Woody, let me tell you why … “

  9. Mike Curtis on 2014-06-24 at 3:42 pm

    A great story Doug, and I remember when this happened. It was a huge win and is a great example of getting the right people involved in the sales process at the right time.
    The picture of the old Cisco Raleigh sales lab brings back a lot of memories.
    Some things never change (a page from Matt on the weekend is still a sign that things are going very bad somewhere 🙂 )…
    The success of VOIP at ECU is also a story that is worth telling and you were critical to that win as well. If I remember correctly, ECU happened before BoA and gave you total credibility that the Cisco VOIP solution would work for BoA.

    Thanks Doug!

    • Doug Foster on 2014-06-27 at 12:04 pm

      Hey Mike! Thanks for the comments. Speaking of Matt & the Raleigh office, did you see this old photo BoB took of Matt? 🙂

      I need to find out where ECU’s VoIP migration is at. Did they ever shut down the DMS100 yet? I haven’t talk to Martin in way too long.

      Yup, It’s really fun to walk into a BofA branch office and see a Cisco IP phone. I smile. Good times.