What Ad Campaigns Can Tell Your Pre-Sales Team about How to Accelerate Growth

By Sarah Parker


All Pre-Sales engineers will have been asked the question “What do you do?” Their responses are usually met with silence…or confusion.

But Pre-Sales is at the centre of your business growth and is just as valuable as Sales.

And it is hard work.  

You need to make sure that you have a laser focus. 

Pre-Sales is evaluating your technical, commercial and operational offerings and comparing them to your competitors on a daily basis.

They know better than anyone else why you’re not winning accounts. 

How can you use that knowledge to create compelling content and drive sales?

Using ad campaigns to work back to client needs

We’re going to be looking at how top ad campaigns illustrate the potential impact of Pre-Sales by working backwards to the client needs that these identify.

After all, eventually your Pre-Sales and Sales knowledge should flow to your marketing teams for stunning campaigns that customers can relate to.

The best way to achieve a seamless cross-functional understanding of your customer is to build your Pre-Sales knowledge with Sales and Marketing.

Master these areas on every bid to get started:

  • Develop a vision of your customer’s needs
  • Make sure that you clarify features and benefits
  • Drive your teams to collaborate and share knowledge

Develop a vision of your customers’ needs

At the risk of stating the obvious, all sales activity centres on the customer.  Building a vision of your individual customer’s needs in Pre-Sales includes developing a common vision and architecting a solution.

It’s tempting to make educated guesses about what a customer needs and these can pay off—often resulting in rigid bid templates and pre-written answers.  But not all customers want a one-size fits all solution and the next customer may need a different approach.

Let’s imagine for a moment, that your team has included the following in a pre-sales pitch:

“Our SaaS solution can provide conversational AI that leads to business growth and increased conversion rates.”

This makes perfect sense if your customer is in the private sector.  But if they’re in the public sector, this templated copy is actually a flag that you don’t understand what they’re trying to achieve and why. Their challenges are likely to be citizen engagement, user satisfaction and legacy systems, rather than the constant drive to revenue.

So, this sentence would be more appropriate “Our SaaS solution improves citizen experience, increases citizen engagement and can be easily integrated with legacy systems.”

This is a fairly obvious example, but it’s this kind of rushed answer that can make or break a bid.  Don’t think that customers don’t notice these slips—when there’s millions of pounds and organisational reputation at stake everything is a chance lost or gained.

How advertisements visualise the complexity of customer needs

MMB’s advert for a toaster company perfectly visualises how your bid team needs to capture the differences between each customer.  The tagline is “Finally, toast exactly how you like it.” There’s a clear and direct recognition that customers may buy the same toaster but that they all like their toast done differently—there’s 30 shades of toast in the advert below.

Your customers are exactly the same.

And that’s what they want from your bid, whether they’re in the public or private sector—for you to show that you understand and value the subtlety of their position and can provide the solution that fits their needs best. 

It’s your Pre-Sales team who know all these settings—share that knowledge with Sales and Marketing, and they can turn it into great assets and campaigns (like MMB’s creative advert) for a joined-up process that connects your customer’s vision across channels.

Make sure that your selling team uses features and benefits

A lot of Sales teams forget that buying is essentially a selfish process—the customer cares about solving their problems.  Your organisation is only selected if it fulfils that vision.

Pre-Sales teams need to have deep understandings of your organisation’s features and benefits to support how these fit into the customer’s needs and resolve their issues.

Features are part of the seller’s products or services such as process, price, training or capacity. Benefits are advantages that solve a problem for the customer—they are linked to the customer’s needs and they’re something the customer wants.

You need to remember that customers buy benefits. It doesn’t matter if your product has all the bells and whistles if it doesn’t actually solve the customer’s problem.

Customers are looking for the return on investment, cost savings and improvements that drive directly into their current problems.  For example, if they have a low employee retention rate, they’d want to know how your product or service could increase that and by what per cent.  It’s not good enough to just drop in a figure—use case studies to prove that the benefits are achievable and proven.

But for any of this to work, the Sales team needs to communicate the clients’ benefits to the Pre-Sales team.  Even the best bid writer in the world can’t win a bid if they don’t know what the customer is looking for.  Yes, they might be able to get you in the top three on the back of strong case studies and market research—but winning a bid requires Sales to have confident and strong relationships with clients that can then feed back into the bid cycle.

How adverts use contrast to illustrate features and benefits

M&C Saatchi’s Roladin’s “Opposites Attract” campaign pairs donuts with someone who represents something entirely different—seemingly the unnatural choice.

The use of opposites forces a tension that generates renewed focus.

This is similar to bids—the customer does not always know, nor explicitly state, what their needs are.  It may be something that you wouldn’t normally think of.  This is why Sales knowledge is critical to winning bids.

You may be selling a software license with a discount for ten enterprise users and 1,000 social medial posts a month.  You’ve based this on the customer’s current team composition.  But what if they’re scaling up or scaling down, or have just announced a corporate merger?

Then, your solution suddenly becomes arbitrary and potentially far less useful to the client.

Your Pre-Sales team need those more oblique contextual clues so that they can create standout, tailored bids with benefits that speak directly to your customer. 

Drive your teams to collaborate and share knowledge

The best Pre-Sales teams create bids that take their customers’ needs and transform that into messaging that is not directly about a product or a service, but about the values and issues that the customer wishes to speak to.

The campaigns are a strong visual way of understanding this—they’re not designed just to be compelling but to speak directly to customers in their own language.

Behind this success sits a matrix of collaboration between Sales, Pre-Sales and marketing that drives customer knowledge and understanding to the heart of everything you do. 

If you nail that, you will win bids, your Sales team will convert leads and your marketing content will have focus and directionall the elements you need to knock it out of the park.

 So, what are you waiting for?

How Project Management Insight Can Help a Sales Engineer

MSS square.jpg

– by Alan Geiss

When I worked at IBM, my manager would tell me “Never confuse Selling with Installing”.  I recognized then that these were two separate activities, but I failed to recognize their similarities and dependencies.  Later in my career I led project teams at Bayer Corporation for almost 20 years, and it was then that I came to appreciate my sales experience.

Products and Services – We sell products and/or services, and after the sale project teams must implement the same.  The sales process establishes the business case for the project team, so we owe it to the client to ensure there is a case for change (aka the Burning Platform).  Without this we all fail.

Stakeholder Identification – Identifying stakeholders is just as crucial at the beginning of the sales process as it is in the initiation phase of the project.  It is probably more important for the project team to know who the outliers are than the sales team, as these colleagues could impact the adoption of the product or service.

Communication, Communication, Communication – The three most important activities when selling or implementing products or services.  Having a communication plan is critical regardless of pre or post sale activities.  Get good at it.  Spend more time listening and less time talking.  Be curious, ask questions to understand the client’s requirements. This is where you should be spending most of your time if you want to be successful.

Building a strong team – Selling solutions at IBM involved a team of people, both from IBM and its agents as well as a group of individuals from the client’s team.  Taking the time to build strong relationships is just as important on sales teams as it is on project teams.  High Performance Teams rarely fail, so why not take the time to build one.

Overcoming Objections – Removing obstacles during the sales process is just as critical during the implementation process.  Obstacles are a risk to closing “the deal”.  By understanding the customers objections, we can address their needs.  This is “Risk Management” in project management terminology.  It requires open and honest communications with key stakeholders.  I do interviews with key stakeholders at the beginning of projects to understand what they see as the project’s biggest risk.  Why not consider doing this at the beginning of the sales cycle?

Never take it personal – Saying “Don’t take it personal”, and not reacting emotionally is easier said than done.  I am competitive by nature, so I was never happy when I lost a sale.  In my case, I was missing professional maturity.  Things do not always go as planned in projects, but I conduct “Lessons Learned” exercises so that we can capture what went well and where we can improve.  Doing the same post- mortem on a lost sale would benefit you and company, while at the same time depersonalize the experience.

In my book Managing Sh*T Storms I describe the three essential behaviors required for effective project managers.  Learning to be courageous would certainly be an asset for an effective sales professional.  The most successful sales reps I know were not afraid of anything and were top performers in the company.  Practicing boldness will allow you to get things done and get more opportunities.  The next time the boss is looking for a volunteer, raise your hand.  Trust your instincts as they are based on your life experiences.  Take the time to understand what your “gut” is telling you and trust your own advice.  If you put these three essentials to practice you will have more success in your job and in your career.

BUY THE BOOK HERE: https://smile.amazon.com/Managing-Sh-Storms-Managers-Situations-ebook/dp/B086N37JG4?sa-no-redirect=1

Accruent: VP Global Sales Engineering Opportunity

Every company has a mission. At Accruent, ours is to make sure you are ready to deliver on yours. 10,000+ customers around the globe depend on Accruent to lead their physical resources and gain the transparency to execute their mission. We’re mission ready. Are you? 

Why you want to work for our Sales Engineering team: 

As the front-facing technical leader of our entire pre-sales team, you are the embodiment of our customers. You have one of the most impactful leadership roles to our continued sales growth. You will lead a Sales Engineering technical team focused on sales and customer success with multiple solutions, verticals and geographies. Working cross functionally to promote and influence strategic product direction, supporting sales and customers.  Proactively lead the Sales Engineering team to innovate and develop technical solutions supporting sales and customer use cases.  

Accruent is looking for a VP Global Sales Engineering whowill demonstrate the capability to excel in a fast-paced environment, demonstrate deep knowledge of the market, leverage a deep understanding of Database’s, SaaS, Integration API’s, and On-Prem Client Server technologies. Someone who will lead by example, translate corporate and sales vision into results, become an agent for change, and emphasizes customer service. 

This position reports directly to the Chief Revenue Officer and can be located remotely. 

How you’ll make a difference: 

  • Partner with sales leadership to achieve company and regional revenue targets.
  • Build and lead a team of Sales Engineers and Managers who serve as our core product introduction, evaluation, education experts and ongoing customer success.
  • Ensure that your teams are enabled to support all required products and solutions along with required sales/soft skills.
  • Jointly own customer success, leveraging best practice and focus to ensure our customers are delighted.  Work cross functionally with counterparts in Professional Services,
    Customer Support, and Customer Success. 
  • Proactively engage with Sales Leadership to create close alignment and develop technical tools/programs to support sales campaigns and initiatives.
  • Ensure your organization develops and maintains a catalog of Sales Engineering services, with artifacts, SLA’s and KPI’s.
  • Work closely with the Sales team to develop strategic and technical territory and account plans.
  • Oversee the recruiting, hiring, development and effectiveness of the Global Pre-Sales team.
  • Manage performance and key talent closely ensuring that we are taking the necessary actions to retain top talent and manage performance at all levels.
  • Ensure pre-sales organization is managing and tracking customer facing activity in a manner consistent with the rest of the company.
  • Work cross functionally with support, product management, engineering, and other organizations to ensure alignment with sales, provide process and product feedback, and resolve critical customer situations.

What you’ll bring to the table: 

  • BS in Computer Science or equivalent, MBA (preferred) 
  • 10+ years in a senior sales engineering leadership / management role with proven success
  • Enterprise software industry experience with cloud / SaaS solutions 
  • Highly professional persona and polished demeanor. 
  • Strong verbal and written communication skills; effective at influencing an organization at all levels
  • Ability to work with diverse groups of people;challenge and lead people toward their peak performance 
  • Strategic and forward thinker
  • A highly analytical approach, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills
  • Strong project management and financial awareness skills
  • Experience managing global/diverse teams

Please Note:

  • This job requires up to 40% travel domestically & internationally.
  • This is a full-time, exempt opportunity.
  • Relocation will not be considered for this position. It is a remote based role across the globe.
  • At this time, visa sponsorship is not available.
  • All job offers are contingent upon a successful background investigation and drug test. 

We believe everyone can bring something incredible to the table with each of our unique experiences and personal skillset. We encourage you to apply for roles that interest you, even if you don’t believe you have the exact experience we’re looking for, or your background doesn’t match the job description perfectly. If you are courageous, adaptable, and love being part of an extraordinary team, we want to hear from you!

We believe everyone can bring something incredible to the table with each of our unique experiences and personal skillset. We encourage you to apply for roles that interest you, even if you don’t believe you have the exact experience we’re looking for, or your background doesn’t match the job description perfectly. If you are courageous, adaptable, and love being part of an extraordinary team, we want to hear from you!


Accruent is a global software company that helps organizations achieve superior performance by transforming how they manage their physical resources. Its innovative, industry-leading cloud-based software and services enable organizations to optimize all stages of real estate, facilities and asset management, from capital planning through to IoT-based monitoring and control. With a proven track record across two decades, Accruent has created the only integrated SaaS-based framework and reporting platform for full lifecycle physical resource management. More than 7,000 global customers depend on Accruent solutions to drive out hidden costs, extend asset lifecycles, protect their brands, ensure compliance and deliver on the missions of their organization. Headquartered in Austin, Texas, Accruent serves a wide range of industries in 149 countries around the world.For more information, visit www.accruent.com

Accruent is an Equal Opportunity, Affirmative Action employer. Women, minorities, veterans, and individuals with disabilities are encouraged to apply.

All offers of employment are made contingent upon the successful completion of a background check. A background check may include: verification of education, past employment, criminal background reports, motor vehicle driving records, reference checks, civil suit records, drug test and/or investigations into incidents involving theft, fraud, harassment and workplace violence. The company is the sole determinant of a successful background check.

Review: The 6 Habits of Highly Effective Sales Engineers

REVIEW:  The 6 Habits of Highly Effective Sales Engineers (Chris White)

Recently I was asked to read and review a 2019 book written by presales consultant Chris White, regarding the best habits of effective sales engineers.  The book is geared more towards the software industry. However, roughly 85% of the material and suggestions within the book can be used in other fields of sales engineering.

Overall, White’s book has many practical points and insights, which I believe is the key factor in any business publication.  My favorite pieces of advice he suggests include the following:

  • A sales engineer IS IN SALES!
  • At a presentation/meeting the SE needs to do the same thing that a typical salesperson needs to do:  establish trust and build confidence with the audience, build relationships and develop rapport, offer insights and suggestions, and maybe most importantly- LISTEN.
  • SE’s often focus too much on the thing/product, and not the story/message.
  • Presales is not consulting.  We are trying to make a sale; we have not been hired- yet.
  • Some SE’s rely too much on the information from the sales counterpart, instead of doing their own thorough technical discovery call.
  • SE’s might not ask or know who will be in the room during a planned meeting.
  • Technical Sales Reps can either underprepare for a meeting, or can waste valuable time and resources by overpreparing.  The trick is staying in that middle ground.
  • SE’s may not run thru every click/step during a demo or presentation prior to the actual client meeting.   This is a big mistake and can cause embarrassing and sometimes deal-killing problems in front of the client.
  • Confused prospects/buyers always say No.
  • In your demo/presentation, make sure there are 3-5 “ah-ha” moments which should impress your audience.  On the same note, know why you are showing each step or slide/page.  Basically, you need to ask yourself, “So what?” to each step or slide.

One aspect of the book would not be entirely correct for “some” sales engineers out there.   The premise of the book is that the SE is always working alongside a sales rep or Account Executive.  While this may be generally the case, especially in enterprise software, it oftentimes is not the case in the non-software end of sales engineering.  I was formerly the national sales engineer for a building product manufacturer, and there was nobody else doing anything sales related in my territory.  I did all of my own prospecting as well as every other aspect of sales and business development or account management.   Many other non-software SE’s are in the same boat.

That said, White’s chapter on partnering with your AE is excellent and is critical for having a successful career where you are in fact working with a sales counterpart.  If that relationship is problematic, there is very little chance of ongoing sales prowess.  The book goes over several aspects making sure you have a solid working relationship, and much of this has to do with communication, and expectations.

In my opinion, Chris White’s book does a good job of what it sets out to do, and is full of valuable lessons for the new SE but also for a professional that has been in the industry or role for several years.  And though it does focus on software professionals, SE’s from other fields should also find it relevant and helpful.

You can buy it here https://smile.amazon.com/Habits-Highly-Effective-Sales-Engineers/dp/0578521903?sa-no-redirect=1

Great Meetings that Go Nowhere

By Jay Spielvogel


5 Key Secrets To Having A Great Meeting - BusinessBlog : McGraw-Hill

“Have you ever had the following experience?”

You meet with a middle level manager who is extremely interested in engaging your company to fix an issue.  This person willingly shares information with you regarding their perception of the challenges their company faces and how personally committed they are to fixing it.  The meeting ends with an agreement that they will run your proposal by their boss and an expectation that it will be a “rubber stamp”.  The action item is for you to follow up “next Monday” at which point they will have the “OK” to move forward.  Unfortunately, when Monday comes they tell you they have not had a chance to speak with their boss, but they expect to have the opportunity to sit down and have the discussion within the next few days.  Days turn into months, which inevitably turn into an endless sales cycle of following up.

The issue here is that the well intentioned prospect, who wanted to believe they would get the OK from their boss, lacks the ability to get the final buy-in.  There are many reasons for this, the least of which could be that the boss does not perceive there to be any issues or does not believe the issues can be fixed.  Either way, your contact lacks the influence over their boss.   Again, because nobody wants to believe they lack power and influence, the prospect assumes they will get a “rubber stamp“.

So, how do you know you are dealing with a non-influential person? 

First, have you ever experienced the opposite?  A prospect that was capable of driving decisions up the corporate ladder, methodically getting what they want!!!  If you have, then you can begin to see the difference between these powerful prospects and their counterparts who lack the power.  Here are some apparent differences between the two:

Non-influential prospects, with very little (if any) power:

  1. Will tend to complain about their manager.
  2. Will not have shared the fact that they are meeting you, with their manager.
  3. Will have had very little, if any, experience influencing their manager in the past.
  4. Will be unable to define their manager’s vision, goals and potential objections.
  5. Will plan to present the features and benefits that you offer, as justification for the cost.

Influential prospects, which are empowered to make decisions:

  1. Will speak positively about their manager.
  2. Will have shared the fact that they are meeting with you, with their manager.
  3. Will have an experiential understanding of how their manager makes decisions.
  4. Will be able to clearly define their manager’s visions, goals and possible objections.
  5. Will work with you to co-develop a solution that will address their manager’s issues, concerns and desired results.

They say the first step to fixing an issue is to admit you have one.  In this case, the first step for a sales person is to become extremely perceptive of the type of prospect they are dealing with.  It is just as critical for a Sales Manager to implement a sales process and coaching system, which sniffs out these situations rather than allowing the sales people to clog up the pipeline with non close-able business. 

So how many GREAT meetings are your sales people having with prospects that want your solution but won’t be able to influence the other decision makers to spend the money? 

The Zoom Scan – What It Is, Why It Is Important, and How to Do It

By Peter Cohan

CEO, Great Demo www.greatdemo.com

Coronavirus: Zoom is in everyone's living room - how safe is it? - BBC News

Many presales and salespeople report that they find it difficult to consume and act on the various inputs when presenting demos and presentations over the web using Zoom and similar tools.

They note it is hard enough to present over the web – and taking in audience impressions via webcams, checking chat, scanning the participant pane, the Q&A pane, monitoring audio and one’s own video is tough to observe and incorporate.

It is very important, however.  Why?

When we are face-to-face delivering a demo or presentation in a conference room, we have developed – almost unconsciously – skills to scan the room while we are presenting.  We talk and drive our software while also watching people’s expressions for comprehension, questions, agreement or disagreement, and whether people are paying attention.

In these face-to-face meetings we have learned to perform a Face-to-Face Scan.  As seasoned face-to-face presenters we do this naturally.  If we simply ignored the audience, it is likely our demos and presentations would be much less successful.

We now need to translate our Face-to-Face Scan to web meetings…!

So, here are some simple guidelines for developing your personal Zoom Scan (or WebEx Scan etc.):

  1. Get familiar with your web collaboration tool (Zoom, WebEx, GoToMeeting, etc.). Set up sessions for yourself (even better with a colleague, who can give you feedback) and explore all of the tools and relevant settings so that you know what is available and how to use them.

This is very similar to what we do in face-to-face meetings – we make sure we are comfortable with our laptop and software, our plan for our demo or presentation, and any other materials or visual aids that plan to use.  We organize and have ready our equipment, presentation tools, visual aids, notes, phone hotspot, etc. that we might expect to need.

  1. Launch your Zoom (etc.) meeting 5 minutes early. This gives you time to test and make sure things are working properly before your customer arrives.  Check latency, audio, video, and screen sharing with a colleague or key customer contact.  Then open the participant and chat panes, organize the video pane to see all the participants, as well as the annotation toolbar – arrange them where you can see what you need of your presentation/demo and have good visual access to the various audience panes.  Ensure your webcam pane is showing as many of your audience members as possible (“Gallery” mode shows the most but may cover more of your screen than desired).

This is again what we do in face-to-face meetings – we typically arrive in a conference room before the meeting to familiarize ourselves with the layout, arrange chairs, connect to the projector, find pens and clean whiteboards, and generally organize in accord with our needs.

And like face-to-face meetings, we may need to move things around during the meeting – to more clearly see a person asking a question, to draw on a whiteboard, or access a visual aid.  When operating over the web, we can expect similar needs – and have to rearrange our screen.   For example, we may need to move a pane aside to annotate on a specific part of our display.

  1. Greet and Meet attendees as they join. Ask them to turn on their webcams and unmute their microphones as they enter.  Monitor the participant pane to note new arrivals and the status of their video and audio, accordingly (hey! you are now building a scan element).

In a face-to-face meeting, we greet people as they come in the conference room, shaking hands and doing brief mutual introductions – now you are doing exactly the same thing over the web!

  1. Build your Zoom Scan. As the meeting begins and you share content, glance at your slides or software as you start presenting – then glance at the participant pane (anyone new?).  Scan the participant faces in the video pane for comprehension, questions, attention (any confusion or comments?).  Now repeat:  content, participant pane, video pane, content…

After a session or two this will begin to feel natural – and you can expand your scan to include the chat and Q&A panes.  Note that chat and Q&A often have red “alert” marks, which means you only need to glance to see if an alert is present – if yes, then scan the pane.

Next, incorporate the use of annotation tools – these really help to make an online demo come alive…!  Select a tool, annotate, then erase – and remember to click the mouse cursor on the annotation pane to re-enable “normal” mouse control.

Your scan now includes content, participant pane, video pane, alerts, annotate, erase, repeat…

Pro Tip:  let your audience know what you are doing.  For example, rather than have your audience wonder why your mouse moved to a blank part of the screen (from the audience’s perspective), tell them, “OK, let me grab an annotation tool…”

Is there an analogy with face-to-face meetings?  Absolutely!  You have just translated your face-to-face scan to Zoom:  You are talking and driving your software while also watching people’s expressions for comprehension, questions, agreement or disagreement, and whether people are paying attention.  Congratulations!

Here’s another analogy:  Driving a car.  Most of us likely don’t recall how overwhelmed we felt when we first learned to drive – but most of us can appreciate the differences between being a passenger in a car vs. driving.

Most of us are passengers in web meetings (even if we host the sessions) – we join the session, listen, talk, and sometimes present content.  But we aren’t really driving, compared to what we do when we drive a car.

Consider – when driving a car, we are managing the speed (accelerator, brake), direction (steering wheel), checking the speedometer, glancing at road signs, occasionally checking for problem lights on the dashboard, using the turn signals – and quite likely also eating, drinking, listening to GPS instructions as well as music or a podcast, and chatting with passengers.

Our scan for driving a car has become natural to us.  And note (I hope!) that the majority of the scan is on the road ahead…

When presenting over the web, the same type of scan can take place – and again, note that the majority of your time will likely be spent presenting your content – but you’ll still want to check on the “passengers” (participants’ video), the “GPS” (participant pane), “road signs” (chat and Q&A), as well as sip your tea or coffee, etc.

  1. Practice your Zoom Scan. Now practice your Zoom Scan with each session – you’ll find you get more and more comfortable with the process.   And you won’t have to think about doing the scan – it will begin to become a habit.

Establishing your personal Zoom scan is a key element in transitioning to our “new normal” of operating over the web for our meetings.

Pro Tip:  Many presenters report that they focus (too much) on their own webcam video.  While you do want to include yourself in your scan, occasionally, the main focus should be on your audience.  Experiment (with a colleague or by yourself in your own web sessions) to get comfortable with how you appear – your physical location and size with respect to your webcam, the lighting (is your face clearly visible – is there distracting backlighting?), what else is visible (or use a Zoom background), how much space you have for hand motions and the use of physical visual aids or props, etc.

Even Better Pro Tip:  Record your sessions and occasionally play them back…  Very humbling, but very effective!  You’ll hear your voice, your tone, your word choice; you’ll recognize if you cut off somebody’s question or if you forgot to close a question; you’ll see your mousing and use of the annotation tools.  This is an opportunity for some very rapid improvement and growth!

It only took a few face-to-face meetings (hopefully) to develop and grow comfortable with our face-to-face meeting scans – which then became second nature.  Now it’s time to fully translate our face-to-face practices to the web!

Copyright © 2020 The Second Derivative – All Rights Reserved.

What (exactly) do Sales Engineers Sell?

By Ken Lambert

It all depends on who they work for.

The answer to this question was and is instrumental to the establishment of our North American Association of Sales Engineers (NAASE).  One of the main objectives of NAASE is to be a place where SE’s from all different industries and products can come together and learn from one another, in addition to networking etc.

The definition of “sales engineer” does not really tell us what industry the person is in.  Per the US BLS, “Sales engineers sell complex scientific and technological products or services to businesses.”

Well- that could mean almost anything, and it does.

Just last night I conducted an informal scientific study, to try to back up my claim that roughly 50% of SE’s are in software, while the balance being in “other”, which sometimes I refer to as the “widget” world.

I went to LinkedIn and ran a search of sales engineers in the 4 largest cities/areas in the country.  From there I just went in order of the names presented, and counted.  Out of the first 100 names LinkedIn listed, 40% were working for a software/IT company, while a full 60% had nothing to do with software or computers.  I realize this was a small sample, but it is safe to say that somewhere between 50-55% of sales engineers are not involved with software.  So, what are the majority involved in?  I found examples of:


Misc. Industrial/ Manufacturing


Building Products

Energy/ Petro

Automation/ Robotics

In short, almost any industry that has a level of complication and technology can employ sales engineers.

As the president of NAASE, I believe- I know actually- that there are many facets of our jobs that are nearly identical whether a SE is in software or not.  About 98% of my career has been on the “widget side” of the business, but in truth I did dabble a bit in software about a decade ago.  (I actually own a US registered Copyright regarding a computer program/ source code for a loan software type.)   The point is-  most of what works (and what doesn’t work) in the trenches for a software enterprise sales engineer also works for a SE working with commercial and industrial HVAC controls.

And this is the exciting part of NAASE- and also the value of being a sales engineer in the first place.  It is a mindset, in addition to the intricate knowledge of 1 software or 1 product.   We are technical salespeople, and we assist and navigate some of the more complex projects and transactions in business today.  And we deserve an inclusive and wide-reaching trade organization.

How to Use Content Collaboration to Drive B2B Growth

By Sarah L. Parker

Startup and business growth specialist  www.sarahlparker.co.uk

When I was given the chance to move from Pre-Sales to Marketing, I knew that pulling the teams closer together would be the key to success.  We all know from spending time with friends that we share each other’s voices; we quote them, absorb them, challenge and change them.

If you’re reading this, you’re probably searching for ways to define your growth mindset and make it happen.

There’s no need to look any further than your own organisation.

Don’t limit yourself

It’s no secret that Pre-Sales, Sales and Marketing can find collaboration difficult and sometimes it’s because everyone’s too busy focusing on their own goals.  If we ignore the fact that the boundaries are fictional, we force a false division that limits the creative energy of multiple voices.

Toni Morrison leads us to an enlightening truth when she says “everything I’ve ever done, in the writing world, has been to expand articulation, rather than to close it, to open doors, sometimes, not even closing the book.”

It’s very easy to get stuck in old habits, we all do it.  And it wouldn’t be unfair to say that Sales and Pre-Sales are often seen as driving growth from deep client knowledge whilst old style marketing is seen as an overlay to that knowledge; a sort of sparkle to draw people in. 

Let’s challenge ourselves for a moment

Why not take deep client knowledge from Pre-sales and embed it into content—whitepapers, blogs, articles and podcasts—and also our Sales relationships and Marketing strategy?

Marketing isn’t defined by the conversation. It’s defined by the relationship beneath it.  Brian Solis sees that “We all need more signal and less noise.  We all need beacons.  We all need salient and empathetic voices to move us in a common, rewarding direction.”

But what if we created a new direction ourselves by revisiting, reinterpreting and reflecting back on our own conversations?

Don’t let old rules hold you back

There’s so much more that we can achieve when we decide to define our own future and look again at the old expectations that hold us back.

Then, and only then, can we force a profound questioning of how we use content to participate in the conversations around us.

We can break the mould of what B2B content can achieve.

The tide is turning.  So let’s turn it faster.

Two Solutions To Help You Lead Your Remote Teams More Effectively

By Skot Waldron

Internal Brand and Communication Expert  www.skotwaldron.com

Leading a Team of Champions

COVID has changed the way we work now and in the future. While working remotely has advantages, it also has challenges. Here are just a few:

  1. Learning to manage your time
  2. Trying to figure out how to communicate with different people in a new environment

Trial: Learning To Manage Your Time

Tool: 5 Gears

The same distractions that interrupt office productivity also penetrate remote work environments. There can be spouses, kids, pets, laundry, and yard work to manage. So, how can you be simultaneously present and productive? By learning to set boundaries using common language and simple tools like the 5 Gears.

5th Gear – Task-centered, fully focused and moving quickly

You need this gear to focus and get things done. Alerts and notifications are disabled, the door is closed, the calendar is blocked off, and maybe headphones are on playing your favorite Mariah Carey hit (if that’s your thing).

4th Gear – Multi-tasking; working hard in various ways

We tend to spend a lot of time in this gear. The door is cracked, with multiple things going on, or an occasional interruption from a kid showing you their favorite Lego creation.

3rd Gear – Present with people and can shift up or down easily

We call this gear “water cooler talk” or “small talk.” Talking about the weather or last weekend might happen when you begin a Zoom call. 

2nd Gear – Present with family or friends without work

This is the gear that we all need to pay attention to. How many of you are guilty of checking your email or work messages while watching a show in the evening with your family? That’s what I thought. Second Gear is when we are fully present with our family or friends. Sitting down and talking over dinner, or having a bigger conversation via Zoom with a work colleague. 

1st Gear – Personal recharge, completely unplug

You need time to recharge. Read a book, ride your bike, watch Netflix, or go and talk to your neighbor. Do what gives you energy but rests your mind. 

A few tips:

  • Teach your team about 5th Gear and start blocking out time on your calendars. Respect each other’s boundaries.
  • Teach your family about 2nd Gear so they can help keep you accountable the next time you reach for your phone while watching Hamilton for the 23rd time.
  • Know which gears you should be in and when.

Challenge: Trying to figure out how to communicate with different people in a new environment

Solution: 5 Voices

News Flash! Not everyone thinks or wants to be led like you. I know, surprising, right?

People want to feel valued, heard, and understood in every environment. So, how do you know which team members want to be led in which way? First, seek to understand yourself, then seek to understand others. The way you communicate will lead to building or destroying your workplace culture (aka Employer Brand). 

Your team is made up of diverse types of people that all communicate in different ways. Let’s walk through the 5 Voices and see if you can identify yourself and those on your team.

Nurturers (43% of the population)

Champions of people, relational harmony, and values. Quiet voices who undervalue their contributions to the team. You need to draw them into conversations.

Creatives (9% of the population)

Champions of future ideas, innovation, and organizational integrity. With a lot going on upstairs, they may struggle to communicate their ideas effectively. 

Guardians (30% of the population)

Champions of due diligence, resources, and efficient systems and processes. Guardians can be right in what they say, but wrong in how they say it. They may also struggle to see the value in social networking and conversation that seems to “waste time.”

Connectors (11% of the population)

Champions of relational networks, collaboration, and effective communication. Connectors can be very inspirational and will always push us to be better, but they can critique or take criticism personally.

Pioneers (7% of the population)

Champions of strategic vision, results, and problem-solving. Pioneers are driven to win the war, not the battle. They are very competent but can be dismissive (to put it lightly) of those they see incompetent or that jeopardize the chance of success.

As you can tell, each one of these voices will need to be led differently. We stick to the platinum rule. The Golden Rule says “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” The Platinum Rule states, “Do unto others as they would want to be done to them.” Lead them how they need to be led, not how you think they need to be led.

Want to find out your Voice? Take the free 5 Voices Assessment at www.giant.tv.

Remote working isn’t new. But it has become a new normal for almost everyone.

Embrace it. 

Find ways to thrive. 

Be intentional about building yourself as well as those around you. Your human capital is one of the most valuable intangible assets you have.

The Acknowledged Value of Professional Designations

By Ken Lambert

The Acknowledged Value of Professional Designations

Business leaders overwhelmingly (95%) view applicants with a professional designation as more desirable than those without, according to a study released recently by Key Media.

Professional designations, those miscellaneous letters after peoples’ last names, are everywhere and are quite visible on resumes and on LinkedIn profiles.  Some are quite well-known, like CPA, PE, and PMP.  Others are a bit more abstract but are still relevant to those within said industry, like CCNA or AIA.  Currently not well-known is the new CSE designation (Certified Sales Engineer) being offered by the North American Association of Sales Engineers.  NAASE is hoping that its designation focusing on presales/ technical sales will be a boost for the industry as well as the career paths of its current and prospective members.

But whether one is a sales engineer or not, just how important are professional designations?  Is it even worth the time, trouble, or expense?  The following are a few 3rd party thoughts on the subject.

“Any highly motivated young person is well advised to pursue the knowledge and credibility that come with obtaining a professional designation. If obtained early in a career, this knowledge and credibility helps offset the disadvantages of less experience. When recruiting people for our organization, I always look for designations as an indication of motivation and persistence in addition to basic knowledge.”

“In my opinion professional designations surely hold value because each one of these reputed designations require one to have the necessary industry experience, expertise and aspiration to move forward.  It also gives you multiple opportunities to connect with like- minded professionals.”

“A designation indicates seriousness. It shows that the person has a goal in mind…a sense of purpose.”

At NAASE, we agree with all of the above.  While we realize that it will take time for the CSE to become a widely known and sought-after designation, we are currently starting that journey.  Professional sales engineers, regardless of industry, deserve further professional recognition- both within and outside of their chosen fields and industries.

Should you have any questions, comments, or suggestions regarding this topic- please do reach out to us at the Association.  We look forward to hearing from you!

Use Reverse Surveying to Reverse Rejection in Your Sales Process

By the FeedGap Team

Why Client Board Meetings Matter | AccountingWEB

Sales engineers and account executives are challenged to grab the attention of prospects. Prospects
lack time and attention and respond to limited vendor messages. As a sales professional, you need to
stand out and be creative. Your goal should be to establish trust and provide value in an articulate,
authentic and simple manner (as simple as practical). To do this, leverage what physicians do when they
first meet with a patient. They run some quick and reliable diagnostics that easily gather patient
information and transform that into insight for the next step.

This experience described above is sometimes the opposite of what happens in a sales process. A sales
process will either a) bombard the prospect with features and benefits or b) overwhelm the prospect
with a battery of questions that likely have no benefit back to the prospect if answered. That is where
reverse surveying (i.e. diagnostic tools) can be used in a highly effective manner. Reverse surveying is
the creation of a series of concise statements organized around your values, features and benefits that
the prospect rates. This is similar to the physician asking the patient to respond to questions or
statements they ask in their process. Yet unlike traditional survey tools where the prospect likely
receives nothing in return for their information, reverse survey diagnostics give the prospect immediate
information. The data is calculated using a variation on Net Promoter Score (NPS) methodology that is
credible and valid and presents color-coded scores by question and category. What’s more is that each
section prescribes guidance back to the respondent so they can understand not only their biggest gaps
but how your solution can narrow or eliminate those gaps. This is like the physician counseling the
patient on the treatment options based on their diagnostic results.

Reverse surveying has multiple benefits. It is innovative as most prospects would not get immediate,
curated results. It is engaging because the prospect is doing a diagnostic to understand the health of
their business. It is credible because the calculations are methodology sound. It is trustworthy because
the consultative guidance offers credible advice.

Reverse surveying can be a pain without technology. That’s why FeedGap exists. We are a technology
that allows our users to simply author custom diagnostic tools along with the automated scored output
and guidance. These tools are easy to build and can be deployed in marketing campaigns or materials or
in unique and personalized prospect messages. They’ll have higher click rates and completion rates than
most other tools because they are active vs. passive forms of engagement.

Go to http://www.feedgap.com to see samples or reach out to them at go@feedgap.com. FeedGap is free
right now so if you’re reading this, and you want to try something new, contact us at for a free account.

Those BIG A/E Commission Checks: The Other Side of the Story

By Ken Lambert

Businesses Can Deliver a Modern Meeting Experience if They Put ...

This article of course will be more relevant to the sales engineer who works alongside a separate
Account Executive/ “Sales Rep”. This very topic, which can involve jealousy and other quandaries, is the
standard in the software world- but is not necessarily such in the non-software world of technical sales.
From my experience, between 50%-65% of non-software SE’s do NOT work with an AE. In other words,
they handle and do everything- including prospecting, account management, preliminary sales calls,
financials/credit, etc.
That said, I have worked on both ends of this, as a sales engineer. I’ve had jobs where I did work with an
AE, and I’ve also had jobs where there were none and I handled everything. Also, twice in my career
(early on) I had positions that were 100% commission-based compensation. Some AE’s do work on
100% commission, but many have a base salary (typically $50k- $60k), plus bonuses & commissions.
I have heard several people over the years gripe that it is not fair that they (as sales engineers) do not
make the kind of money that some AE’s earn. This can foster resentment and other issues that damage
the working relationship.
I believe before resentment and jealousy develop, a sales engineer should consider the following:
 You earn solid money! Per the BLS, the average SE makes $100k- $105k per year. Keep in mind
the average compensation for someone with a bachelor’s degree in the USA is $58k. So
generally-speaking, you are doing OK.
 Yes, there are AE’s that earn $200k or $300k (or even more) per year. But, for every high-earner
like that there are some that are making $60k. According to payscale, the average account
executive (across industries) earns $86k per year- total. Typically software AE’s will be slightly
more, so that might be around $90k-$95k/ year as an average. So while some make a small
fortune, many others do not.
 When all or most of your compensation comes from sales commission/ sales bonus, there is a
high level of anxiety and pressure involved. I can assure you of that, from my 100% commission
days. Many people in this kind of arrangement brag “We eat what we kill”, which is not very PC
but is still said. The issue there is that if you don’t make the sale, you have no income (or very
little income). That can sway an AE’s judgment; this is just human nature.
 It is not ideal or healthy to begrudge people that earn a lot of money; more often than not- they
earned it and worked for it. They are doing something right; maybe you could learn something
from them. I worked with an AE a year or so ago and she always had her “A” game showing; she
was very intelligent and was a hard worker and a great planner. And she made a lot of money,
much more than I- but God bless her…. She deserved it.
Some SE’s eventually go on to become AE’s, as they think it is a better fit and/or they will make more
money. In some cases they give up their $110k per year and might spend the next 2 years making $75k
annually. That is not easy to take and deal with, and it is a possibility.
Of course some will flourish in their new role, and will have some great earning years. That’s great, and
good for them. But it also won’t work for everyone.

In conclusion I think anyone who has been working for more than a few years knows that there are
positives and negatives in every position, and at every company. Being a sales engineer is a solid career
and one that can be fulfilling on a variety of levels. And, as the old saying goes, the grass in not always
greener on the other side.