Thursday, August 29, 2013

Take A Break!

At least here in the US, the week before the Labor Day holiday (Monday September 2nd) is usually a quiet week for me. It's the last week of summer, the last week of freedom for children before they go back to school (so many customers take the week off) and it's also my Wedding Anniversary - all good reasons not to travel.

So I use the time to catch up on paperwork, make some calls, and most importantly of all - do some writing. As I am now working on both the Third Edition of Mastering Technical Sales and an add-on book with a working title of "The Trusted Advisor Sales Engineer" I have about 60,000 words to write or revise before the end of the year.

That means I need to focus and concentrate on a single task. That means I turn off email for 3-4 hour periods. And that means I get almost no distractions and get a lot done without the annoying "ding" or the temptation to check my inbox. I know if someone really wants to reach me they'll call me.

Try it. Take baby steps. Next time you really need to focus on a task ..

  1. Turn off all the visual and sound notifications that you have new email. Don't forget to silence the phone and tablet too.
  2. Then - go into your email settings, and set the synchronization time for email to 60 minutes.
  3. Finally - shut down your email for a couple of hours.

If you are working on your #1 most important, critical task - there is no reason why you shouldn't treat it the same way as being in front of a customer. No interruptions!

Give it a try ..

For other email tips go read "Are You Really Paid To Read 200 Emails/Day?"

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

You Might Be Wondering ...

Yesterday I sat in, as a “dummy guest”, on a remote demonstration and presentation that my newest client had set up. As part of my Discovery process I often like to listen in on a typical sales call. This call was going wonderfully, to the point where I was wondering what I could contribute as feedback other than a few minor cosmetic changes. The team had performed an admirable job of discovery, had identified two painful key business issues of their prospect, and had tailored their pitch to solving those problems and showing the economics of their solution.

There was budget, there was pain, and there was an agreed-upon approval process. I was seeing a deal leap forward in the sales cycle towards a successful close. The pre-sales engineer executed a masterful finish and handed back to the rep.
Who then said “you might be wondering..”

Everything fell apart because the salesperson decided to answer a question that had not been asked about deployment and support. The question was NEVER going to be asked because the customer was in “lets-go-mode”. The entire atmosphere of the call changed into suspicion and uncertainty over this late revelation, and ended with the dreaded “Thanks - we’ll think it over.” Disaster. Deal gets de-committed from the quarterly forecast.

Two lessons learnt from this call.

1.       It’s not always the Pre-Sales Engineer who opens his mouth at the wrong time and supplies too much information.

2.       There is a place for a rhetorical “you might be wondering” when it logically leads onto the next topic of conversation, and it is early in the sales cycle. But never at what was essentially the solution proposal phase.


Sunday, August 18, 2013

Channeling The Channel

Back in the mists of time I can still remember the very deal I ever helped to close as a Sales Engineer. I remember it for two reasons. Firstly, it was in Newark, New Jersey - not the nicest place in the world back then. Secondly it was closed with a major assist from an SE at one of our channel partners.

Perhaps it made a great first impression, but I have always had a soft spot for the channel organization in any technology company, as what could be better than getting paid to have other smart people do the heavy lifting work for your company?

Over the years, the Channel SE has moved in and out of favour with technology companies - large and small. Often it is a cyclical affair - channel partners are loved for a couple of years, then they start to take too much business (in someone's opinion) away from the sales or services organizations. Process and compensation barriers are put into place, the channel fades, internal sales rise for a short period, and then a sales dip happens as your competition uses their channel to beat you in territory coverage, RFP and POC support and general deal-making. As a channel SE you get used to being whip-sawed around the sales and SE org-chart every fiscal year, and sometimes at mid-term.

At least in 2013, and globally in the software business, the channel is seeing a resurgence - which means increasing demands are being placed upon Channel SE teams. As usual, demands and responsibilities increase faster than headcount and budget. The secret to a successful SE team is a combination of factors.

1.  As many companies are phasing out the Generalist SE ("Jack of all trades, Master of none") - the channel is a fantastic place for these folks to live and to make a living.

2.  Decide on the "Commander's Intent". That's a military phrase which reflects the reality that no plan survives contact with the enemy. No sales and go-to-market strategy survives contact with customers, competitors and channels. For example - is the overall intent of the Channel SE to (a) educate and enable the channel partner SE's or (b) fight side-by-side with channel partner SE's in the trenches or (c) work with your channel salesrep to sign up more channel partners?

3.  Teach your Channel SE's how to teach and train - quickly. They don't have time to do it twice. It needs to be short, sharp and effective.

4.  Aim for repeatability. There is no room for "heroic efforts" in a Channels team, the SE: Partner ration won't allow for it. That means have a sales process that everyone follows, a capture and onboarding process for new partners, and a comprehensive training and enablement program for existing partners. On that sales process note - many external companies have a great "sales" system for salespeople and are clueless on the channel SE side of things - so beware!! (You wonder why they ignore potentially 40% of their audience, but that is another story)

5.  If you are a large enough company - share globally! I just facilitated a meeting with one of my customers worldwide SE channels leaders and encouraged them to "share their toys". Three great ideas came out of New Zealand, Belgium and Thailand that saved the collective organization 3-4 hours per SE per week and increased their channel conversion rates by 12%.

6. Cast a large shadow. Don't rely on the sales or business development managers to publicize your efforts. When you contribute to the good of the greater SE team, or help land a big deal, or provide an assist to marketing or support - make sure they know about it. Don't be the best-kept secret in SE-land!

7. (Controversial). If a choice has to be made as to which outside partner should get attached to a deal - that selection CANNOT be made just by sales alone. I have seen too many deals get ruined because the partner was selected on the basis of expected commission, bonuses or golf course etiquette. Presales needs a say too - on the basis of who will make the deal easier (and faster) to win.

That's it. Go Channel!!