Friday, August 28, 2015

Still Relevant – Sales Engineering Lessons Learned

Found a document where I captured some of the quick lessons I learned experienced in the first year working as a presales engineer. 9 years later, these are still relevant.

SE Lessons Learned
  1. Be genuine. You have to learn who you are and be comfortable. It really doesn’t matter what you’ve done or who you know. When you’re in front a new customer, they don’t know you, and you are beginning from scratch. It’s OK to befriend them, and you should, but…
  2. Develop relationships slowly. This isn’t a race to be the most likeable guy. Take your time. Be accessible, be open, make friends, but in the end you have to make the sale. Never lose sight of your end goal or you will become ineffective and too involved to make decisions.
    • This isn’t a buddy-buddy game. It’s about genuinely helping someone with a project and helping your customer to close a sale. This means…
  3. Don’t spill the beans. Let the customer learn what they need to know slowly. This does two things and prepares you for the next point.
    • First, the customer needs the information they believe is most important to them. Although, there is an education component of the sale, you have to address the pieces that are most important to the customer. Regardless of why they believe what they believe – They do, and you have to address that first.
    • Second, the customer shouldn’t be overloaded with information they don’t care about. It’s nice that you know your field so well, or that you anticipate a question about something down the road. Carefully scope how much information you give them, and they can continue coming back to you for more. It’s not about withholding information – it’s about not giving away the cards completely.
  4. Never talk down to your competition. It’s great that you have a superior product. If you don’t, then you should move to a company you believe in. However:
    • You don’t know these people as well as you think you do, where they come from, who their friends are, or what competition has a particular feature they actually see as superior. It doesn’t matter if they are right or wrong in their own assumptions. They have friends and opinions and you have to respect this. Instead of bashing the competition…
  5. Consider alternatives to talking down to your competitors. This doesn’t mean you can’t say a word. You can express an opinion:
    • Offer to go head to head during an evaluation and absolutely speak to your previous successes going head to head. Let your actions speak louder than your words.
    • Speak to your product’s strengths and not against specific product weaknesses. Speak to weaknesses broadly as a class of product if you’re asked about it.
  6. Ultimately, you have to focus on the end-result. Sell product.
    • Your job isn’t about making the best documentation possible, the best friends possible, or doing anything else that doesn’t contribute to the bottom line of your success. Perfectionists beware. It’s good to have drive and work hard – but spend the energy perfecting the sales process, not anything else that takes time from you taking care of current customers and helping your sales manager get into more accounts.
  7. Nobody cares how much you know. People want to know how much you care. Try to understand the customer’s problems and spend time recognizing the strengths of the people you’re working with. They will learn how good you are over time.
  8. Communicate. As much as the technology you know, your role is in sales.
    • Stay in touch with your sales manager and escalate issues to him before he’s blindsided with an account that he thinks is going well.
    • Stay in touch with your sales channel counterparts. Other SEs should:
      • think of your solution when they visit a customer
      • speak to your solutions strengths
      • defend your solution when challenged in the competitive landscape. 
  9. Read books. You don’t know yourself and others as well as you think you do. Learn what others are interested in and read a book about it. Read about sales. Read about relationships. Read about your industry or a new technology. Read. Read. Read.
  10. Under promise and over deliver. Always do this. Develop a reputation for delivering on what you promise. This builds trust faster than anything else. You need to finish a few tasks well – not perfect – rather than fail miserably in trying to complete several tasks.
  11. Never underestimate politics. Political relationships drive important decisions whether you are involved in the process or not. Some people will like you as long as you are useful to them and don’t get in their way. Nobody likes to be overshadowed. People want to know you are willing to help them and will back them up. When you start doing well, the way you handle your success will determine the reaction and support of those around you that aren’t doing as well.