What can you (SE’s) stop doing in the new year?


If you’ve seen one too many posts on resolutions for the coming year like I have, I’m sure the last thing you want to see is another list of things to add to your growing stack of todo’s. So I wanted to take the opposite frame and list out some things you can safely stop doing to gain some much needed time back to focus on things you want to start doing.

In no particular order:

  • No first discussion calls – Stop attending calls where it’s the first interaction your sales team has had with a prospect. If your rep or inside guy hasn’t spent at least 20 minutes gathering basic qualification information, don’t get on the phone
  • No RFP responses! – UNLESS you helped create it with the prospect in the first place
  • No support calls – Spending time on support calls with existing customers is not the best use of your time
  • No unqualified demos – If the prospect won’t agree to a brief needs analysis call prior, they are sent to your weekly webinar and not a 1:1 demo. Don’t have one? Create it.
  • Stop writing redundant emails – Take the time to create exceptional email templates
  • Stop responding to after-hours emails – Unless a customer’s systems are down, it can wait until morning
  • No agenda, no meeting – If that internal meeting has no detailed agenda which involves you personally, skip it. Some companies like Apple, Google, and Visa have mandated this company-wide
  • No defined budget, no POC – Unless there is a specific budget amount the prospect has assigned to your project and you know what it is, do not proceed with a POC
  • No buying criteria, no POC – If the prospect won’t work with you to define their buying criteria, do not proceed with a POC
  • Forget the roadmap – Stop worrying about where your product is going outside of some high level objectives. Instead, use roadmap questions as an opportunity to bring product managers in to qualified opportunities

While there are exceptions to any rule, the benefit of this type of review is to see how far you can push these principles in your own situation to free up time for more productive activities.

As an aside, this will be one of the last posts on The Sales Engineer. There are many developments afoot, so look forward to an announcement next month on newer and bigger things. I wish everyone a very happy and prosperous FY17!


Seamless Integration with your Account Team

How well you communicate with your reps is a key determinant to your worth in a sales organization. It determines how well you’re aligned, the level of mutual trust, and ultimately how effective you are in your accounts. Given its importance, I’m surprised at how little thought goes into managing this more closely. I think many SEs feel they get to take a backseat to the discussion and simply wait for their reps to call them. Now, if you’re looking for a sure-fire way to get top of mind with your account teams while demonstrating leadership to management, read on.

Being that all of us have by now established the critical practice of a weekly review, leveraging your broader account teams for input into your process will greatly ease much of your decision-making effort. If it seems obvious that you should have a weekly review with your account teams that mirror your own review schedule, you’re already functioning at a high level of self-direction.

Before going further, understand that your rep is indeed accountable for the communications of the sales team. If you have a senior rep, they will have already organized some sort of review schedule that works best for them. This is ideal and you can simply plug right in. For now, we’ll assume you’re working with a newer rep or just coming into a sales team. Here’s some things you can initiate immediately:

  • Bring together all of the technical resources working on your accounts. This includes support and consulting personnel with active engagements or escalations. Schedule this weekly or as needed
  • Create a whitespace with all of your assigned accounts. Note deployment counts, active opportunities (such as status of POCs), escalations, and services engagements for each customer
  • Solicit these team members in the creation of the document. Note that many larger firms will have ready-made templates as part of the CRM or forecasting tool

While it is certainly optimal to collaborate with your rep on this document, you can manage it yourself if required. You can slowly reel other account team members into the process over time.

  • Ask your rep to review your document and add any holes or clarify any points you might be off on
  • Then determine what the top priorities are for the quarter and for the year. While this intuitively boils down to the largest opportunities, there is some nuance here. For example, there may be a large opportunity that the rep feels able to win on reference or political advantage. A smaller opportunity might be a highly competitive technical shootout. S/he is going to want you more focused on the latter
  • The output of this exercise for you is an active project list that can now be prioritized and worked into your systems

After the document is done, I also recommend reviewing this with your manager (assuming there is a dedicated SE management role).

  • Let them know early the process you’re working. They may be able to point you to specific templates they’ve used before
  • Once completed, incorporate it as part of the agenda for your periodic meetings (or status emails) as s/he desires
  • Word of caution: the last thing you want is to create a rift between you and your rep because you’re sharing details that the rep was not (intentionally) communicating to sales management. You can set that as a group rule when you undertake this with your rep

After it’s been going (well, hopefully) for a number of months, you can offer to your manager to present your process at the next SE meeting. Your goal here is to show some leadership, and help smooth the way for other SEs who may have had a harder time getting their reps to the table for a discussion.

For SE managers, you can help the process greatly by establishing a formal periodic technical opportunity review with your team. Collaborate with the district manager to enable you’re synced up. It looks better if the message comes down from the sales side whenever possible.

Finishing Strong

As the end of the quarter and most fiscal years come to a close, SEs typically benefit from having a few extra cycles around this time of year. Notwithstanding the obvious benefits of catching up on some quality family or personal time, there are some housekeeping and nice-to-have projects that can benefit from your attention to help ensure you’re hitting the new year at full speed. [Read more…]

Managing Your Desktop and Screenshots

I have a trio of tips including a free utility that will help you better manage your demo and documentation. First, we’ll look at a couple simple tricks will help you save a lot of time writing documentation and capturing screenshots. Next, we’ll look a cool utility that will help make your demos super-professional, no matter how messy your desktop is.

[Read more…]

From Dud to Stud in 90 Days – Part II: Industry and Competitive

Part I  covered the best way to attain basic product knowledge as a new SE. In this article we cover the best way to increase your industry knowledge which is critical in establishing your credibility while allowing you to begin differentiating yourself for your competition.

In your first 90 days you need to have the product basics down. With at least that skill you can parrot the work of others and begin to articulate the message to customers. In of itself that’s not enough to sustain your growth and establish your greater credibility to the customer. You need to understand their language, typical buying criteria, how you compare to  the market, and be able to educate the customer on how similar companies have solved that problem.

[Read more…]

From Dud to Stud in 90 Days – Product Knowledge

I recently had the pleasure of joining an awesome new company after my 10+ years with my previous employer. Though I had changed roles a few times, it’s been quite a while since I got a completely fresh new set of accounts and products to sell. Having had to spend a good deal of time figuring out the best way learn the technology as well as my new customer base, I want to discuss my lessons learned in determining the key ingredients in an SE onboarding (90-day) plan. [Read more…]

Reach a Crazy Amount of Prospects

You’d be hard pressed to find an SE who thought they didn’t have enough work to do. We’re all short on time for keeping touch points with our customers and looking for ways to reach farther. I covered this conceptually with communications platforms. Today I want to highlight a particularly effective piece of content you can create for that platform—the standing tech briefing.

[Read more…]