Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Wizard Of The Whiteboard 1

If you are a regular reader of the blog, or my newsletter, you know I am a big fan of Visual Selling and of closing the laptop during a sales call. So far, I’ve had over 6,000 Sales Engineers go through my whiteboard training and I often start with a quick go-up-to-the-board and draw-out-pros-and-cons exercise. One of the top items we discuss is that of credibility.

Why is using a WB related to credibility? It’s because it’s YOUR WHITEBOARD (actually it’s a jointly owned WB if you do it right – but that’s another story). Think about it. The idea goes from your brain straight to your pen and onto the board. It’s not a PowerPoint that some marketing dweeb has created that you are reusing. The degree of personalization and therefore credibility is immense. Just the fact that you can draw out the solution rather than depend on PPT gives you the aura of being a subject matter expert. Since Credibility is one vital factor in building Trust and becoming the Trusted Advisor SalesEngineer, it is an important skill to learn.

Having bad handwriting, no apparent artistic ability, no idea how to get started, or even claiming that you cannot possibly explain something so complicated as your solution on a little sheet of paper (or even an iPad screen) are NOT excuses to put down the pen and give up. My elementary school teacher would be stunned that I make a living teaching people how to draw. I could probably justify my claim that I had the worst handwriting and the least art talent in my class – yet for over 25 years in the presales business, I have readily picked up a pen and drawn “stuff”! When I joined Oracle, as a $80m company, you were required to sketch out the Oracle database architecture on a blackboard or via transparencies. If you couldn’t draw the infrastructure and illustrate it – you couldn’t do your job.

So how do you start? Remember that the best whiteboard of all is one that you plan beforehand, rather than create ad-hoc. You’d never give a demo or a presentation without running through it first, would you? Pick just a couple of PPT slides, a question you are always asked, or even a concept your audience struggles with – and create a 5-8 minute board. Focus more on imagery and icons and less on words – words kill whiteboard time. Have some fun.

(Then sign your company up for one of my classes!)

Monday, January 21, 2013

Better .. And PreSales ...

I can guarantee that whenever I run one of my Business Discovery For Sales Engineers workshops and examine the results of a "why should people buy your stuff?" exercise .. I will see the word BETTER a half-dozen times. The trouble is that hearing "better" doesn't really help you conduct better discovery!

Some examples:

  1. A Business Intelligence / Analytics company promising "better decisions"
  2. A Backup/Recovery company promising "better backup times"
  3. A Security Company promising "better compliance"
Google will give you over 2.8 bllion hits for "better". These range from the Better Business Bureau to Better Homes and Gardens to A Better Recipe for almost anything. Who defines better?

The three basic reasons (The Three Wise Men) why people buy is to increase revenue, reduce costs and mitigate risk. So when you say your product / service / solution makes something better - it tells me nothing (as I wouldn't expect it to make them worse!!). How am I going to be able to make "better decisions" and what will that yield me in revenue/cost or risk. Maybe I can change my product mix in a store on a weekly basis instead of a month - and capture three extra weeks of selling a hot item. Maybe I run a promotion and can tell within a day that the only people using it are my existing customers (so I'm losing money) and that I'm not gaining any news ones - so I stop the discount.

Better doesn't cut it. Any time you read the word better in one of your slides or some marketing collateral - ask yourself specifically how something is made better, and what the client gains as a result. Otherwise you have a soft and fuzzy benefit with no clear ROI. It's incredibly hard to get controllers to spend money based on those criteria. Remember the grandiously named "Care's First Law Of Business Discovery" which states that "Every business issue ultimately can be reduced to a number. That number is either too small and needs to be made larger, or its too large and needs to be reduced." The art of being a great SE is to find out what that number is, which way it needs to go, who cares about it, and how much its worth.

That's a much better way to look at better!

Friday, January 4, 2013

2013 New Year Resolutions

One of my New Year Resolutions for 2013 was to blog and tweet more often to both raise my social profile and to share useful content (in my opinion) with others. So here is my first contribution for 2013 - and what better way to start than to lay out some great 2013 Resolutions for the Sales Engineer, The SE Manager, in fact for anyone who deals with the complex technical sale.

Here are a dozen positive resolutions, six things to avoid - all packaged with some wonderful resolution advice from NY Professor of Psychology Peter Gollwitzer. (pdf file)

At this time of year (or next month for those celebrating the Chinese New Year) it's a great time to assess your skills and compare them with last year. What has improved - what has declined, and what haven't you even started on? One of the best things you can do is to publicize your major goals/resolutions to others so that you cannot backslide.

Here are a couple of mine:

1. I am gloing to finish the manuscript for "The Trusted Advisor Sales Engineer"
2. I am going to gain one more major client this year.
3. I am going to blog and tweet more ( more = 100% increase )
4. I am going to revamp my website.

That's enough for now. What are you going to do?