Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Free Sales Engineering Resources on the Web

Free SE online resources:

There are a number of fantastic resources to help you become a better SE.
Remember, great SEs develop themselves, they aren't produced or trained by any college or school that I know of.  Normally you have to go out there and learn it for yourself.

Books (EmZed Copyright 2006)
So much training that SEs receive is aimed either for technical audiences or for Sales teams.  There may be a gap in the market for anyone providing top quality SE training.

Some of the best resources I've seen recently:
Paid learning:

Read some good books!

  • Courses - think out of the box. Karrass: Effective Negotiating for Engineers A course that Karrass can do for your company. Remember that as an SE, even if you don't sit at the negotiating table, it doesn't mean you aren't part of the process. You are the eyes and ears of the sales team.
  • The Great Demo! - read the book and Second Derivative can also arrange training
  • Brush up on Public speaking, presentation and webinar skills (remember running a webinar is not the same as a live presentation!)
  • Spend some time practicing!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Sales Engineers: Presenting the Product Roadmap

Sometimes a Sales Engineer has to do that special kind of presentation - the Product Roadmap.  The trick to this is to show a strong future, but not a weak current product.

The Product Roadmap (Photo Michiru Maeda 2011)
There are 3 main things you need to get across:

  1. Your future product aligns well with the customer/prospect's needs
  2. There is excellent value in paying their maintenance
  3. There is no reason to wait before buying the product
The first two points represent the advantages of buying from your company to the prospect.  That your product will continue to suit them, and is well aligned to what they want to do in the future.  
The importance of these points may vary with the willingness of the customer to receive these updates later.

The final point is a warning! Don't give the customer a reason to delay spending their money.  
  • This is the risky part of presenting future product, in that your customer may be reluctant to buy now - you might force them to pay more to get the new features. 
  • It may put some contingency over their buying now - and this might delay you in getting paid!
  • An upgrade might be something they are not planning for
While it is great to be innovating and helping with future needs, don't rely on them to sell your product. Use it to differentiate you from the competition, particularly if they are slow moving, or are not developing your product very quickly.  This presentation is a two-edged sword, and can hurt you or help you.

Good luck and happy selling!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Don't let your Engineers be Assholes!

Today there is a very important message and key to everyone in the sales team.  It surely will increase your word of mouth influence and ensure your company is seen as positive to all of your customers.

I must warn you, today's post goes into the use of some mildly strong language - please don't be offended - I don't want to be the one thing I am trying to post against today!

I stumbled onto an article on Eyes on Sales today and thought it relevant particularly SEs as we can spend a lot of time with the customer.

A happy team. (Photo by ckornowski, 2005)
Make sure you never come across as an asshole. 

That is pretty much it! The examples cited are about air hostesses and their differing reactions to customers not doing as they are told and shutting off their electronic devices, however this really covers anyone in your organisation who has close contact with your customers.

Just as everyone at the customer site has some impact on the decision, everyone on your team will have a chance to not be an asshole every chance they talk to the customer.

A customer domain expert might challenge you, or tell you the way it should be done.  They might be right, they might be wrong.  It doesn't matter really.

Any time you are challenged by your customer you have two options.
One: react strongly and you come across as hard to deal with.
Two: let any slight wash off you like the sea, and then be positive and constructive.  You can always moan about it later away from the customer.

Be interested in what is important to them.  Listen to any criticism you can and take it away.  Be the man who jumps on the grenade and don't let it blow up your deal.

As an engineer, you will get to meet many of the customer's people, many of whom might not normally interact with suppliers.  It is your job to be the better person and help the customer make up their own mind.

What is the net effect?

Each time you react negatively, it creates ripples in the social network of people you are dealing with.  If you annoy one person, several others will hear about it.  You can't go to each of those people.  You mightn't even know them.  They might know that the person you are dealing with isn't nice - your positive reaction in those situations will make a positive impression on them, even if you never meet.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

How Saving a Lost Deal saved my Sales guy his Job!

Sometimes you don't feel like you are hearing the right things from a prospect. It could be a spider sense tingling you get. You just don't think you are getting through to them, like you normally would.

This article at entrepreneur magazine goes through several important ways to tell if you are losing a deal, and how you might still save it:
Entrepreneur magazine 
How to tell if you are losing a deal and how to save it!
It reminds me of a deal where we had a great first meeting with a customer, and everything was swimming along nicely.  They had seen our Ts & Cs, priced up the deal, and then we heard nothing for a week.  No one was on holiday.  The sales guy couldn't get hold of anyone at their company.

He asked me if I could chase down the technical guy and find out what was happening.  I had to be subtle though - the direct question would just make me seem like another sales guy.  So I offered up some additional white papers, then a technical session, and a architecture/implementation session.  Finally he told me that they were talking with one of our competitors - one we knew well - and knew what wouldn't work for them in this situation.  They weren't even going to do a Proof of Concept (POC) with them - so I just suggested that one of their technical environment components would be a challenge for that vendor.  I didn't have to do anything else - this was the catalyst for a full POC of that technology, and a chance for us to come in and revitalize our proposal, deal and get closer to the customer.

It all turned out well, and the sales guy was very thankful.  Sometimes it is easier for an engineer to get closer to the customer.

Monday, November 21, 2011

VBScript To Send Email Using CDO

I recently found Paul Sadowski's scripting help on sending emails from VB script in Windows very helpful in testing configuration on a new SMTP server during a customer POC.

I made sure that I sent emails to my phone so I could show them to the customer as they arrived!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The New Software Pricing Model: Can the Older Giants Compete?

The Motley Fool is getting into software licensing?

Actually they are talking about whether the old dinosour companies with old licensing models can keep up with the trend for more fluid licensing models.
Motley Fool: New Software pricing - can the older giants stay competitive?

If the investment community is opening their eyes to the differences a new license model can make, and new ways of licensing software, this will surely mean more innovation in this area.  This is surely a positive thing

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Travel tips for Sales Engineers

Sometimes I find it hard to optimize is the soft perks of all the travelling you do as a sales engineer. With a bit of planning and joining the right flying partners you can quickly take advantage of the points on offer and fund your holidays and personal life - which might help make up for the work travel.

The Points Guy!
The Points Guy offers some great advice in setting up the right travel points schemes for you in his Beginner’s Guide to Setting Up an Effective Points Strategy.

As a general rule - if points are on offer for any flight, hotel, rental or spend while you are travelling, you should make sure you get credited to the best plan for you, and if possible focus on maxing your points with the right chain for you, and you will get free upgrades, perks, freebies and also the points as well. Often there are ways to earn points quicker, extra bonuses and member's rates.

In many cases you save money for your company too, with complimentary airport transfers, free wifi and lounge access at airports.