Thursday, April 20, 2017

Don't Expose Customer Data in Demos

One problem of creating compelling demos is having realistic data to show, and use cases that customers can relate to.  One simple trap that many companies fall into is that they use real customer data, or their own internal user data, and in both of these cases you run up against issues of data protection and ethical abuse of power.
This article on ars technica shows how a security vendor fell foul of this trap and had some prolonged abuse of customer data.

Instead how can you show plausible stories?

  1. Create Data to tell these stories - use scripts, random name generators and so forth to make up plausible data.
  2. Alter any existing data - remove any identification of users, customer data, sensitive data of any kind.
  3. Any reference to existing customer problems should not identify customers without permission, or provide sensitive data that could identify their situations

Thursday, December 29, 2016

10 things Sales Engineers can do at Christmas time

So what does Christmas mean to your average SE?

Firstly, it is usually a time when there is little point in travelling to visit customers. Like you, they want to spend time with the family and enjoy the downtime.  However many of us have quarterly (or annual) sales targets that end at 31 December, so there is still a focus on closing business and ensuring that customer questions get answered in a timely manner.  Just looking at my dashboard and I see 2 or 3 opportunities that need someone to help on them.

So if you happen to be in the office, or sitting at home working on some last minute deals, what can you do in your downtime?
  1. Read a book? Now is a good time to get thoughtful about your future and think about how you can approach your job differently next year.
  2. Update your demo kit? You can work on your equipment, and make it slicker and quicker
  3. Update your demo script! Now is a great time to look over your notes, look at the questions people normally ask, and make your "standard demo" clearer than ever.  there could be several different things to do
  4. Brush up your CV and look for new jobs? Perhaps your current role isn't so appealing? Take advantage of the slow period and look at your future career
  5. Sign up for some training - your company might have some great internal resources you can review or else check out what external training you can book.
  6. Look at ways you can redefine your personal role in the SE team.
  7. Summarize how you can help customers with satisfaction
  8. Improve your RFI/P answers
  9. Contemplate the role of an SE 
  10. Enjoy a holiday - take some time off and relax!
Most important - enjoy the end of year, party like its 1999 and come back relaxed for an exciting 2017!

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

How to position a new release?

Does a new release make it harder to position your value?
Are you stuck thinking about the new shiny features and talking less about the overall value?

Has the overall value proposition changed? 
If you are offering the same benefit areas as before, then the headline value isn't radically different from before.  Getting straight in to demo the new features isn't going to sell the product better.  There might be some corner cases of individuals who understand your product and market so well, that they just need to see those things.  Your average buyer will need to understand the value proposition as before.

What do you need to change in your demo?
You need to think again about what are the best capabilities to show for each customer which back up the overall value proposition.  Don't just extend the typical harbor tour demo to include the new things.  Look for better ways to back up the value and show these.

When should I change it all completely?
Sometimes your product update will introduce new areas of value to new customers. Sometimes the marketing changes to have customers come to you in a new way. Your product may change visually so that your old demo no longer works, or you need new data or stories to show.  In these cases you should reconsider the value proposition, and then think about a demo script which addresses the value and shows the relevant capabilities.

The best demos will showcase the value of your solution to the customer, and cut the time that it takes them to understand how it will work for them.  Don't waste your time and risk losing the customer's attention by showing a chronological history of your product and problem area.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

How can SEs help with Customer Satisfaction?

Do you overpromise and underdeliver?

Many companies fail to live up to the early promise or ROI that is claimed in the sales process.  Some customers make assumptions that they don't test and these catch them out in the end. Companies that make their customers successful get repeat business, and a great reputation.  Making customers successful should help SEs be more successful in the long run!

The Sales Engineer's job is to ensure that customers are excited at the prospect of working with their company, and that the proposed solution meets the customer's requirements.  However to ensure that you make them a satisfied customer in the end, it is also important to ensure that the company can deliver on them.

  1. Share information with your implementation team, which you gain from the purchase process.
  2. Avoid "smoke and mirrors" in demos.  Don't show things the product doesn't do.
  3. Don't make promises that can't be supported
  4. Make it clear what the customer will get from the proposed solution, and what they might do beyond this.
  5. Give the customer useful hints and tips that help them avoid typical pitfalls.
If you follow these simple rules - you avoid 90% of the usual problems that customers run into.  

If you make customers successful, then when you walk into the next meeting, you have an easy reference call, and eventually customers will know before you walk in the room by your reputation.
If you set customers up to fail, by over promising,  no one will want to be your reference, and new prospects will be skeptical about what you can do.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Selling Simple Solutions for Complex Problems

How do you make complex things appear simple?

Many products address challenging problems.
Challenging problems often need complex solutions.
Customers find it hard to understand complex solutions.

One of the biggest challenges good SEs face is to showcase complex solutions without losing their customer in the process.

Einstein has a great quote
"If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough."

Many times, I find I open my mouth to explain something, without really thinking about how to express the knowledge as simply as possible, and taking into account that the person I'm talking to is not necessarily up to my stage in the thought process of the concept.

You need to help them build it up in their mind, from the most simple way of explaining it.
Wait for them to come up with questions, before diving into complex answers, examples or additions.

When selling a complex solution, or a solution to a complex problem, you need to ensure you give your buyer or prospect a chance to come up with a way of understanding the problem.

If your competitor explains something simpler than you can, then you have a challenge to make the customer understand the difference.

A few things you can watch to get the idea of simplicity in design and solutions better:
David Pogue - Simplicity Sells (even has a fun song at the beginning)