Category Archives: Leadership

A Sales Rep, an Industry Expert, and a Presales Engineer walk into a bar

Without a customer.

Actually, it was a business room in corporate headquarters.  They talked shop.  They shared notes on the different accounts they were working and strategies they were undertaking.  Conversation went a million different directions, digging into this, digging into that, ranging far and wide with just a little bit of gossip.

They came out of the room with fresh insights on approaches high level and low, industry trends, competition, what the solutions could and couldn’t do, and overall enhanced their collective go to market.

It took two hours.

Talk shop once in a while.

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Save the Day

Often, too often, the agenda is not clear, the audience is not understood, and the purpose of the meeting hasn’t been communicated.

As Pre-Sales it is our responsibility and delight to save the day:

  • Determine what the audience is there to learn
  • Volunteer to take over
  • Grab their attention and bring them value.
  • Be brilliant and brief

Look at that.  You’ve been memorable.

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Oh the Places You’ll Go

At a recent team meeting, I conducted a brainstorming session about where you can go from the Pre-Sales role in your career.

What would you think of someone who was…

Self-motivated, decisive, skilled at presenting, loved to learn something new, knew customers, listened well, understood a variety of industries, sought solutions to problems, was skilled at managing projects, dealing with situations, and enjoyed thinking, writing, and managing their own time?

Would you think Sales? Executive Leadership? How about Marketing Communications, Product Management or a People Manager?  Why not Business Operations, Strategic Alliances, Industry Expert or a Global Account Manager?  Getting outside our own little world, wouldn’t such a person make a great entrepreneur, politician, parent, writer or keynote speaker?

Pre-Sales demands a broad and deep set of interpersonal, business, and organizational skills.  Doing this job is a non-stop professional skills exercise program.

We all knew people within our own organization who had passed through this role to become anything from demonstration technical support to members of the board.  And many who had stayed right where they were, because that’s where the action was.

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How to not be seen*

At a moment that calls for leadership, respond thus:

Happy to support you guys, just let me know…


Looking forward to working with you on this.


Many thanks for the guidance …greatly appreciate it and will adjust the message accordingly!


I have a conflict meeting on that date.  Let me know.

*heavy sigh*

Not being seen is simple, really.  Send a message expanding upon your enthusiasm for the project with a dash of “just let me know,” and you’re off the hook.  Be sure to make the victory party and share some high fives.

*Inspiration from the uninspired.  Oh, and Monty Python, of course.
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Your Competition is out there

On YouTube, actually.

While your engagements will keep you busy discovering, preparing, presenting, and following up, it’s a good practice to check out your competition once in a while.

Watch their demos.  Take notes.  Observe what they say versus what they show.  They reveal an awful lot about themselves in a few short minutes.*  See if you can duplicate their use cases with your solutions.

Your customers are watching these demos too**, so you’d better be familiar with the expectations they’ll have of you.  These demos are the table-stakes in the game.  The better ones will set the competitive bar.  Match the competition’s bid, raise ’em, and call.

You should be knowledgeable enough of your competition to do a better job positioning their solutions than they would.

Because you’re the best.

*Or longer.  Customer conference keynotes, training classes, customer stories, future visions, press releases, and more are available to you within a few clicks.
** When your prospective customer searches for videos about your solution, what will they find?
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Mature from the desperate pleas of “tell me what to do!” to the confident leadership of “don’t tell me what to do.”


Meddling Fools

As the subject matter experts, rock-stars that we are, we’re often burdened with taking the customer’s challenges and needs and developing our position, messaging, and solutions for the rest of the team.

We all know it is easier to edit than create, and therein lies the challenge.  After blood, sweat, and tears are invested in solution creation, the meddling fools who delegated the creation authority to us in the first place feel the need to take our effort and begin the process again from the beginning, turning over each stone.

And turning them over again.  And again.

The horse is dead.

Stop beating it.

Stop thinking on our time; We’ve invested our creative effort offline, previously, and have communicated it to you with good reason.  Be a professional, stay up to date, and be prepared.

The review is not the starting point; it’s the affirming close.

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If your customer says something you disagree with, and you have valid arguments, then challenge them.

Not their authority, not their past decisions, not their role in the decision, no.  But their preconceptions, their misunderstandings, and their prejudices are fair game.

Give them a mental challenge.  Spar with them.

You’re an expert in your domain, and they’re an expert in theirs.  You’re at par.  But you probably know more about their domain than they do about yours.  Advantage you.

You’re asking them to make a huge investment and business decision.  Let them know what you’re made of.  Take a punch and punch back.  They’ll respect you for it.

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Everyone recognizes the leader- he’s the one in front.

But is it in your customer’s best interest to pick the frontrunner?

There are so many ways of getting to the lead; some deserved, some not:

  • Being there first
  • Staying close and passing at the last moment
  • Carrying on when everyone else gives up
  • Being pushed to the front
  • Cutting the line
  • Standing still while everyone regresses
  • Building an insurmountable lead and then resting
  • Running your own race

Which are you this time?

In golf they don’t ask how, they ask how many.

In business, your customer might be wise to focus on how the frontrunner got there.

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Why so competitive?

Because we like to win


Because we like to compete

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