Monthly Archives: February 2012

A Voracious Appetite for Learning

One of the fundamental requirements* of the Pre-Sales role is learning.

There are always new products, new industries, new technologies and new approaches.  There’s so much learning to be done that sometimes it’s hard to find time for doing.  But then again, we can get so caught up in the doing, we don’t make time for learning.

Try to learn, think, and create in the morning when your mind is fresh.  Do it before you check your distractions: email, internet homepages, and Twitter. Use your brain in the morning and save the afternoon for the tasks at hand.

Learning isn’t something that happens to you.  You happen to it.  Happen to it in the style that works best for you.  Do you read?  Do you need to see something?  Hear someone explain? Do diagrams make the most sense to you?  Are you driven by examples? Do you have to be physically active, taking notes and interacting with the materials?

Books, blogs, videos, podcasts, forums, presentations, documentation, sample data, sandboxes, and mentors can be found, and found at the speed of an internet search.

This is a great week- I have to learn a new product and I get to attend a workshop.  I’ll be full of new ideas by Friday.

*Requirement is such a harsh term. Learning is one of the fundamental joys of the Pre-Sales role.

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Fifteen good minutes

We’ve all heard Thomas Edison’s quote on the virtues of hard work, “success is 10 percent inspiration and 90 percent perspiration.”

Which comes first?  In the line of Pre-Sales, I’ve found inspiration takes the form of fifteen good minutes of quality thinking, usually occurring somewhere towards the middle or end of the perspiration.

Help the inspiration come along.

My catalysts for thought involve physical action- pacing, juggling, playing a musical instrument.  My best feedback comes from the trees along the trails near my home.  My Uncle Jim referred to his dogs Rufus and Schmaeser, companions on his long walks, as his ‘financial advisors.’

When the inspiration comes, catch it.

Writing is the taking down of ideas.  My penmanship deteriorates with the increased pace of fleeting ideas.  Essay writing and bullet points can be linear, constricting.  Open up your thinking processes with mind-mapping diagrams, Post-It notes, or note cards.  They make it easy to let your mind go, and you can (literally) organize your thoughts later.  Voice recording applications are available for our smart-phones. Plug in your headset and start talking your ideas into existence.

Digital equivalents exist for most of these tools, with the added benefit of ease of sharing, persistence and re-use.  I recommend FreeMind ( for mind mapping and LinoIt ( for post-it note style thinking.

When those 15 minutes come, will you be ready?

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A Spoonful of Sugar Helps the Medicine Go Down

Change is difficult.  It’s hard to learn something new.

Yet there we are, standing in front of an audience, demonstrating with great zeal and gusto all sorts of new things and better ways and innovative solutions.

Get ready.  Your audience is about to unleash a barrage of pointed, impatient questions.

It’s not that they don’t like what you’re showing.  They simply don’t understand what you’re showing.  They understand their world and what they do in a specific, familiar way.  What you’re sharing is different, a something-new your product and technology make possible.   Because it is new and unfamiliar, they don’t understand it.  Yhey are trying to make sense of your something-new through their questions.

So help them.  Give them an analogy that explains your product, your positioning, your solution in a way everyone can understand.  Let the analogy apply a concept they do understand to their current challenges, helping form your unique solution.

I provided a day long session where I used the theme of a master-planned housing community with all sorts of related analogies: pick from one of four basic home designs, choose your own fittings and fixtures, landscaping is later, be the first ones on the block, etc.  It was a huge pantry stocked with analogies*.  In a follow up call months later, the customer didn’t remember our product’s features and functions, but she excitedly recalled “the house! The house!”

Mary Poppins was a great Pre-Sales Engineer:

In ev’ry job that must be done
There is an element of fun
You find the fun and snap!
The job’s a game

And ev’ry task you undertake
Becomes a piece of cake
A lark! A spree! It’s very clear to see that

A Spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down
The medicine go down-wown
The medicine go down
Just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down
In a most delightful way

*See how I did that?

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They don’t remember the details

They remember their impression of the details.

They remember your analogies.

They remember that you understood their vision.*

They remember you.


*If a leader in the room has a vision you can articulate, it almost doesn’t matter what your product can do.  When you can help someone achieve their vision, you’re the most valuable person in the room.

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Group Project

Work (and in our case, dynamic sales team engagements) is like a group project in school: only one or two actually do the work.

The rest busy themselves with making coffee or doing the typing or putting together binders.

The ones who lead the project will eventually succeed.  If a team member can’t show up and contribute, that’s their problem.  Move on without them.  That’s leadership — moving forward and pulling others with you by setting the example.

Let the followers do what they’re good at.

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Rock Stars

We are Pre-Sales.

We are discerning, considerate, persuasive, and contemplative.  We are thought-leaders, roadwarriors, salespeople, demo-builders, presenters, geeks and entertainers rolled into one.

We know our customers’ pains and our solutions.  We know industry processes, best practices, and the power of a single, well-placed click.  We know how to position, win, lose, recover, and fight another day.  We know our competition, ourselves, and everyone in every organization. 

We are not shy, afraid, uncertain, unwilling, or incapable.  We are not fools, yet we suffer them with grace.

We create consensus, alignment, vision, analogies, value, and action.

We deliver RFPs, demos, proofs of concept, and successful meetings.  We deliver the impossible and the art of the possible.  We deliver the goods. Hell, we deliver the coffee.

We can take a punch and we can punch back.  We say no when we should and yes when we must. 

We simply can.

We are Pre-Sales.  We are rock stars.

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Why Should They Buy from You?

This is the focus and fundamental of sales engagements.  Your company is solid, your customers are thrilled, you have unique capabilities, you’ve articulated your value and messaging.  This is your case to your prospect.

But let’s look at it from their perspective.  Why would they buy from you?

Because they see in you a path to something better.  They trust in you, your company, and your products to help them achieve their goals, realize their vision.  They see that you understand their problems and have the insight to help them solve their problems.  You are an expert, available to consult with them.

As you review your discovery notes and look at your solutions, as you  prepare your demonstration systems and fine-tune your positioning and value, be sure to pause and ask yourself the All-Important Question: 

Why would they buy from you?

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