Category Archives: Tools

Record It

You invest a lot of effort learning solutions, understanding the marketplace needs, and preparing for presentations.

Why not save this effort by recording it?

Tools like Camtasia can capture your screen and even a cheap USB microphone records broadcast-quality sound.  If you spend an afternoon learning the basics of the Camtasia editor, you’ll learn to cut, zoom, pan, and merge media clips together into a tight, professional video.*  Now you have a backup, a leave-behind, a promotional video, and a growing library of recordings you can depend on down the road.

You might also want to record yourself as you learn.

Turn on the recorder as you work through product marketing presentations of the latest releases.  As you read through them, you can practice explaining the concepts to pretend customers or work out use-cases and examples.  Record yourself as you set up demo data or walk through standard scripts and you’ll always have a reference for those intricate bits.  You may never edit (or even look at!) these recordings, but they’ll be there for future reference.  You’ll be surprised how quickly you recall your thought processes and understanding as you review them.  You’ll be ready to share them with others who are starting down paths you’ve already covered.

And that’s the return on your investment.

*You can even add ukulele background music, if you must.
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Captain’s Case

The captain has a case.  The doctor has a bag.  The mechanic has a toolbox.

What’s in your Pre-Sales kit?

  • Computer technology: Laptops, tablets, and phones.
  • Peripherals: USB charging cables, wireless mice, video projector dongles, presentation clickers, laser-pointers, cat-5 cables,* external batteries, laptop chargers, mi-fi devices, USB drives
  • Tools: LED flashlights, sonic screwdrivers, post it notes, pens, pencils,
  • Entertainment: headphones.  So many pairs of headphones. Bluetooth headsets, soduko books, Kindle books, real books, juggling balls, sun glasses.  Ever carry a cribbage board?  It comes in handy during layovers in Montreal.
  • Pharmaceuticals: Advil, Aleve, Sudafed, vitamins and minerals, tissues and napkins, ear plugs, water, candy bars, protein bars.
  • Spare change: The national debt of Liberia, last time I checked, comprised of mixed coins from foreign lands, guitar picks, and an eclectic collection of lint and candy wrappers.
  • Identification: passports, business cards, corporate ID, boarding passes, loyalty membership cards

There’s hardly an audio/visual situation we can’t rescue by rummaging about our bags and pulling out what’s needed, like a grandmother with a piece of Juicy-fruit gum.  Within our wheeled* kits we have everything needed to stand up our soap-boxes on the business street-corner.  So preach your stories, brothers and sisters!

*Remember when we had those retractable modem-cables to sync our email?
**You wouldn’t carry this stuff around in a backpack, would you?  What, are you still in grade school?
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Your Signature

You’re in a customer-engaging role.  Make it easy for a customer to contact you.

Your signature:

  • Should
    • always be included in email correspondence
    • be configured on your desktop, tablet, and phone*
    • provide your name, title, preferred phone number in a clickable format, and email address
  • Could
    • list professional titles and certifications
    • include your street address
    • have a link to a targeted website landing page**
    • include a quote or marketing slogan
  • Might
    • include timely promotion of an event or industry award
    • be better if it didn’t include pleas for causes that aren’t related to your business
*Why advertise for iPhone and Verizon on every email?
**Don’t give them the corporate home page.  They can guess that.  Point them toward a page about your area of expertise, or a customer story
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Creativity is bound or unleashed depending on your perspective

In your toolbox, your magic toolbox, you have wrenches and pliers and screwdrivers.  With these tools, you can tighten, loosen, hold, and adjust. What more could you want?

In your world, your real world, you have an endless variety of problems.  When you look at your toolbox from that perspective, you suddenly see that the screwdriver is a handy pry-bar and that pliers can hold the nut in place while you pound the bolt it with a wrench.

In your business system, your magical business system, you have products, customers, and prices.  With these you can take orders, manage returns and issue invoices.  What more could you want?

In your world, your real world, you have an endless variety of problems.  When you look at your business system from that perspective, you suddenly see that the call center can help create leads for the sales team, and that the order system can hold inventory in place while you enter an order and schedule delivery.

Focus your attention on the business need and then see what’s in your toolbox.  You may even find yourself saying “Oh, so that’s what this is for.*”

*I’ve got a drawer in the toolbox I inherited from my father in law that contains all sorts of tools whose purpose I can’t divine.  When a fix-it problem has me stymied, I rummage around the drawer and sure enough, “Oh, so that’s what this is for.”

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Tip: Culling Presentations down to size

It’s easier to edit than to create.

It’s also pretty clear that our peers in Marketing, Product Management, and Engineering have time on their hands to create, judging from the long, detailed, generic presentations they provide us.  Let’s take advantage  of all this raw material.  If we know what we specifically want to say to our audience, we can start pruning.

Here’s a tip:

Open up your 127 slide master deck and grab a pen and paper.  As you scroll through the presentation, jot down the slide numbers you find relevant. 3, 5, 7-10, 22, 30-34, etc. Create a new, customer-specific deck, and start copying over those slides.

The next hour or so can be spent adjusting (improving?) the grammar and phrasing of the copied slides to your needs.  I’ve found that removing  half the words improves clarity.  Less is more.

Yes, there’s a completely separate debate about PowerPoints:  Why not Prezi? Why slides with bullets? You don’t read presentations, they’re a backdrop; just use pictures.  All that is fine, but sometimes a PowerPoint is a PowerPoint.

Let’s bang them out efficiently, shall we?

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You can’t collaborate without labor

Enterprise solutions are embarking on a collaboration train, offering improved and very usable tools for notifying, sharing, messaging, and decision-making right alongside the traditional business transactions of orders, returns, credit-checks, and reports.

Unfortunately, having the right tools doesn’t fix the bookshelf. You have to use them. You can’t collaborate without some labor. The collaboration journey requires an investment of time. You have to be the I in the team who does the heavy lifting. Let’s call that investment, oh, leadership.

Eventually, another person will benefit from your collaboration efforts* and they’ll join in the conversation, multiplying the collaboration value. Collaboration spreads grass-roots, individual by individual. This is good; you can’t force collaboration any more than you can force labor.

*They’ll also recognize your leadership and you’ll have gained a fan.

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Writing, Thinking, Preparing, Rehearsing

The other day my laptop crashed and I lost about an hour’s work* I’d invested on a presentation.

But did I really lose anything?

  • Writing the presentation was a tool for me to do the thinking I needed.
  • Writing the presentation was helping me prepare for delivering my thoughts, my messages to the customer.
  • Writing the presentation was a form of repetitive rehearsal.

What I lost was a draft.  It took me roughly twenty minutes to recreate what I lost, and it flowed more smoothly.  What was necessary in the endeavor was to think, prepare, and rehearse.

*This was a shock, as I have through the years developed a nervous “ctrl-s to save” habit with my left hand.  How I went that long is

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Reach Out and Touch Someone

As new technologies are introduced, they go through stages of maturity in the marketplace.  Initially innovative, and therefore expensive, they grow to be commonplace and ultimately become a commodity (or forgotten).

Somewhere along that curve, from breakthrough invention to optimized revenue scalability, communication of the technology’s benefits migrates from the inventor* to engineers to pre-sales to order takers to the discount end-cap at Target.

Remember Palm Pilots?

During the time a technology is in pre-sales stewardship, it is our responsibility and joy to discover, understand, and bring to others.

Enjoy the technology in its ride.  But don’t hang on too long.  The next great thing is preparing to change what you do. For example, this is the year of the tablet.  And next year?

*even Alexander Graham Bell did some pre-sales work.

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Circles and lines

“What will you be demonstrating at the customer conference?”

Well, I hardly know.  Who is going to walk up?  What will their needs be?

And so, before demonstrating solutions to generic problems, I engage in discussions about their business, their challenges, their needs.

Between us, on a blank sheet of paper, circles and lines form expressing a conceptual solution with the myriad players and processes involved.  Then I demonstrate specific solutions to their problems, hitting the points meaningful to them.

I used to tear off the sheets and hand them to the patron as a keepsake but these days they snap a picture with their phone and walk on.  Next year, I’ll draw them out on my iPad and email them.

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Sent from mobile phone. Please excuse any typos.

No, I won’t.  No excuses.

We are highly paid professionals.  We are the ones the decision makers trust.  We are the front-line representatives of multimillion dollar organizations, asking our customers to invest with us.

Our communications must be clear and void of careless mistakes.

Instead of making preemptive excuses or bragging that you can send email from your iPad, include your contact information in your signature line, so your customers can effortlessly reach out to you.

That’s what it’s for.

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