Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Which SE’s Should Go To Club?

How do you make a rational decision about which SE’s should go to club? Even though a company may invite SE’s, the criteria aren’t always laid out in advance.

There is rarely a “if you do this, then you go” line in the sand. Considering that most SE’s get hammered in the head with “customer success criteria” and “understand how you are going win” the fact that this logic doesn’t apply to qualification is counter-intuitive.  However, it is what it is – so here are some guidelines to make the process easier:


1.   If there is a 1:1 match between a SE and Rep. The SE goes if the rep qualifies.
2.   If there is a 1:1 match between a SE leader and a sales leader – if the sales leader  goes, the SE leader goes.
3.   If a pool of SE’s supports a sales district, then use the ratio – if it’s 3:1, then for every 3 reps who go – 1 SE goes. If the district hits its overall number, or 110%, then set a definitive number of SE’s to qualify regardless of how many reps made it. (See rule #5)
4.   If the SE has an actual personal quota – then they qualify on the same basis as a rep. (This is common for overlay positions).
5.   Base the quota qualification hurdle on a number that someone in sales cares about and gets paid on. (i.e hurdles like “75% of reps qualify”
There are many other guidelines, but these are a good start. So now you know how many SE’s can attend club – but which ones should go? Some more guidelines:
1.  Use annual performance ratings – so 1’s and 2’s get preferences over 3’s and 4’s and 5’s – on a 1 through 5 scale.
2.  Look at Big Deals. Which SE’s supported the largest deals. This works for Enterprise, you need a different variant for SMB and Partners.
3.  Use a SE of the Quarter award as a preference.
4.  Track Revenue per SE – even unofficially.
5.  Look at other contribution. Which SE’s helped other SE’s be more productive (built a demo, developed a new presentation or competitive strategy, simplified POCs etc.)
6.  Seek input from sales – without it becoming a popularity contest.
7.  Use your SFA system to track contribution. If it’s not in there it doesn’t count.
Again – there are many ways to skin this – the point being that SE’s hate uncertainty. You usually can’t take care of all the vagaries of qualification, but you can at least set a bar which needs to be beaten even to merit consideration. Note the comment on my previous post - the SE Leader should always have a list of achievements and be ready with a stack-ranked list of who goes. Always.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Pre Sales Engineers And Presidents Club

I had three interesting discussions last week about presales engineers qualifying for Presidents Club. That’s the generic term I use for the sales achievement trip that many companies use as a reward for their top quota achievers. Two big questions came up, and I’ll deal with #1 in this blog entry:

1.       Should SE’s be able to qualify for club?

2.       What are the qualification criteria?

Two of the conversations were with presales leaders seeking a quantitative answer for #2. The really interesting conversation was with a Senior VP of Sales (brokered by his presales leader) about why SE’s should qualify. Before I get into the details let me state up front that

(a)    I do a strong opinion about this – and that my answer is “Hell, Yes!”

(b)   I have qualified for amazing trips to Hawaii (2), Puerto Rico (2), Paris, Bali, London and a few other places as a SE leader

(c)    A large proportion of companies (>70%) do allow their SE’s to qualify, or hold a separate SE achievement trip.

The conversation with the Sales VP started from the standard position of “if presales wants the rewards of being a salesrep then they should move into sales”. We then had a long , 90-minute conversation about the following:

1.       Teamwork. His company heavily promoted the concept of the sales team. I asked him what the answer would be if he asked his top ten sales performers who had most helped them kill their quota. For example would it be their “presales guy/gal” or their sales manager?

2.       Recognition versus reward. To me – Presidents club is about recognition. It signifies to an SE that they are one of the best. You look at most SE’s online resumes on LinkedIn – if they made sales club it’s listed. It is something to be proud of. I know most SE’s couldn’t care about any monetary award that may come with – it’s the invitation that is important. Coming home to spouse or loved one and saying “pack your bags..” makes up for those 60 hour weeks we sometimes put in.

3.       Meritocracy. I always believe in rewarding the absolute top performers. If you have ever worked for me you know I say "You eat what you kill". This company had a problem hanging onto their top SE’s. It wasn’t compensation – it was the way they were treated and the culture that went with it – an SE couldn’t really stand out. If they did – they got promoted into management!

4.       Parity. I have never begrudged the cash a salesrep makes for blowing out quota. They deserve it, and all the recognition that goes with it. After all – the rep takes the burden of the risk. If a district or country fails miserably, the reps get canned, the sales manager usually follows, but the majority of the SE’s stay on. (This point is primarily to defuse the “if you want the rewards..” viewpoint.)

Bottom line – next year, SE’s at this company will be eligible for club. One small step..

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Winning The White Board Wars

My lawyer friends tell me that whoever tells the best story in court usually wins. The same is true of being a Sales Engineer. Using a white board is a fantastic way of personalizing a story for your customer. Before you even think about the story - what are three basic things you should remember to help your whiteboard pitches?

1.      Stand on the correct side! If you are right-handed like me, you should be standing on the left of the board (as the audience sees it) – just like the picture. That way you obscure only a small part of the board when writing and I can step away and use my left hand to point. Although it may seem counter-intuitive as you’d think you want your writing hand closest to the board – it doesn’t work that way! The mechanics of your shoulder joint dictate that you’ll have neater and straighter diagrams doing it my way.

2.       Chunk your diagrams into 8-10 segments. That way you talk, pivot to the board, draw for 8-10 seconds, pivot back, and talk some more and so on. It reduces dead air time and means you don’t rush because you’re conscious of having your back to the audience all the time. Try it!

3.      Take your time. Seriously! There is some kind of space-time warp that distorts reality when the average SE gets to a whiteboard. It makes 5 seconds seem like 10. That makes you rush – your writing gets sloppy, your straight lines get bent and your icons are unrecognizable. You can’t tell the best story if you don’t give it your best efforts. A sloppy whiteboard is worse than the most atrocious bullet-laden product-marketing slide you can ever imagine.

For more about whiteboarding visit the MTSWhiteBoard Page.

(The photo was taken of me giving a WB seminar in Beijing last year)

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Passion And Presentations

February 14th seems an appropriate day to write about the intersection of passion, presentations and business. Last week I ran a workshop focused on remote demos and webcasts. It was an interesting format - we actually conducted some face to face training and then sent people out into a different rom to present "remotely" to the rest of the class. Very effective!

I was struck by the contrast between two of the presenters. Presenter Steve (names changed to protect the innocent) was a 8-year veteran. He gave a very polished but unemotional pitch on his solution. Looking at it dispassionately I scored it highly on my checklist - say he got a 86/100. Later in the day we had Presenter Violet who was a 8-month rookie. Violet's presentation was, being generous,  a little rough around the edges -- yet, wow! Did she have passion and enthusiasm for her product. Her score was a 66/100 - a big difference from Steve's.

At the end of the day I gave each participant a sheet with the names of everyone in the class, and asked them to write down what each presentation was about and what they remembered. Violet made the top 3 of everyone in the class (even Steve!). Steve was below the middle of the pack.

Even accounting for the fact that Violet did already gain some points, and Steve lost some, for their respective passion - there was still 20 point difference. Or was there? If you judge a presentation by what people remember and did they take away the key points - you can make the case that Violet "won".

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Wasting Time

One of the most valuable resources an SE has is their own time. You can approach how this time is used in multiple ways. Two extreme approaches are :

1. Throw your hands in the air, play the victim and declare that you are not in control of your own schedule.

2. Measure every minute that you work on something and justify the use of that time.

OK - those are extreme "strawman" viewpoints - yet I'd say we've all worked with SE's who have that mindset. I've always believed that the key to effective time management is moving things off your task list as well as doing the things that are on your list more efficiently. How do you move things off your list? Here is a great example, written by the Time Management Ninja - of "10 Things I Am Not Going To Do Today". I love this article - it certainly applies to me as a small business person, as well as "back in the day" when I was a VP, CIO or an individual contributor.

In fact - I just put points #3 (checking email) and #10 (starting before I finish) into practice. My email beeped and my phone chirped at me. Now it could be one of those PO's I'm expecting, but the 3 minutes I need to finish this blog isn't going to impact what I do with those emails - so why interrupt and read them? Good point...

Organize your time and say "no" to a few more unnecessary things in your life.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

February , February ...

The February MTS Edge Newsletter went out to 12,392 people yesterday. If you are not a subscriber you can read it here and subscribe to the newsletter on the Mastering Technical Sales site.

This months lead is the Demo GPS RoadMap. Ever had one of thise demos where the customer gets confused, perplexed and ultmately lost? All the questions are about where you are in the demo flow, what you just did and smaller technical details? There is a solution to that - the Demo RoadMap. Use one of these and your customer (onsite or virtual) will never get lost again!

Manager's Corner covers how to lead and motivate remote employees when you don't see them face-to-face every day. I apply the BEEP test that elite level athletes use for measuring their fitness to your management skills.

Ask John deals with Turning Soft Evidence into Hard Numbers during the Discovery process. We all have those situations when it's really hard to get quantifiable numbers for a ROI. Here's another way to try it. Book Of The Month is Marshall Goldsmith's Mojo - it's an OK book, but not at the top of my must-read list for Sales Engineers.

And don't forget to check out the MTS Demo Workshop class - if you want to apply best practices (no matter what your methodology is) to your demo/presentation/whiteboard for a particular solution - here's a way to do it.

Good Selling!

Thursday, February 2, 2012


Great idea from one of my customers. “John – I love your Recommended Reading List for Sales Engineers and we now distribute it to all of our new hires. However – I think you are a victim of your own Curse Of Knowledge. Instead of reading the review and interpreting your comments, it would be great if you’d just rate the books from 1-5 or A/B/C. That way we’d know where to start.”

Guilty! I just updated the Reading List for February to include Marshall Goldsmith’s “Mojo” and included the ratings of three checkmarks for must-read , one check for include in your library and a big red "i" for useful information.

Hope this helps - and thanks to Susan for the idea.