I’d been at BloomReach for about 25 minutes when I first heard the name Manley. And then I heard it a lot. Who was this Manley guy? And Manley, who, by the way? “He’s a firebreather,” my co-worker Stella Treas explained to me. Firebreather? I figured it must be corporate-speak for someone who’s really good at what they do. Firebreather. But no. It turns out Manley really is a fire breather, a human candle, someone who shoots flames out of his mouth. “I fill my mouth with paraffin and spit fire through it,” Manley tells me when we finally meet. “It’s a very simple idea, but very easy to get wrong. It’s like knife throwing.” Right.
[caption id="attachment_7564" align="aligncenter" width="500"] Manley demonstrating his skill in what's become a hot field[/caption]
Breathing flames is not exactly what Manley does for BloomReach, though he acknowledges trotting out the act a few times when meeting with prospective customers. “It’s quite the ice-breaker,” he says. Instead, Manley is a Brit and a key to BloomReach’s expansion into the United Kingdom. Manley, like Madonna, Prince and LeBron, goes by only one name and while he’s not quite as well known as the those one-named global stars, he is pretty well known in various circles in his native England. “He’s hilarious,” says Michael Schirrmacher, another Brit and head of sales in BloomReach’s London office. “He used to ride mountain bikes professionally and jump off of cliffs. He does all sorts of crazy juggling and fire-breathing.” Manley’s job is sales engineer, the folks who deeply understand the technology a company is selling and who work to paint a picture for customers of how those products can make their lives easier while making their companies more profitable. He's an example of those people we all work with, either remotely or side-by-side -- people we see as co-workers, sales people, engineers, lawyers, administrative assistants, the HR person, but who we know have more to them. Sometimes a lot more to them. Silicon Valley in particular is crawling with them, the reinvented, the rejuvenated, the try-try-again crowd with their many dimensions. Fire-breathing or no, Manley, 39, is the kind of guy you don't forget. Tall with flowing blond hair and full beard, he comes across like a blonde rocker. It’s good to be memorable in sales, but that’s another thing about Manley: Don’t call him a salesman. He prefers to emphasizes the engineer in sales engineer. Selling is not his thing, he says. “I’m not a salesman,” says Manley, whose full name, if you must know, is Richard Manley. “I’m a consultant. I love the product and I love going to people and seeing what their problems are and then showing them the best solution. I’m telling them why we will solve their problem.” [caption id="attachment_7565" align="aligncenter" width="500"] Stella Treas, Steven Boone, Manley and Micheal Schirrmacher are among those working on BloomReach's UK expansion[/caption] If you’re wondering how someone becomes a sales engineer, Manley, the father of three girls who is married to an artist, is probably not the guy to ask. He’s not a big believer in the point A to point B career path, having been a tree surgeon, a British soldier, a daredevil bike rider, a writer for Mountain Biking UK magazine and a director of search engine optimization for a global digital marketing company. But anything else you want to know? Go ahead and try him. “There is never a dull moment,” says Treas, who recently moved to London from BloomReach’s Silicon Valley headquarters. “And you are always going to learn something: how to distill gin; details from (an army) tour in Bosnia; where basketball originated; the process for building a cannon or the correct pronunciation of Adidas.” It’s true. Manley and I sat down to talk about doing business in Great Britain, but I ended up getting a lesson on Guy Fawkes Day, Oliver Cromwell and the different political atmospheres in the United States and Great Britain. “We always joke that Manley always thinks he’s right,” Treas says. “The truth is that he often is.” Which is not a bad thing for a man who spends his days explaining BloomReach’s technical solution to the problem of helping consumers discover on the Web the products they want and need from major retailers. It is something he will be especially focused on in the coming weeks as BloomReach London prepares for eTail Europe 2014, a conference that brings together some of the top experts and practitioners in the e-commerce field. “They are a very good place to get to meet with clients in a less formal way and do some networking,” Manley says of events like eTail Europe. And if you’re among those networking with Manley, here’s betting that the conversation will be pretty interesting. Photo of BloomReach UK team courtesy of BloomReach, Firebreathing photo courtesy of Manley and freeriding photo by Jake Spurlock published under Creative Commons license Mike Cassidy is BloomReach’s storyteller. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at @mikecassidy.