Friday, July 13, 2012

Building a Versatile Team of Sales Engineers

Last article I introduced the concept of the Versatility Vector and how it applies to an individual Sales engineer.

These place of an SE in the diagram is not fixed, and individuals develop over time.  If the disciplines or fields of a team broaden then the versatility of the team will be reduced until people pickup the new knowledge.

Also, new advances in each field mean that those who don't keep their knowledge fresh or their skills honed will slip back to the left (less depth of knowledge).

The balance of a team depends on the scope of activities required.  Some activities require more versatility - it may be unknown what knowledge or skills are required, so versatility is key.  Other situations call for the absolute best person in a particular field.  

In a group which is under supplied in versatility, it may take multiple resources to fulfill a single task.  This reminds me of many HP demos (apologies HP but you come readily to mind) where one person knows each product well, but not many people can string it all together.

A lack of specialist knowledge however can be just as bad. There might be no one with that can force things across the line and win a deal or close down an open question. Each team member may feel spread too thin or afraid to call for help from outside.

So obviously a balance between the two is required.  

The superstar might seem like the answer.  One person who both versatile and has in depth knowledge.  They certainly would be in demand in many situations. With a large team, superstars might be a luxury, but with a small team they are necessary. 

To make best use of the other players in the team, the superstar should be used to help boost the other members, turning the unknowledged into knowledgeable, and increase the versatility of other members.  They should be used in the situations that require the flexibility first, rather than being just the first choice for each situation.  

Holding them in reserve extends the versatility in the team. For those who play bridge, it's like holding back your high trumps until you need them. Using the person with the least versatility required means you can handle that next request regardless of the skills required.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Introducing the Versatility Vector

I have been thinking of a concept which is of interest to sales engineers, their management and also mathematicians who like studying sales engineering.

A vector as many of you know is an entity with both magnitude and direction - which is used to measure many things such as forces. These are things where it is important to know both the strength and direction of the entity.

So the concept of today is the Versatility Vector.  It is a measure of your depth of knowledge against your depth of knowledge in any specialised field, as rated against those specialists.

It is important in team make up, especially when it is difficult to ensure a specialist can be arranged for each meeting, or where multiple specialists are required, that a good number of highly versatile characters exist.

In an analyst-style quadrant diagram, I would classify SEs in 4 classes based on this assessment:

FLEDGELING (bottom left). Those who don't have high knowledge in any area or in any broad range.  The key skill for a FLEDGELING is to learn quick and move into a different quadrant.

GENERALIST (top left) has high versatility but low knowledge depth. These GENERALISTs are grat at starting and going on roadshows where a wide variety is needed, but will need SPECIALISTS to help finish the job.

SPECIALISTs (bottom right) these are the super knowledgeable but highly focused to their field of knowledge.  Their job is to fulfill tasks that fit their niche(s) and pass on everything else.  Over time specialists may broaden and add to their knowledge, or else they might prefer to stay in their field if kept fully occupied.

SUPERSTARS (top right) these are the folks who can do it all.  New concepts come to them easily and they keep pushing the boundaries of their knowledge.  Complacency of these types means that they can be forced into specialism or lose their edge and become more general.

Next article I will go into more detail on the effect these different types have on team make-up, and also the effect of adding further fields of knowledge to the mix.