I have long maintained that first line leadership, whether as a sales or as a presales manager, is one of the hardest jobs in the company. You are responsible and accountable for so much, yet have little decision making authority. Add to that the fact that the management selection and promotion process is often “who is our best SE – let’s make him/her a manager so they can teach everyone else to be just like them” instead of “who would make the best leader, make smart decisions and motivate their team to obtain maximum efficiency?”
This means that first line managers often flounder and struggle in their new positions and don’t receive much guidance and training except perhaps for some generic HR stuff. This is where the sales and presales path tends to divide. Sales managers can attend coaching classes about negotiation, about mentoring, and about guiding reps in account review processes. The metrics that sales managers have to measure and are judged by are relatively simplistic and predominately monetary. Presales managers get … reheated sales training or sent back to that generic HR material … and no clue as to how to run presales as a business.
For years I have had a passion about SE leadership as it is one of the few things I miss about the corporate world. I sure don’t miss waking up in the morning wondering which of my SE’s want to quit, who had a fight with a rep, who skipped training, who apparently “screwed up” a deal etc… And every year I run maybe one or two SE leadership oriented sessions with an “enlightened” client.
That is now changing in 2015.
Already, here at MTS, we have four SE leadership sessions booked, and three more that I would be willing to forecast to my boss (if I had one). I’d also place another five or six early in the pipeline.
What is happening?
I don’t believe that I, or my business partners in Singapore, have suddenly gotten smarter about how to pitch and sell the requirement for this kind of training.. No .. you, the collective SE/High Tech community have suddenly realized that you have been significantly under-investing in a key component of your sales force. One of my more famous analogy quotes is “Sales Engineering is the oil that keeps the sales engine running smoothly”. If you believe that the #1 job of a SE Manager is to develop and serve their people then maybe the manager is both the filter that keeps the oil clean and the mechanic that ensures it is regularly topped up and doing its job.
It seems that 2015 is shaping up to be the year of improvement for the SE Leader – and maybe we can rid ourselves of that horrible “Player/Coach” position whilst we are at it!”