Monday, December 19, 2011

What If Meetings Were Fun AND Productive?

After the amazing success I've had with my "WhiteBoarding For The Sales Engineer" class I've been looking at extensions to the methodology. As research for putting the class together I've been reading many of the books out there about using pictures, graphics and visualization.

I've always been puzzled by the way the worldwide educational system values words over pictures from the age of about 8 upwards. My wife teaches at an elementary school (Kindergarten through 11 years old). If I walk into one of the K-classes and ask how many kids can draw, almost all of them put their hands up. If I ask the same question of 5th grade (the 11 year-olds) less than half of them put their hands up. By the time we're 16-17 only 10% of students will self-identify as a "drawer". Which is strange - I don't know about you, but I learnt to read by identifying words with pictures. Chemistry was made easier by understanding the Periodic Table drawing, Geology was made easier by remember the strata/layers of rock etc.. where do we lose this ability to visually represent life?

I think it's because expectations are too high. The most common objection to using a whiteboard in my classes is "I'm not an artist/I can't write neatly". Yet once we get halfway through the class, most people are coming up with creative representations of products/architectures/problems and so on - using a variety of interesting, and simple, icons and constructs. I'm now looking at how we, as Presales Engineers, can apply all these techniques to a variety of internal and external meetings - not just when you are explicitly selling something. So stay tuned. It's fun and colorful!!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Frictionless Sales Call

The December MTS Edge Newsletter will go out on Tuesday December 6th. Most of the content has been posted onto the Mastering Technical Sales website this weekend.

December Features:

The Frictionless Sales Call. I've met with a number of senior level Presales leaders over the past few weeks to look at 2012 requirements. One very consistent comment is that they believe 75% of their teams still don't have a good grasp of the basics when in front of the customer - particularly for demos and for asking questions. That's where the concept of a frictionless sales call comes in. Th eonly thing you want to stick in your custmers brain is your message - yet SE's spend a lot of time creating districtaions and "noise" that prevent the message sticking. To apply physics - th eharder you have to push your message, the more friction is generated, whiich causes heat - and eventually something catches fire - hopefully NOT your deal! The article lists a number of crimes to avoid when demo-ing or asking discovery questions.

The Seven Deadly Sins Of Presale Leaders. Continuing the theme of crime and other bad things - I list out 7 sins that I "created" during a workshop with a large group of first-line presales managers.

Ask John - Making Introductions. I've been called every title under the sun (and a few more) by salespeople over the years. If part of your credibility hinges on your technical qualifications and experience then the proper introduction becomes an important start to a sales call (particularly for a webcast).

Blah, Blah, Blah is Decembers SE Book Of The Month - and it's an absolute contender to get into the Books Of The Year list - if you read Dan Roam's Back Of The Napkin then you'll love this follow-up ; which explains what to do when words don't work!

And finally - a reminder that I've recently revised my highly successful "White Boarding For Sales Engineers" class and updated it for the 2012 sales kickoff season. Email me if you are interested.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

November MTS Content is posted

The MTS site was updated over the weekend - a few days late because of the "World Tour". This month I spend some time looking at why the best SE's often give the worst demos and blame The Curse Of Knowledge (see previos post). The second article is about Personal Agendas - and why as an SE to need to determine what the personal agenda (i.e. "the win") is for every person that deal with in a customer account. It's an important, but overlooked part of the sales process - and is one area where you can add unexpected value to the sales team.

The month is rounded out with Ask John's response to Help I'm Being Acquired! and the Book Review of 10 Steps To Successful  Virtual Presentations. Enjoy The Read!

Next month's review will be focused on Dan Roam's (author of Back Of The Napkin) latest book - Blah, Blah, Blah - why words don't work. I've read the first section of three and so far, so good.

Good Selling.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Curse Of Knowledge : Why Demos Fail

In 1990, Elizabeth Newton, a Stanford University psychology graduate student studied  a simple game in which she assigned people to one of two roles: “tapper” or “listener.” Each tapper was asked to pick a well-known song, such as “Happy Birthday,” and tap out the rhythm on a table. The listener’s job was to guess the song. How well did they do?

 Amazingly poorly! Out of 120 songs that were tapped out, only three were guessed correctly – a 2.5% success rate. Yet the “tappers” estimated the success rate would be 50%. Why the big difference – because the tappers were cursed with the knowledge of the song title and found it impossible to imagine what it was like for the listeners to hear and interpret the isolated taps. That is the Curse Of Knowledge!

So why were the scores so bad and what does this have to do with being a Pre-Sales Engineer?

We understand and know our solution. In fact we know it really well because in many cases our job depends on it. However – we find it extremely difficult to place ourselves in the situation of the customer who is seeing our demonstration for the very first time. The more familiar we become with our topic, the more implicit assumptions we make about what our customer should know as opposed to what they actually do know. The result is a knowledge gap, which your customer fills in by assuming either that your product is complicated (because they don’t understand something) or that you are a poor presenter (because they don’t understand what you are doing).

In a large proportion of the demos I have reviewed since starting Mastering Technical Sales, the Curse Of Knowledge has been apparent. I put on my “dumb CIO” or “typical businessperson” hat and list all the assumptions that the sales team has made in the demo. That list usually stretches into double digits.

For ideas on how to fix the Curse Of Knowledge read here.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Piranhas and Presentations

In my standard workshops I try to focus on changing things to have the maximum impact on customer facing activities (like better discovery, more focused and simpler demos, telling stories etc.) I often refer to some smaller changes as being part of the “Piranha Effect”.
As background, there are many things that we do as an SE that have a small effect on the “stickiness” of our messaging. They may cause a gain, or loss, of say 1-2% in overall stickiness. Barely worth bothering about you may think. Yet once you’ve fixed the big things, these Piranhas can have a telling impact on your delivery. I call them Piranhas because if you get attacked by a single fish, it takes a small bite and you move on. Get attacked by a twenty piranha and they can do some serious damage.

The same thing applies to your presentations. If you think you are an A+ presenter then I challenge you to take a video of one of your pitches and conduct both a self- and a third-party assessment. Look out for the piranhas (minimal eye contact, pointing, pacing back-and-forth, small font sizes etc.) and kill them off one-by-one. The result will be a better presentation with less distractions for the customer and it will now be safe to step into the waters!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Being A Team Player

This month's recommended book, John Maxwell's The 17 Essential Qualities Of A Team Player, sprang out of a conversation had over the summer with a pair of new SE Managers. The topic was teamwork - and we spoke for many hours before, during and after dinner. One SE Manager had to build a brand new team, the other had inherited a poorly performing team.

I recall telling them a story about my son back when he was 11 or 12. Matt was, and still is, a very good footbal (soccer) player - his team won many championships and he played Division-1 college soccer for 4 years here in the US. But that's not the story my young son taught me.

One season, years ago, Matt was voted the Most Valuable Player on his team. Yet he didn't have a single statistic on the books - no goals, no assists, nothing ... He played in defence, was often the last line of defense - but he was awarded the MVP over kids who had scored 20+ goals that season. Being the proud father I was convinced that he deserved the award, so I asked him why he thought he had won it.

His response?

"It's the way I play. I always give 100% and never quit. But the other players do that too. It's because I am a good player and can make a difference in the game. But the other players can do that too. The real reason is because I try to make everyone else on my team look good and play better. When a team-mate is in trouble on the field - I'm there for him to pass the ball to; I let them know when they have time or when they are under pressure and I give them an escape route. Sure I can make tackles and stop goals being scored against us, but if I make everyone else on my team play better then it's like we have 12 players and the other team still has 11. That's why we win!"

Wow - now is that a definition of a team player?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Breakfast In Bangalore

I just finished breakfast with one of my customers out here in Bangalore. He runs a 90 person Asia-Pacific SE team. It's insightful, yet also disappointing, to hear about the apparent global mismatch between sales and presales during the middle of the sales cycle.

Now we both want the same thing - great success for our customers and great revenue for ourselves. It's the speed of the salescycle which causes the discord. Presales views sales as charging through the sales phases as quickly as possible, short-cutting or omitting steps where possible. Sales views presales as an anchor to the process, always slowing things down with questions and yet more questions.

Both sides (and maybe that is the root cause - that there are sides instead of a true single team) believe their approach is correct. Since sales usually trumps presales in >90% of companies - speed rules. The resultant chaos keeps people like me in business. So where is the middle ground? What is the balance between speed and caution? How do we avoid "the dash to demo" yet get the deal done in the shortest time possible?

Many questions . interested in hearing what you do in your company to strike the appropriate balance?

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

September Updates

The September Issue of the MTS edge will be published tomorrow (Wednesday Sept 7th) because of the US Labor Day holiday. The focus this month is on Discovery. The lead article looks at Six Magic Questions to ask, once you have covered the First Law of Discovery. It's a little like Newton's First Law - in that customers at rest tend to stay at rest until an external force (that's you) is applied.

You have to understand what the appropriate force is (money, time, regulations, competition, risk etc..) and then how to measure it.

Ask John looks at dealing with an SE who has spelling and grammar issues. It's not as easy as it might initially seem.

The Book Review is John Medina's "Brain Rules". Which not only provides scientific proof that we all have a Jennifer Aniston neuron, but also explains how and why we pay attention and learn things. Very insightful and a good read for an SE.

And The Last Word showcases some examples of whiteboards being used in the "real world" - ranging from UPS to the White House to VMWare.

Enjoy The Read!!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Fun With Numbers

IDC published an updated report a few months back about the explosive nature of data growth within corporations. They had previously predicted a 44x (yes - forty-four times) increase in data in the next ten years. That projection has now been revised to a 50x increase by 2020. Amazing numbers!

The trouble is, the human mind has a big issue in dealing with large numbers or multipliers. There is no real diference between a 40x growth and a 60x growth - except that one is bigger than the other. The point is that they are both BIG, almost unimaginably big!

At least three of my clients are quoting that number in many of their presentations - but here is a better way to help humanize 50x. Imagine you are up in front of the customer using a white board. It's a standard whiteboard of 42 by 96 inches (3.5 by 8 feet ; or approx 1 by 2.5 m). Multiply the size of the board by 50 - the board turns into something the size of a full football field - and it doesn't matter if it is American or "real" football!!

NOW you get an idea of just how big the growth is. Try some other comparisons, put them into human terms, and see what happens!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Getting An "F"

The next edition of the Mastering Technical Sales Edge will be out on Tuesday August 9th. It's a week late so I give myself an "F" for Time Management. Which is ironic as that is one of the topics which gets raised in almost every seminar and workshop I run.

Now I know why I am running late - and that is a mixture of extending a business trip to take in some additional vacation, a last minute customer project and too many sunny days. BUT .. Do you know why you never seem to have enough time in the week and hours in the day? The first question I always ask is "How do you spend your 40-50 hours per week? What do you actually do?". Rarely can anyone account for all their time in the week, even if their company has a time tracking system. The reason I ask the question is that it is tough to impact time management and efficiency if you don't know where that time is going.

You don't even have to divide it into too many buckets. Just split it a few ways. Measure it as customer/non-customer-facing time. Measure it as reactive/proactive time. Measure it as "A" vs "B" and "C" customers - and finally measure the time with a grade. For every chunk of time you spend on something give yourself a grade in terms of timeliness, quality and even quantity. You will surprised at the results - we often gravitate to those areas we find the easiest. So if a large part of your day is spent on activities where you give yourself an "A" - you are probably (a) not stretching yourself out of your core competencies and (b) you are ignoring other activities you may not be so great at.

Measure, Monitor and then Change - but only if you want to.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Wisdom Through Beach Reading

I spent most of last week visiting St. Kitts and Nevis down in the Caribbean.  Relaxing and not working – a very pleasant experience. My intent was to sit on the beach and catch up on all my reading using my trusty Nook. All went well until mid-week, when I discovered that Barnes & Nobel will not let you purchase and download any eBooks if you are physically outside the US or Canada. At that point I was out of easy beach books, all my wife had to offer were romances, so I turned to the collection of business books I had stored and dived in. That’s a long way of saying I will be reviewing several books this month.

I started with David Siteman Garland’s Smarter, FasterCheaper. It’s a book reminiscent of one of those self-improvement shows on American TV at 4am and put me to sleep faster than sunshine and a few rum punches. It should be titled Boring, Verbose and Obnoxious – now I have to admit I only got ¾ of the way through it and there could be amazing pearls of wisdom in the last ¼, but I doubt it.
Next was John Medina’s Brain Rules. I quote John several times in my seminar so I enjoyed reading the whole book in which he cites 12 rules for the brain to function perfectly. It’s relevant to the SE because it deals with teaching and remembering – both on the giving and receiving end.
Finally I’m partway through Getting To Yes by Roger Fisher and I’m really enjoying the book. It’s effectively an introduction to negotiation and seems to apply both professionally and personally. I have already made notes about how an SE can better negotiate with a salesrep, a sales manager, their immediate manager and the customer - never mind friends, family and significant others! I think it’s going to be the best of the three.

The moral of all this is having spent six weeks reading about mistakes and how to correct them, I neglected to be fully prepared for my vacation and ran out of trashy beach reads so was forced to start thinking about business again. A steep price to pay!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Thoughts for July

I've spent a lot of time the past six weeks thinking about mistakes, errors and omissions - especially as they relate to the role of the Sales Engineer. During that time I read Alicia Turgends "Better by Mistake" (which was just OK) and Atul Gawandes "The Checklist Manifesto" (which is July's highly recommended book). All that thought prompted me to write the Talking Point for this month which is Eliminating Mistakes In The SE Sales Cycle - A Quest for Perfection.

There are really two major forms of mistakes we make as an SE - the first comes from ignorance when you simply don't know something (and you may or may not know that you don't know it - if you follow me!). The swcond is where you definitely know something, but you show poor execution. You may forget to take a vital step or choose to ignore it. Each of these manifests itself in an error that slows the velocity of a deal through the sales cycle.

So I'm a big believer in process, checklists and pre-launch charts. Not to the extent that they take up hours of time and pages of dead trees - but certainly to the extent that they catch the obvious errors which we and others have made. (Ever given a demo and forgotten to sign-on, or cache some data, or clean out a screen, or link to the wrong database etc?)

So the July call to action - especially for smaller SE teams - is to build simple one-pager checklists and drive mistakes out of the cycle. And for larger companies - look at the checks and balances that you have, because over time they become too brdensone and then people skip them anyway!

Good Selling!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Making Mistakes

I just finished Alinia Tugend's Making Mistakes as the review book for June.

It was tough reading. The basic premise is that mistakes are good - as long as they are non-fatal, are found and corrected rapidly and are learning experiences. This is all dependent upon the prevailing social or corporate culture that we live in. So far , so good - although like many business books nowadays it has one central theme and just beats you over the head with it for several hundred pages.

My viewpoint on mistakes, as far as the Sales Engineering community is concerned, is that they are healthy. Einstein was once quoted as saying that if you didn't make mistakes you weren't really learning and trying. Yet as SE's - we demand perfection - perfection of ourselves, perfection of our software/hardware and perfection from the rest of the team. Not too realistic. Throw in a demanding sales manager and that's not an environment that is going to be adaptable to change.

As a manager I always tried to differentiate between a MISTAKE - such as failing to prepare adequately before a demo or missing a key business issue, with a mistake - such as a slide that didn't get quite get the point across, or pressing the wrong button on a screen. Why is this of interest to me? I'm in the business of making people change - change the way they perform Discovery, change the way they present, change the way they design PPT, change the way they structure and design demos. None of that is going to happen without a few mistakes in front of the customer - yet in the long run my customers tell me about increased win-rates, fewer demo do-overs, better POC conversion rates etc - all because someone was wiling to take a (measured) chance.

The morale of the post is try something different. Practice it, think it through, and then add it to your customer-facing repertoire. (And when it works - share it with your peers). It's what will make you a better SE.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

A Vent: The Player/Coach

I just read a job posting that is looking for a PreSales Engineering Manager - responsible for 10-12 individual contributors in a more or less central location. The job description looks fairly standard - then I got to the piece about "this is a player/coach position - the manager will have an individual quota as well as the team quota".

So let me get this stright - this poor guy/gal is supposed to not only develop, mentor and manage 12 pople - but they also have to go out and "sell" stuff themselves. Amazing. This is an organization which probably still hasn't fully recognized the potential and the promise of dedicated presales leadership. I can guarantee that somewhere in the org there is a person saying "well -this position takes away a direct customer-facing SE; they'll have to contribute something."

Why does this drive me nuts? Well - one is the disparity; you rarely see a sales manager position beng advertised as a player/coach if they are managing a dozen reps - and secondly - what this org will get is exactly what they are asking for - a manager instead of what I suspect they need - which is a leader.

Maybe it's just because I'm cranky at the end of a long day, but .. 

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Something Old, Something New

I’ve been following a number of interesting discussions on LinkedIn over the past few weeks. Many of them are on the same theme as this one – which is “What Are The New Rules of Selling…?”. My response is that other than some technology differences in speed-of-interaction – there are no new rules. They are the same old rules, just rediscovered. If you converse with your customers instead of preach to them; if you discover how they buy instead of forcing the sale; if you focus on value instead of features; and if you focus on results instead of products and solutions – in short, you understand your customer – that’s selling! Old or new.

I often say as a senior IT executive that I never ever bought a solution, I bought results and outcomes. I preferred conversations that focused on revenues, expenses and risk. So I chuckle when I read about the newest Value-based selling, or Curiosity-based selling or any of the other New-old methodologies. In essence, as pre-sales engineers we understand this – it’s rare to find an SE who wants to conduct less discovery and needs analysis; not always something you can say about our sales brethren.

What other sales ideas have come back into fashion?

Sunday, May 1, 2011

May Content and Updates

The website has been updated for May.

This month features Baseball Bats and Breadcrumbs as the lead article. This peculiar title is a result of some frustrations I used to experience as a senior IT executive, so it is written from that viewpoint (and thanks to Mike Lohr from Tripwire for "tripping" that memory last month). I talk about how you need to blend directness (the baseball bat) with some subtlety (the breadcrumbe/candy) when presenting.

The second article deals with how to set up Presenter Mode in PowerPoint. When following the rules of decomplexification that I preach, you often have to cut and paste text from the slide into your notes. Presenter Mode allows you to access those notes, plus a bunch of other useful stuff, when you are making your PowerPoint Pitch. Every SE in the world should know how to do this!

Ask John looks at my response to an interesting question from Lacey down there in New Zealand. She has been looking ta improving her time management and asked how I started the day. Not that I am a time guru in any shape or form - but it's always interetsing to see how someone else does it. Especially as I tend to break a couple of the weel established rules about handling your time and email anyway.

This months book is "Proactive Selling" by Skip Miller. At first I thought it was going to be another formulaic sales methodology book - but it wasn't; well - at leats not entirely. I learnt three interesting things from the book which made it well worth the $12. It gave me another way of suggesting how accounts can be prioritized from the SE viewpoint, a reminder about PowerHour (which I talk about in my Ask John column anyway) and then an intriguing analogy about speaking Spanish, Greek and Russian to Techies, Managers and Executives.

Enjoy the read and good selling!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Multimedia Marathon - Do The Math!

Those of you who have ever attended one of my workshops know that my primary message revolves around simplification and focus. I was recently working with a highly analytical and technical SE team so I challenged them to do the math. We looked at a standard one hour sales call and calculated the amount of information that would typically be relayed. Here is what we came up with.

Presenting/Telling:      10,000 Words
Presenting                   30-40 PowerPoint slides   =or=
Demoing                     30-50 distinct screens

Now put yourself in the place of the customer. How, out of all those words and screens, do I figure out what is most important to me? How good a job are you, as the Pre-Sales Engineer, doing in guiding your customer towards the technical and business nuggets of gold they need to make a decision to buy your stuff?

If your #1 value proposition and differentiator in how you fix their #1 business problem takes you 25 words to explain - then the statistical change of that being top of mind with the customer is 25/10,000 or 0.25% if you don't help it along.

Scary odds!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

WhiteBoarding The Chinese Way

  Proof that presales is presales the world over! I just finished a workshop in Beijing with 25 Chinese presales engineers. I feel that I learnt as much as they did about whiteboarding in their particular business environment. For example - I learnt that Chinese customer are as tired of PowerPoint as the rest of us; I learnt that whiteboarding is easier and faster in Chinese script; and I learnt that you don't draw the competitors solution in red as that is a lucky color!

 We also developed a neat trick of putting current state within the top third of a poster board along with some economics, the bridge in the middle third and the desired/future solution state in the bottom third. To make the comparison even more forcefully at the end, fold the paper to eliminate the middle 1/3 bridge and directly align and compare the current and desired state data. Different colors, comparative numbers = awesome presentation results.

Great job everyone!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

April in Asia

I'm just starting my Asian tour - a week in Singapore and then four days in Beijing. Both are new cities for me so I'm looking forward to some business and pleasure during the ten days. The April MTS content has been posted on the website and the newsletter will be distributed on Tuesday April 5th morning (EDT).

This month I came up a dozen great ideas for SE's at the start of a quarter. Since most companies have just finished Q1 (with notable exceptions) it's typically an occasion for a few days of down time before the constant drumbeat of presentations, demonstrations and POCs start up again. So it's a great time of the year for an SE to not only catch-up on overdue tasks, but to plan ahead for some self-improvement. Read The Quarter Is Done - Now What? for some ideas.

I've also heard a lot this year about the constant drain that internal meetings take on the time of an SE. Some of these meetings are beyond our control and are scheduled by people several levels up the food chain - but hey - some aren't. You can get control back over your week by shaving some minutes from each meeting - here are some ideas to do that - beyond the standard "set an agenda" stuff.

This month's Ask John deals with an SE who has just been given a team lead position in a new small business "run-and-gun" operation and the difficulties he is facing in getting the reps to focus on the requirements given the in-and-out nature of the business.

Finally , the course highlighted for the month of April is a management workshop designed to help SE Managers mentor and give feedback to their teams. It's the #1 job of any manager to develop and serve their staff - not something that too many SE managers always focus on given the revenue demands.

Good selling!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Profiling The Sales Engineer

Over the last year I've been involved in several personality profiling exercises conducted with teams of Sales Engineers. Right now one of my customer projects is developing an interview/personality profile for potential new hire presales engineers.

Most profiles seem to be built either on the Myers-Briggs (MBTI) system or on DISC - although it seems to me that DISC is easier for people (i.e hiring managers) to pick up and understand than MBTI. I also discovered an interesting variant on DISC that involves colors instead - so someone is a high Red instead of a high D - which is Dominant (quick , fast, get to the point type of person).

Although there is obviously no perfect profile - it is apparent that some personality trends lend themselves better to some types of SE jobs over others. Even if it as simplistic as different behaviors for strategic, big account solution-sell SE's versus transactional run-and-gun SE's.

I've settled on using DISC with the colors variant for those who are more visually driven - and my question is - are there any SE organizations out there who have profiled their teams? And would you be willing to share your results if I share the data I've gathered over the past 5 years with you?

Monday, March 21, 2011

A Brief Debrief : Self-Improvement for the Sales Engineer

Last week I wrote a guest article for executive recruiters J. Patrick & Associates. It's a simple method for Sales Engineers (in fact, for anyone) to get feedback about their performance and improve themselves. As I state in the article I have always been amazed how little time is spent on the debrief after a sales call. And usually what is covered are the sales essentials like next steps, follow-up.

So how is an SE supposed to get better? especially when you get feedback like 'great demo - John'. Well - what exactly was soooo great about it. Read the T3-B3-N3 summary methodology and find out how you can get better with just a few simple questions.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Shooting MTS Videos

For the last couple of days I've been in Boston shooting a series of video vignettes for one of my newest customers. I now have the greatest respect not only for the professionals behind the camera and sound equipment, but also, and it pains me to say this, for all the product marketing folks who have produced videos over the years for me when I was running a presales team.

It's hard work! Mainly because you have to generate all the energy by yourself as there is no audience to feed off and interact with. Two days of doing this feels like a full week on the road running seminars. To date I've cut "White Boarding 101", "The Perfect Pitch" and "Telling Stories" - all designed for the Sales Engineer. Tomorrow's session is specifically for Managers. I must admit I could really get used to being called "The Talent"!

What have I learnt? For as much as I talk about simplification, presentation mechanics and using PUNCH in your pitches - that's all doubly important when cutting a video. It's a humbling experience - particularly when watching the playbacks. If you think you're an ace, A+ presenter - try shooting video.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

What's an SE Worth?

The lead artice for this month is "What's An SE Worth?". It looks at different ways of calculating the ROI of a Sales Engineer. I believe it is impossible to calculate the ROI of an entire organization, but it is possible to calculate the ROI of the last, or better yet the next, SE hired.

With the help of some friends (Sean Culen, Mike Lohr and Jim Sargent) out there in SE-land I look at the costs, the direct and indirect benefits of an SE. Mix that in with a sneak peek at my ROPE (Return On Presales Effort) methodology and you get a pretty good idea on the return for making your next hire - as well as some compelling soft benefits for the SE org that most HR/Finance folks never think of.

By using a mix of potential revenue, pipeline, utilization, revenue/head and winrate across the dimensions of geography, solution and actual activity you begin to see a different view of the economics of the SE.

The ultimate answer is - unless your sales are in the tank - there is usually a compelling economic case for one more hire.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Wall Street Journal - Students Struggle With Words

Todays Business Education section in the Wall Street Journal is titled "Students Struggle With Words: Business Schools Put More Emphasis on Writing Amid Employer Complaints".

The main point is that the course teaches students to unlearn bad behavior - such as using complicated words over simple ones. I call this "decomplexification". This is a bad behavior I see all the time in customer facing product/solution decks. A corporate recuiter is quoted as saying "MBA candidates tend to talk about their analytical methods to show they are good at their job. What we really want to talk about are the implications of the research."

In the words of a naval officer friend of mine , "Be Brief, Be Bright and Be Gone". Give it a read!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Making The Most Of Your SE Investments

Last month I participated in a webcast sponsored by the Sales Management Association about "Making The Most of Your SE Investments". The program featured Sean Cullen from SAP and John Littleton from Cisco plus yours truly - all giving their different perspectives about the efficient running and operating of a modern presales organization. We also had a healthy Q&A session - bearing in mind that most of the audience was sales and operations managers!

Big thanks to Bob Kelly, chairman of the SMA, for allowing me to hotlink straight to the webinar. While you are there check out the rest of the SMA program website.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

February Newsletter + Content Scheduled on Tuesday 8th

The February Edition of the Mastering Technical Sales Edge newsletter will be published on February 8th. This month I'll be looking in detail at two aspects of how to make your presentations better - going back to the series about The Perfect Pitch.

The lead article deals with How to Practice a Presentation/Demo, and the inside page provides some interesting ideas about how to apply the theories of imrov to the craft of an Sales Engineer. You'll learn some intriguing team games and icebreakers for those quarterly team meetings.

My review book is Drive by Dan Pink. It's a fascinating look into what motivates us and why - I found it to be a great read and highly recommend it. You'll probably want to give a copy to your boss and to your compensation analyst!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Handout Happiness and Horrors

Back in September 2010 I wrote an article about Handout Happiness, which dealt with best practices for hand-outs and that eternal question of “do I hand-out my handouts before or after the presentation?” The topic has been getting some play around the globe. Oliver Adria of ReThink Presentations over in Germany riffed on the slide-ument model of handing out a hard-copy of the slide deck before the presentation – he’s not a fan. (I’d recommend his weekly newsletter – it’s short, sharp and to the point).

Meanwhile – Olivia Mitchell from New Zealand writes a Speaking About Presenting Blog. Also back in the summer of 2010 she published 13 Best Practices for Handouts – many of which are amazingly similar to Oliver’s and mine – proving that handout horrors are global!

I believe that handouts can be a powerful weapon in the arsenal of any SE – particularly when conducting a remote demo or presentation – if only they were used correctly. Check out my article, and Oliver’s and Olivia’s and decide for yourself.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Now On Google Books

For those of you who have been asking about the electronic availability of the MTS Book - Good News at last. Mastering Technical Sales: The Sales Engineers Handbook is now available at the Google Bookstore. Also - according to my publisher - it is now with Amazon in the process of being Kindle-ized. Stay tuned.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Welcome to 2011

OK. One of my New Year's Resolutions is to increase my blogging frequency over 2010 - which shouldn't be too difficult. First up for 2011 is the January website update and newsletter. The newsletter will be distributed on Wednesday January 5th due to the holiday in the US.

For a sneak preview of the content I'm featuring an updated list of Sales Engineering New Year Resolutions for 2011- all focusing on your personal Performance, Promotability and income Potential. After five years of Newsletters and Talking Points I'm finally touching on the art and science of Discovery. I reveal the one thing you need to know about Discovery - which is Care's First Law. The January "Ask John" deals with the topic of handling high salesrep turnover and what to do when you are introducing the ninth salesrep to handle an account in six years (hey - maybe the sales manager should actually be doing that?).

All the best for 2011 from Mastering Technical Sales