Tag Archives: Preparation

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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Destination Unknown

If you don’t know where you’re going, it’s perfectly find to meander. You just might stumble upon your destination.

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Investigative Reporter

The joy is in the research, the discovery, the crafting, the thinking.

And when you make a series of calls like Redford as Woodward in All the President’s Men, you’re an investigative reporter hot on the trail of a lead.  From witness to sales rep to product manager to customer, you’re digging up clues and finding the real scoop.

Your story will make the difference for the customer.

The research will save you a lot of time in the sales process.


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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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Technology simplifies

For a recent demonstration…

I sat down to a web-meeting and conference call (VOIP telephony) and shared my desktop, while connected to my corporate VPN, running a virtual computing system (the demonstration system) accessed remotely (through a desktop emulator), which was itself running a virtual phone system / communications technology (the product being demonstrated), dialed into via cell phone by a peer on-site at the customer, which came back into my USB headset, which was itself full-duplexing the concall, the inbound call, and a conferenced demo role all at once through the same headphones and mic, recording the calls themselves to boot.  All from my laptop, wirelessly connected to a router connected to a cable-modem inside my home office.

I took a smooth sip of coffee and showed them how easy the products were to use.

I’m sure you would have done the same.

Rats! I forgot to show the email and chat features!
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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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Inner Monologue

Experience has taught me to listen to my experience.

When faced with different situations, my inner monologue* kicks in and starts feeding me nuggets of advice:

  • You’ve done this before
  • Don’t stress- you can’t know what’s going to happen in this meeting
  • Trust in your teammates in the room
  • Qualify that question, don’t answer it right away
  • Pounce! Now!  Close it!
  • Step in and save this
  • You know more about this one than they do
  • They know more about this one than you do
  • I never thought of it that way
  • It’s okay to be wrong on this one
  • You’re giving them a lot of information, building on credibility
  • It’s not about you

Listen to the advice your inner monologue feeds you.  You’ve spent years developing it.

*It’s not a dialogue- I don’t converse with it, I listen to it.

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Do we really need 10,000 hours?

Malcom Gladwell makes the case for a ten thousand hour path to expertise in his book Outliers.

Simple math tells me, with forty hour weeks, fifty weeks a year, you’ll reach that plateau in five years.

We’re in Pre-Sales.  We haven’t got five years.  We’ve got until the demo date, likely set by the sales rep.*

What can we do with one hundred hours?  Invest it wisely.  Now go!

*With an eye towards return-flight scheduling convenience.

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Speed dating

This is when it all comes together.

I have 44 minutes, a cryptic spreadsheet of 40 requirements, a briefing, and some customer knowledge to work with.

I’m going to mix it all together with some eggs, a demo, and a fresh powerpoint and bake a demo cake.

This is fun!

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“Well, I guess you’re a manufacturing company.”

Years ago, in a discovery session with a manufacturing company, my peers (manufacturing, planning, and production are not my forte) poked and prodded as we walked about the facility, asking insightful questions about the customer’s operations, the challenges they faced, how they ran this and that process, when they resorted to manual lists and spreadsheets, when they made decisions with autonomy, when they went up the hierarchy; they even discussed the most economical approach cutting small pieces of steel out of a large piece of scrap.

In short, my peers proved themselves to be not just product and solution experts, but to truly be subject matter experts.

The moment that most impressed me was at the end of the day when, gathered around a table (okay, a folding-table like you get at Sam’s Club) in a conference room just off the manufacturing floor, one of my peers exhaled a sigh and summarized her day with, “Well, I guess you’re a manufacturing company.” Chuckles and agreement all around. Obvious but true.

This is winning the deal in discovery.

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