Monday, September 21, 2009

Certification for the Pre-Sales Engineer

There have been a few questions about certification programs for Sales Engineers bouncing around the LinkedIn discussion boards recently. I started wondering about whether it would be practical to have a national, or even global, certification program for SE’s.
Over the years I have designed, in full or in part, at least a half-dozen company-specific programs, but never gave much thought to the applicability of the programs outside my company, or whether there would even be any value to the certification. We could set up SCAPE – the Society of Certified American Presales Engineers, and then add international chapters! I challenge you to come up with some other acronym…

Musings aside, there are many common skills required of the pre-sales engineer – whether they be in software, hardware, services, finance or heavy industry. The most basic skill is Discovery – understanding exactly what your prospect needs, why they need it, and then figuring out why you are uniquely qualified to solve that business need. Next you need to place that skill in the setting of some sales methodology such as Solution Selling. There are Presentation and Demonstration skills – in various flavors such as Whiteboard, PowerPoint, Story Telling, Short Demo, Long Demo, Web-Based Demo, Competitive Lock-Out. You have precursors like responding to RFIs and RFPs. Potentially handling Trials, Proofs of Concept and Evaluations. Business skills around Finance, ROI, Asset Management and Vertical-specific Subject Matter Expertise. Throw in some optional classes around “handling the salesrep”, “Global accounts”, “buyer psychology”.

You’ll notice we haven’t even touched the technology of your product/service/solution yet.

This is why being a Pre-Sales Engineer can be the greatest job in the world.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

POC Provisioning & Demo Delivery

A few months ago I was working on a project looking at how to completely reconfigure the entire demo creation, setup and distribution capabilities of a large software company. While doing some research I came across a SaaS solution from start-up company IT Structures.
They effectively allow you to instantly provision Proof-Of-Concepts and deliver demos with just a few set-up clicks. When I think of all the frustrating hours SE's spend doing exactly those tasks I realized these guys were onto something. If your company is struggling with the infrastructure around the distribution of demos both internally and to customers/partners, or with provisioning a POC environment, setting up standardized training environments I'd encourage you to investigate their solution - it may be a real time and money saver for you.