Friday, August 10, 2012

Give your presentation a gold medal performance

Sales is often compared to competitive sport, and to come first and win that gold medal, you need to be better than all the competition. You need to keep improving and working on your selling ability to make sure you are the best you can be. Sometimes sales comes down to the best pitch and this is where Sales Engineers have the most influence on the sale.

Don't assume you will improve your ability as a sales engineer on your own by repetition. All world champions have a coach who helps them. You can spend time yourself working on your skills but it is often difficult to put that time aside and you can’t practice the interpersonal skills necessary to sell on your own. You can also bring people in to help learn how to do it better.

Recently our company brought in Rob Garneau from Bottom-Line Training. Bottom-Line Training run courses for sales engineers, by sales engineers. He ran a two day course focusing on our product demo skills, across a mixed group of SEs working on a variety of our solution areas.

Rob's course went over a range of topics, and I think some of the key lessons were to not treat every demo as the same thing. We shouldn’t turn up and give the same message to everyone because not every customer will buy for the same reason. Instead we should listen to what the customer needs - starting from their high level business need, and prove that we not only help solve that need, but are able to quantify the value and differentiate from any competition.
Avoid Spray & Pray - part of the BLT course material
This common problem is aptly presented as spray and pray - just really hoping that if you say enough cool things about your solution, some of them will hit the mark.

In reality this approach misses the mark more often than not, and dilutes the real value your solutions have for the customer. You lose the opportunity to show an interest in the customer’s success when you don’t understand what is important to them up front. 

You lose the opportunity to build trust. 

Customers can feel like their time is being wasted if you present irrelevant topics to them. How can you influence the customer’s decision making process if you don’t know what is important to them? In the worst case, your customer’s will be irritated by your attempts to sell them something they have no interest in.

So, a better approach is to understand your customer before you give your pitch. In order to get a good understanding of the customer’s needs, you have to be adept at asking the right questions in a way that doesn’t appear to be an interrogation. Rob taught us ways to ask questions to not only understand the needs the customer knows they have, but to also uncover needs the customer didn’t previously realize they had. Of course, we should only uncover needs we know we can solve as those needs represent opportunities.

Rob and his colleagues travel the world helping sales engineers improve their craft. I feel that the beginners and experienced SEs alike gained a lot from our session and I feel spending more time on it would be even better. I hope our company continues to invest in “coaches” to propel our success.

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