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.


Summary 

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

 FINALLY! 

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 ... 

Location
Paperback and eBook
United States
United Kingdom
Germany
France
Spain
Italy
Japan
Canada

eBook Only
Netherlands
Brasil
Mexico
Australia
India

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.

Summary

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

Monday, December 11, 2017

The 2024 Sales Engineer

 
In a few recent keynotes, I have spoken about the future of Sales Engineering and taken the audience on a walk into a potential future for our profession. So – will the role of the Sales Engineer still exist in 2024, and if so, how will it have changed from today? What will some of the new responsibilities, and which ones will be delegated, outdated, outsourced, or automated?

Why 2024? It is a personal thing. I started as a Sales Engineer in 1984, back in days of clunky IBM PC-XT’s, 9-inch magnetic tapes; 35mm slide decks; floppy disks; traditional mainframes and incredibly slow modems. By 1994 I was an SE Manager, dealing with portable PCs; overhead transparencies; TK-50s, microcomputers; client-server systems and still pretty slow modems. In 2004, I was an SE Director, looking at a highly portable laptop; virtualized demos; HTML front-ends and all things internet. Fortunately, by 2014 I was running the MTS business, watching other SE leaders deal with EaaS (Everything as a Service), even larger laptops (far more powerful than the 1984 mainframes), massive demo environments, downloadable software and even more things internet. At least the connection speeds have become faster. What does 2024 hold for us?

Will You Still Have A Job?

Looking at the trends over the past few years, there has been an amazing push for SE’s to become more consultative. I loosely translate that as a significant ability to conduct business value discovery and then link the technology to the customer’s business problem. We’re still expected to have deep technical knowledge, or at least be able to bring that to bear on the customers problem by marshalling the skills of others. Yet there are also the requirements to understand the customer’s business and then to craft innovative and efficient solutions to their problems. Throw in effective and clear communications – the jobs not getting any easier.

 
Will You Still Have A Job?

YES. Let’s look at what is unique about the SE and what differentiates us from all other positions in the vendor space:

  1. SE’s possess a curious blend of technology and business acumen.
  2. SE’s are pleasers and fixers. We like to make people happy.
  3. SE’s have history – we know the customer and probably have a 3x longer relationship than the salesrep does. It’s hard to automate history and relationships.
  4. SE’s make intuitive leaps to connect problems, technology and even people.
  5. SE’s like to do the right thing for the customer. It’s “customer before commission.”
  6. SE’s are pack animals and mostly work better as a team.

I believe there are many more – but that’s a solid half-dozen to get started.

 
Will you still have a job? Well – If you are a highly technical sales engineer, who’d rather touch the technology than speak with people, your prospects will be limited. Small startups will still need you, and every organization will still have a SWAT team and Subject Matter Experts, but you won’t be mainstream.

What will be different?

Here are some predictions.

  1. The role of the Account Manager (AM/salesrep) and Sales Engineer will start to overlap even more than they do now. Companies will start to create hybrid roles, especially around specialty or acquired products. This was tried by numerous large enterprise software companies around 2006-2009 and failed miserably. Mainly because they gave SE’s individual quotas and asked them to prospect. Better luck second time around.
  2. The “low-end” part of the job will be (further) automated. RFI/RFPs are well on their way, but this will affect standard out-of-the-box demonstrations and even allow customers to design their own lightly customized demo.
  3. The demo (and eventually presentation) will be experiential. Using Virtual Reality linked with Artificial Intelligence the customer will see, feel and hear (possibly touch and smell?) themselves using your stuff in their environment.
  4. More software and hardware will be trialed/evaluated with no human sales interaction at all. The cloud is already driving this. If customers are 60% of the way through the sales cycle when then initiate contact with you now – that is going to climb towards 75% over the next few years.
  5. Therefore, more software and hardware is sold with no human sales interaction across the web. More items will be a commodity.  It is easy for your product to become a commodity if no-one ever sees it – particularly hardware.
  6. Companies will invest even more in “knowing the customer” and that personalization will start to be the difference in commodity sales situations.
  7. SE’s will climb the corporate ladder and develop more relationships with mid and senior level managers than ever before. The old “SE’s talk to techs and AM talks to executives” is dying.
  8. Personal and Business Data will drive everything and security will be even more of a nightmare. Great opportunities for the SE!
  9. Although Larry Ellison once said, “losers compete on architecture(*)”, more and more SE’s will become technology architects as systems and interfaces will become increasingly complex. Since major corporations don’t “share their toys” in terms of environments, experiences and engineering – that has to be performed in the brain of the SE (as the correlation data doesn’t yet exist for a machine to do it.)
  10. We’ll stop carrying laptops, and will instead use devices that holographically project and render information in bite-sized, ADD-proof, chunks.
  11. The last COBOL programmer will be charging $2,000 / hour and cold (phone) calling will die.

What Should You Do?
 
I would suggest that the next time you get together with a bunch of your SE colleagues talk about the “Next Generation” Sales Engineer and see what everyone thinks. One thing I can guarantee is that you will need to change and to adapt your skills sets over the next 7 years. Talk that walk into the future, be proactive, and cause change, instead of reacting to change.

 
What Do You Think?

“Prediction is very difficult, especially about the future.”

           Robert Storm Petersen, Danish Cartoonist & Writer

(*) Yes, he said it many times, and I was in the room and heard it live.


Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Mouse Radar! A Simple Trick So The Audience Can See Your Mouse



What? I’m suggesting that you can indeed deliver a better presentation by better utilizing your pointing device (a.k.a the mouse)! This is the third in a series of randomly spaced ideas about the little things that can make a big difference in your pitch. (For a more detailed explanation – see The Piranha Effect).

There are many forms of “Mouse Viagra” out there. These programs can zoom the focus of your mouse pointer, turn it into a glowing little GPS-map like fuzz ball and even allow you to make annotations on the fly. All cool stuff. Yet .. there is one very simple way to draw attention to what your mouse is doing and where it is. It only requires a check-box to be activated. The beauty of this tip is that it works both physically (in the same room as the audience) and virtually (over Webex) and doesn’t leave you trying to wave a laser pointer at a Hi-Def TV screen where no-one can see it!

It’s as simple as pressing the CTRL button. Really! In the middle of a Demo, PowerPoint or e-White Board, just press the CTRL button. An “echo” or “ripple” radiated out from your mouse – making it instantly the focus of attention.

Three Steps To Set-Up

1.       Select “Mouse or Pointer Devices” from the Control Panel.

2.       Choose the “Pointer Options” tab.

3.       Check the “Show location of pointer when I press the CTRL key

You’re Done. Thanks to rock-star SE Guillermo Perez for pointing out this feature that’s been in Windows for years!!

Thursday, January 26, 2017

The Power Of Sales Engineering Metrics - A True Story


Here is a wonderful story about the power of Sales Engineering Metrics and how they can truly make a difference to your business.
My client (who wishes to remain anonymous for both competitive and embarrassment reasons) has been collecting numerous metrics for 7-8 months. In preparation for their first ever Worldwide Sales Engineering Quarterly Business Review (QBR) a standard set of Metrics and PowerPoint slides were constructed for each of the major geographies and/or countries. Summary versions of the decks were sent out ahead of time – so that more time could be spent analyzing and discussing, rather than presenting and listening.

However – one item really stood out from the initial decks. They had recently released a brand new product, and the primary sales methodology for selling it was “try it and buy it” through a Proof of Concept (POC) / Trial-Evaluation system. The POC conversion rate from Trial to Buy was a rather low 45%, which they attributed to a 1.0 release, some nasty bugs and a learning curve for the SE’s. Except .. one region .. ANZ (Australia/New Zealand) had a 15/16 success rate.

Rather than wait for the meeting, the somewhat surprised VP of Global SE’s called the ANZ team to discover the reason for their success, and received a typically blunt, but honest answer.

“Oh, we thought the marketing approach and the customer prerequisites were a crock of $%&^! So we changed those documents and also created a step-by-step guide for new customers to explore the product which would work around those bugs.”

“Don’t you think it would have been a good idea to share that information?”

“It was so obvious we figured everyone would do it!”

The guide and updated docs were quickly distributed worldwide – including back to product marketing.

The outcome was that 9 POCs in process were saved from disaster in the next 10 days and the following quarter the POC conversion rate increased to over 70%. The revenue impact was amazing.
If you can't measure it - it tough to improve it! For more details about SE Metrics, and why they can turn a reactive team into a proactive one - check out the MTS Leadership Page.