Wednesday, October 26, 2022

Doing Discovery - A Book Review


Doing Discovery


"Doing Discovery"   by Peter Cohan

The "Dash To Demo" is a curse of the technical sales profession. It's no good giving the best demo or pitching the perfect product presentation if you don't have a clear target. "Doing Discovery" can help you solve that problem.

In over 350 pages, Peter Cohan lays out a methodology and a philosophy for the *most* essential part of the sales process. It's about time someone wrote at length about this topic! The book contains theory blended with practical application, tips, techniques, and multiple "what-ifs." You'd be hard-pressed to find a scenario that is NOT covered in the book. However, your most challenging problem will be figuring out which parts of the methodology to apply and which are not relevant to your portfolio. You'll need to compress the text down to the essentials for those of you operating in a highly buyer-educated, rapid sales cycle environment.

It's essential reading for every Sales Engineer. That said - arm yourself with sticky notes, highlighters (real or virtual), and a pencil. There are no chapter numbers, no index, and there is a massive amount of text. It's not for visual learners! A suggestion for the Second Edition (already made to Peter) is to "do the last thing first" and start with some graphics.

To see more of our SE Reading List, visit the MTS Website

Friday, April 15, 2022

The Fourth Edition !!


Yes!  The Fourth Edition of Mastering Technical Sales is finally (May 2022) available. A few weeks late because of the "Supply Chain Issues"!. It's 420 pages and 160,000+ words of blood, sweat, love, and tears.  

I took the opportunity to rewrite every chapter to incorporate all the changes in people, processes, and technology since 2014. There are additional chapters on Business Value Discovery, Virtual Meetings, Storytelling, Value Engineering, Compensation, Personal Branding, The Subject Matter Expert, Career Progression, and much much more.

A full list of locations where you can purchase is below. As of now (early July) all of the international Amazon stores should have the book. 

If you're interested in bulk purchases please contact me and I can connect you directly with the publisher for an even better deal!

Enjoy the read.




Artech House



Artech House





























Wednesday, January 5, 2022

The Social Sales Engineer - Book Review


This book is really a love story for Sales Engineers in disguise. We follow the journey of our hero, Elias, as he meets his true love, and simultaneously learns to love both his potential and himself.  In The Social Sales Engineer, author Patrick Pissang uses an entertaining blend of philosophy, quantum mechanics, and pop psychology; all mixed with tea, to guide us through the development of Elias from a meek, timid, and self-doubting SE into a hero of his own making who wins the girl, achieves fame and fortune, and saves the planet.

There is something of Elias in each of us, and that is the beauty of the book. It probably won’t directly help you to give a better demo or improve your PowerPoint pitches, yet it will help you in a journey (if you take the first steps) to self-realization and potentially a bit more happiness, innovation, and joy in your SE life. That’s not a bad return for under $20. Give it a read!

To see the full SE Library visit our Reading List page. 

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

A Brief Debrief For The Sales Engineer


How To Improve Your Sales Calls in Five Minutes


/TLDR: Our recent Professional Skills training has highlighted that most sales teams are not routinely debriefing and asking each other for feedback. Here is a simple, quick process you can use to get tips from your colleagues on how you can improve for the next sales call.


 As we’ve been delivering our Professional Skills training throughout our client base in 2021-21, we’ve taken the opportunity to informally ask a number of questions.


One question is “how often do you debrief with the FSR after a customer sales call?”

We always debrief” is the common reply.

“What do you cover in the debrief?” we respond.

“Oh, we agree on Next Steps and Account Strategy!” says the SE.

“What about discussing what happened during the call? The good, the bad and the ugly?”

            “Well, we hardly ever make time to talk about that. There’s always another call..”


We believe you are missing out on a wonderful opportunity for improvement. Just a 5-minute investment into a true call debrief can make a major difference in your overall team performance and personal productivity.


The T3-B3-N3 Process.


The process is simple. You ask the FSR (and anyone else who sat in on the call) three simple questions. Adjust appropriately for culture and title.


T3 – Top 3

What are the top three things I did in the sales call that I should repeat every time I am in that kind of situation?

B3 – Bottom 3

What are the three things I did in the sales call that I should never ever do again?

N3 – Next 3

What are three things I did not even do in the sales call that I should consider including next time?

It’s a non-threatening collection of positive reinforcement, constructive feedback and new ideas mixed in with a little “don’t do that”. Now you need to take notes, try to get specific examples (my example: “When you interrupt the customer before he finishes asking his question it shows a lack of respect and professionalism. Next time pause and count to two before you answer”) and if appropriate, put a plan in place to fix or to reinforce the behavior. Then follow-up with that person within a few weeks – that way they will give you some more feedback once they know you are listening to them.

Feedback is a gift, and together with learning more about your own solution, it’s the #1 way you have of improving. You may not always like what you hear, but it is still a gift.

Advanced T3-B3-N3

 Substitute “we” for “I” in the previous set of questions. As in: “What are the top three things we did in the sales call that we should repeat every time we are in that kind of situation?”

 Master Level T3-B3-N3

 Ask the FSR – “would you like to hear your T3-B3-N3 list?”

 Sales Engineer Manager Call To Action

 85% of Sales Engineers (to use the generic term) across the globe report that they want more feedback from their Manager. 65% of Manager’s feel that they give sufficient feedback. Get engaged, speak up and make a difference.


After the next sales call – if you want more than “you did good” or the truly terrible “it was fine”, try the T3-B3-N3 approach and see what happens! You will be amazed, and a little scared, by the responses you receive – especially once you’ve established some trust with that individual.


Saturday, April 25, 2020

The Sales Engineer Manager's Handbook


Chris Daly and I are thrilled to announce the availability of Mastering Technical Sales: The Sales Engineer Manager's handbook. The book is intended for all levels of SE Leadership - whether you are a potential SE Manager, wondering whether it's actually a job you want - through to a VP of a larger SE organization. 

Join us as we walk you through the basic framework of the 3+1 Rules Of SE Leadership, RADAR, DOGs, MARS-BARS and other wonderful methodologies designed to bring some structure, discipline and reason to the position. We also look at the concept of an SE Value Proposition plus developing both a personal and a team brand.

The book is available in all the Amazon stores, in Paperback format (where allowed) and also as an eBook. Links are below.

We're working on shipping a set of paperbacks to Australia and Singapore through our friends at Up2Speed, but that may take a while! 

Meanwhile - enjoy the read ... 

Paperback and eBook
United States
United Kingdom

eBook Only

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

The MTS 2019 Video Series

After months of editing, we're finally ready to release the Mastering Technical Sales 2019 Sales Engineering Video Set.

This is a series of Twenty (Yes - 20) videos specifically designed to cover the Fundamentals of Sales Engineering. each video ranges from 90 seconds to 9 minutes and are perfect for:

1.  On-boarding Sales Engineers / New Hires
2.  Learning In The Flow Of Work for Current SE's
3.  Booster Shots for Graduates of the MTS Curriculum

Edited by the amazing Gene Whitlock, the videos focus on specific SE topics, incorporating graphics and built-in exercises to reinforce the learning. The set is designed to load into a corporate LMS (Learning Management System) as part of an ongoing education program. 

You can get more information about the videos here and can contact us if you need more information or a formal price quote. 

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Preparing For The Zero Discovery Demo -

The Zero Discovery Demo

We’ve all been in that situation when you walk into the conference room, or start-up your webcast, and you have no idea what the sales call is about or what the customer really needs. It’s known as the “spray and pray”, the “dog and pony show” or “the three hour tour”.

We also know that although it is usually a complete waste of your time, these calls do happen in real life and the professional SE needs to be prepared to deal with them. So, two days from now you are visiting a customer  (or maybe it is a virtual call) and the only information you have is the name and address of the company and the guidance of “they just want a general overview of our products and what we do.” What happens next?

Before You Go

1.    Check Your Attitude! You are probably ready to choke your salesperson, complain about a non-communicative customer and moan about life in general. So go ahead and get it out of your system, update your boss about the event, and then pick up your attitude as if this was a critical multi-million dollar opportunity. Be positive.

2.    Conduct The Research. Ignorance is no excuse for poor preparation. Check out the customer’s website, run a Google search, visit a financial site if they are publicly traded. This data may be in your Sales Force Automation system, or the rep may provide it (at least ask the rep to research if they own any of your solutions at other sites or subsidiaries) – but if you do not have it, you should. At a minimum, you should know what their major products are, where their major locations are, basic finances (profit, revenue, and margin), who they compete with and who they are most similar to within your current customer base. Between Google and LinkedIn, you should be able to research the names of the customer contacts.

3.    Contact The Customer. OK, maybe the rep said not to contact the customer – but you need to make a decision about preparation. Ask for a technical contact to call so that you can validate connectivity, environment, and wireless coverage. Make something up if you need to – but try to call the customer, techie-to-techie, and while you have them on the phone, drop in a few relevant discovery questions. “Hey, as I have you on the phone, can I just ask you…” Do not make your salesperson look like a bumbling idiot, as you are a sales team, but do play up the technical part of your title.

4.    Balance Education v Selling. Your goal is ensure the customer understands how they could use your solution in their environment and the benefits they would gain (and the pain they may avoid. The goal is not to educate them on every nuance of how to use your product. If your demo is “click here, drag this” then it is a navigational functional demo and you are really teaching them how to use your solution as opposed to what it does. Clicks = Complexity

5.    Don’t Forget Do Nothing Inc. 50% of deals are lost because the customer does nothing. Make sure you have a list of compelling reasons for them to act, because you will need them during the call. You do not want to make that stuff up in the middle of the meeting.

6.    Prepare Handouts and a Memorable Leave-Behind. Build a simple summary handout of your presentation/demo. Focus on a couple of key slides or screens, a customer success story and a memorable take-away. This might be a Mnemonic, a Set of Power Numbers or a simple diagram such as a 3x3 grid. In effect, you are giving them a 60-second summary of your meeting based on “if they can’t repeat it, they don’t get it. And if they don’t get it, they won’t buy it.”

Once The Meeting Starts

Do not start presenting or giving a demo. You are now in the position of having to perform some discovery on the fly. This is going to require some flexibility on your part, so consider it as a challenge. Here are some techniques I have found useful to ‘provoke’ the customer into disclosing useful information.

1.    Trade Your Story For Theirs. The rep probably has a strong desire to start with a corporate overview. Although I am not a big fan of “broadcasting” who we are and what we do, you can offer to exchange your corporate story for their version of what brought them into the room today.

2.    The Pain and Gain Sheet. Think of this as a PowerPoint slide with a number of questions on it. These are important questions which you know your solution can answer. Examples vary depending upon what you are selling, but they are along the lines of “how can we reduce our backup window?” or “do you know what your exception rate is on invoices and how much that costs you?” Here is an example of a pain sheet I once used for determining presales metrics to run a business. 

3.    The “A Customer Like You” Story. Start with 2-3 stories about customers just like them. If you are selling to a small-medium community bank, then make it another small financial customer, another small-medium customer, and then another customer in the same city/location as them. You are seeking either a “that sounds just like us” or a “we don’t have that problem” style response.

4.    The Staff Meeting Conversation. When working with a manager and a group of her direct reports, try the “last staff meeting” question. I draw a picture of a table and a couple of stick figures and ask “when you talked about at your last staff meeting – what were the items that came up for action?” This works particularly well if you are selling “IT Plumbing” solutions or equipment varying from servers to heat pumps to medical devices.

5.    The Demo/GPS Roadmap. When called in to perform a generic (out-of-the-box) demo, give the customer some control over what you show. I’ve written before about a Demo/GPSRoadmap – which graphically shows the customer, step-by-step, what they are going to see. Hand this out to customer and ask for feedback in terms of what would be important to them and what isn’t. Choose the one or two items they say are important and ask “how do you do that now?” with as many follow-up questions as you can before they start to get impatient. Try to have them draw something for you to explain their current state.

6.    Just Ask! Play the technical/doctor card. “Listen, I can talk for hours about this subject and all the great things that my solution can do, but I’d like to narrow it down so I can focus on those things that are important to you. Can I ask you a couple of questions before I start?” If you get some resistance, use the doctor analogy about understanding all the symptoms so you can get a complete picture.


Just because you have been committed to make the zero-discovery sales presentation does not mean it really has to be zero-discovery. Do your research. Once you start the meeting, position your questions as being of benefit to the customer so you do not waste their time. Obviously this is not sales or customer behavior you want to encourage, yet if the technical part of the call fails it is often the technical part of the team that gets the blame, regardless of the circumstances. So be prepared.

“In Sales, just as in Medicine, Prescription before Diagnosis is Malpractice.”

Jim Cathcart, SFA Pioneer