Friday, September 30, 2011

Types of Sales Engineer Roles

Instead of just being demo dollies, SEs or Sales Engineers come in all sorts of different types and roles.  Some sales organisations need many of the same kind, while other organisations need or have a variety of different roles.  For many SEs, these descriptions may overlap or be interchanged, however in other organisations there is a strict demarcation of the roles.

Subject Matter Expert (SME)
The SME is somebody who has a large body of experience in a narrow field - narrower than the full set of solutions.  This SE will be brought in for particular deals when it requires domain knowledge or a specialist's touch. To become an SME, the SE needs to grow their knowledge in a particular area, so that deals that fit the mold will be brought to them. Sales reps will value their knowledge in the particular field and they will be first choice.  Some SMEs are in very high demand and command higher salaries due to their special domain knowledge.
SMEs also are typically rewarded based on the success of their key product area.

A generalist is the opposite of the SME.  Their job is to be able to go to any meeting and be able to add value across a large variety of different product offerings.  In some cases they will be able to suggest a solution directly, and in other cases they will bring in an SME.  Some Generalists also are able to fill the role of an SME in several fields, and therefore can also be very highly paid.  Also Generalists can also progress to a variety of different roles in an organisation.  A good generalist needs to keep all of their areas of knowledge to an acceptable level.

Solution Architect
A Solution architect is an SE who is much closer to the customer, in understanding a particular industry or enterprise's business problems, and be able to suggest solutions that would help solve them.  They tend to be much more customer focused, and may run the risk of going native.  A good Solution Architect knows how to combine different products and services to solve particular business problems and knows how they fit into the customer's environments.  A Solution Architect is much less concerned of the normal use of the product, and much more in tune with what problem the customer is trying to solve.

Systems Engineer
A Systems engineer is more focused on the technical angle.  For some industries it is very important to have highly detailed, technical specifications of products, parts and services.  A Systems engineer has a strong understanding of all of the elements of a solution, both the parts belonging to their company and other vendors involved.

Technical Sales Rep
A Technical Sales Rep is practically no longer an SE, but rather a sales rep who is technical enough to own any technical evaluation or sale.  It is normally used when the product for sale is already well understood by the customer, or commoditised enough to sell based on spec.

Product Evangelist
A product evangelist is the marketing boundary of Sales engineering.  They work with marketing at attending conferences, public demonstrations or webinars and may assist on the direct sales side at times.

Technical Channel Manager
Technical channel managers are the SEs who go out and skill up a channel of resellers and partners to sell the products.  They require many of the above SE skillsets but also a capability to teach and train.  A TCM however will usually get less time directly in front of customers and therefore need to support the partners in order to win business.

Technical Account Manager
Finally a Technical Account Manager works with existing accounts, trying to find new business problems to solve, or find ways of selling more product or services into the existing projects.  Sometimes TAMs work in the support organisation or the services organisations, but their role is important at selling more product.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Types of Virtualisation

I was sent this one by a colleague today, but it is an excellent explanation of the different kinds of Virtualisation as defined by Microsoft as:

  • Server Virtualisation
  • Desktop Virtualisation
  • Presentation Virtualisation
  • Application Virtualisation

Types of Virtualisation

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Technology: Are you ready for Windows 8?

Who is ready for Windows 8?  Most companies I talk to are barely ready for Windows 7.  The key challenges being the compatibility problems with existing apps.  With Windows 8, it brings along a whole new User Interaction concept called Metro, which is about touch and tablet style interactions.

How much use do we get of this in the office environment? 

Will we be using Windows 8 primarily on Laptops and Tablets, and use Windows 7 on Virtual Desktops, Call centers and office bound PCs?

Is there really a business drive behind this?  Microsoft are obviously trying to play catch up with Apple iOS and Google Android - but is the world ready for this kind of OS concept?  And how successful will they be at catching both of these platforms which are built on hardware + software offerings, and not just the OS itself.

Try reading this article on eweek for 10 Reasons why it will pull in Enterprise Upgrades.
Which I doubt it will in such a large scale. 

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Sales Engineer Skills - Shut up and Listen!

Over at Mastering Technical Sales, there is an excellent PDF article on Shut Up And Listen.

Listening is one of the most important parts of Selling, and of Sales Engineering.  It is more important than talking, more critical than knowing the right answers, and more important than being able to fix someone's problem.

If you find you are speaking more than about 20% of the time in a meeting - you are probably speaking too much - and that is for a one-one meeting.  Seriously, what you want in a good customer meeting is to spend a very short time introducing yourself - spend half a meeting telling people about the wonderful things your company has done and you won't really get to know what you can offer this customer.

A good meeting for me runs like this:

5 mins - introductions - make sure you know all the people in the room, their names, and a fair idea of what they do.  It is ok to ask people to explain this in more detail, and shows that you care if you take the effort to write down their names and get the spelling right.

5 mins - why are we here? Agenda.

20-40 mins - get the customer to tell you what the business problem is. Why are we here today? Tell me about the problem. Tell me why it matters to the business.  Find out how this problem ranks against other problems. When do they need/want to solve it by?

10 mins - explain the kinds of business your company is in. Don't get too deep yet, this is a chance for your customer to emphasize with the business problems you can solve.  Don't go off the reservation though, this needs to be brief but show how you might be able to help.

15 mins - ask how they'd like to proceed. Don't assume they need to see a technical demo, or have a business case built for them.  Demos should be used to prove a point. You should use this point as a chance to go back into their problems and start to ask how they would like to try and solve the business problems, what kinds of solutions they have already looked at.  What is the alternative way to solve this problem if your company didn't exist?

5 mins - suggest ways that you could work together.  Use their definitions of problems and solutions - not yours.  You want them to decide how they want to solve this.  The problem is theirs to solve, not yours.  If you have multiple people from their company in the meeting, try to promote discussion between them.  They trust each other more than they trust you.  Try to use this to build. Look for actions that build a relationship, or sealing some business that is mutually beneficial.

Now - this could be a close to the meeting.  I have gone to many customer 'demo' meetings and never performed a demo, sometimes not even using powerpoint or my laptop at all.  You can even make a sale without doing this.  However, if they have expressed an interest at seeing something, then do some brief demo or show reports to help show potential solutions to the problems.  Try to promote discussion as you do this.  It shouldn't be you telling them facts or saying "You should buy this because..."

You could also defer this technical session if you feel that the main audience for that is not there.

What do you get out of a meeting like this:

  • You understand their business problem
  • You know what the alternative is
  • You know when they are trying to solve it by.
  • You get a feeling for if they like your solution

And with these answers, you should be able to build a relationship and hopefully develop some business.  If they aren't a good fit for your company, you won't waste the next few months finding out why and explaining it to your management.