Tag 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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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.  http://www.montypython.net/scripts/hownot.php
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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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Social Feedback Loop

Don’t you love it when you get a message from LinkedIn that people are looking at your profile?

Don’t you love it even more when the person doing the looking is the customer you just had a solid interaction with?  It’s like getting a firm handshake at the end of the meeting.

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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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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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Cost Savings

We all travel.  Now and again we’re challenged to save costs.  I did some brainstorming and here are some ideas I’ve come up with:

  • Bring a bus.  It’s much more fuel efficient per-person to use a bus.
  • Double-shot for only a dollar more costs less than two single-shots.
  • Use your children as cheap resources for keying demo data.  Not everyone can do this, of course, but it’s another good reason to adopt.  And the schools will take care of them pretty much the rest of the time.
  • Don’t key in demo data.  It’s Widgets for John Smith at Acme Corp and you’ve got a demo for every customer regardless of industry.
  • Use your competition’s free version of their CRM product to keep your sales teams up to date.
  • Visit two clients on the same day in the same city on one business trip.  Nah, that’s too much coordination.
  • A simple rhyme: Red eye flights save a hotel night.
  • Staying with relatives (even distant ones) makes trips that much more exciting.
  • Roommates. It could lead to something special.
  • Skip breakfast.  Oh, wait, we do that anyway.  No cost savings there.  Wait!  Skip lunch too!
  • If you insist on breakfast, just walk on into a Hampton Inn or Fairfield Suites like you own the place- grab some food and coffee and Sit down.  You don’t actually have to stay there.  I mean, stay at the Marriott and eat at the Fairfield. The omelets at Embassy Suites are cooked to order!
  • I’ve noticed the price of coffee is inversely related to its quality:
    • Starbucks: $4.00- bitter
    • Dunkin Donuts- $2.25 and a way of life
    • MacDonald’s Newman’s Own: Tasty and hot (but not too hot) off the $1.00 value meal and quick at the drive-thru
    • Best deal:  64 ounce Big-Gulp of Mountain Dew at 7-11:  89
  • Buzz cuts save on shampoo.
  • Shampoo is also available for free in most hotels.  Steal it from housekeeping’s carts and stuff your bags.  Oh, wait, that’s a home expense saving tip.  Well, since we’re off topic anyway… dogs can be washed with free hotel shampoo.
  • Pay in Euros.  That’s one of those currency conversion economics things.
  • Post-its are cheaper than note-pads and quicker than power-points.  Ask to use the customer’s Post-its and raid their office supply cabinet when their back is turned.  See, now we’re saving travel and office expenses.
  • Take audience outside to point out your cloud solutions.  Most effective on a rainy day.  Saves development costs.  You can also take advantage of that shampoo.
  • Charge the audience admission.  I mean, we’re entertaining, right?  Why should travel be a cost center?  Make it a profit center!  Pass the hat around in the middle of the demo.
  • Wait a few months to submit expense reports.
  • Book travel to other departments’ cost-centers.
    • This will also improve gross margin on sales and thereby increase commissions.
  • Reduce cost of expense processing by outsourcing it to another country while simultaneously making the process more tedious for highly compensated employees by having them scan their receipts into PDF documents and then upload them into expense automation software rather than jamming the receipts into a prepaid envelope for interns to sort through.  Apparently the cost of a stamp is greater than the cost of half an hour spent taping, scanning, saving, file-moving, and uploading.  What?  I’m supposed to do that on my own time?
  • Just have payroll reject every 15th expense line item.  Often, those who submit them won’t notice.  If they do notice, it’s too much effort to resubmit the report and they let it go.
  • Leave the sales reps at home.  They’re just taking up space and buying dinner anyway.


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