Monday, November 19, 2018

Sales Engineering Podcast!

I joined the @WeTheSEs Podcast to discuss Sales Engineering in the current customer success driven world.  A good podcast to sign up to and learn from many other SEs.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

How does Presales work in a Customer Success world?


How does your company measure success?  Are subscription & renewal value seen as the most important revenue sources?  Over time these compound and outweigh the net new business from new customers. As a consequence, long term value starts to trump initial deal value.
Successful businesses with customers on renewal find that the initial sale value is less of a proportion of lifetime expected value.  Customers that renewal are also more likely to buy more products and expand the scope of their deployments.  Also new customers are less likely to buy subscriptions on products until they know they will use them. 
This means keeping happy customers is as important or more than winning new business.  As such, many companies start looking at customer success as an area to invest in directly, seeing the rise of a new organization, or that other parts of the company need to come together and support the way of ensuring customer success.
It also means we need to focus on setting realistic expectations of value, rather than getting business stakeholders over committed on what they should achieve

This means for a change of role for presales in customer success world
Obviously, we are still very much focused on winning new business, but we may have a secondary role in ensuring renewals, and helping cross-selling and upselling.  We may even want to start measuring the performance of presales in these activities.
Presales team members may be able to take part in realized value activities after the initial sale, including workshops, customer days, health checks and other regular or incremental interactions.  The catchphrase we are always in presales” becomes a reality - there is always the next sale with our customers to consider.
The initial sales team also need to avoid over-selling aspects of the solution.  Agree on gaps, areas of future improvement and correct false assumptions if they will impact customer success. In some companies, the customer success team may even have the right to reject or cancel new purchases if it will have a negative impact on customer success, due to the impossibility or difficulty in achieving the customer vision.

The rise of customer success also provides potential new opportunities and challenges.
First of all, customer success roles may have similar skills that many SEs have.  The chance to work closely over a long period of time with the same customers might be attractive to some SEs.  Seeing through the value realization with customers may also be an appealing option.
As such, a dedicated customer success division can offer career opportunities to SEs outside of the presales organization
Even without leaving presales though, SEs might have a bigger role than just supporting the new business sales team. They will have an ability to deliver value to more parts of the business, by working with other parts of the business on a planned or ad hoc basis.  This can increase the importance of the SE skill set in the success of the business itself.  

A customer success orientated world sees the long term value as more important than the initial win value of a customer opportunity.  Both are vital to a growing and successful business, but just winning new business cannot overcome a business with customer success and churn issues.  Ultimately the best business in a segment will be the one that can offer repeatable and loyal customers continual value.  The role for presales in a customer success orientated world is to ensure initial and continual value over the lifetime as a customer.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

How can Sales Engineers make effective use of Social Media?

We get it! Social media helps you connect to many more people than email, meetings, conferences and other forms of contact.  Why does it sometimes seem that you are just shouting out into the storm though?  How can you get more effective use of social media, to support your role as a Sales Engineer?
Finally - how do you measure the value of your social media work?

Monday, April 16, 2018

What do you get out of a global Presales event?

Each year we gather our presales field team to come together to learn and share experiences. This interactive event also provides many team members an opportunity present on a topic, or lead a workshop, or simply to be an engaged participant. Our aim is to make the team as a whole, stronger as a unit.

This not only ensures we all have the latest training and tools to do our job but also gives us a chance to create new ideas capabilities with our colleagues from around the world.

What do we do in this kind of event that is different from our regular remote training days?
  • Soft skills - we run workshops on soft skills like meeting, discussions and working with people.  This works well in a dynamic environment and is hard to do over the phone or with smaller groups who know each other better.
  • Common experiences about customer requirements - getting more people together means you can have better focus groups.  Doing work on getting better materials together helps everyone when they go back to their worldwide markets and roles.
  • Better understanding of use cases and re-usability of materials and tools.
  • Have global experts host sessions to benefit the whole team.  
  • Team building - getting a bunch of presales people together means you have a very talented group who could enjoy many things outside of the office.  Enjoying each other's hobbies and non-work experiences allows for more diversity and a chance to have fun and build stronger bonds.
Along with this, it is a good chance to interact with some other functions to deliver feedback, understand company strategy better and meet executives for open discussions.  

Having a global event gives you the chance to invest in the team itself, and building a team that is stronger than the sum of its parts.

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