Guest Post: The Cranky Sales Engineer on Sales Training

Today we have a WICKED AWESOME guest post and a bit of role reversal. Listen up, Product Managers, as the Cranky Sales Engineer schools you on what he wants from the product training you inflict on him during the annual Sales Kickoff meeting.

Now, the Cranky Product Manager must say that she does not agree with everything the Cranky Sales Engineer says. In fact, some of what he wrote makes the Cranky Product Manager want to bitchslap the Cranky Sales Engineer. Said bitchslapping can be found in the tomorrow’s  post. 

Oh, and while we’re at it, go read the Cranky Product Manager’s earlier post on The Joy of Sales Kickoff.

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It is freezing, the NFL Playoffs are almost over, and his office is abuzz with the frenetic contract-closing activity of year-end. That means that its time for the Cranky Sales Engineer to make travel plans for Sales Kickoff and sales training.

The Cranky Sales Engineer is as much in favor of the warm-weather debauchery associated with Sales Kickoff as the next guy, and he looks forward to a week of expense-report funded single-malt scotch. But in payment for the sweet sweet products of Scotland, he must endure hours of Product Managers trying to convince him to sell their products. In hopes of making his Scotch-free time as painless as possible, he is presenting his “top seven” list of tips for Product Managers, cranky or otherwise.

1. Do not spend time telling the Cranky Sales Engineer that computers are getting faster or that other obvious trends are continuing—The Cranky Sales Engineer sells in the high tech arena and he knows very well that computers are getting faster. He does not need this trend pounded home by a series of up-and-to-the-right slides demonstrating the wonders of Moore’s Law. He also does not need to be told that customers will be trying to save money in 2009 and that budgets will be tight.

2. Do not tell the Cranky Sales Engineer how to sell—There is nothing that pisses off the Cranky Sales Engineer faster than a Product Manager who provides pearls of wisdom like, “Make sure the customer has budget.” REALLY? REALLY? Oh thank God you provided free sales training because the Cranky Sales Engineer was going to stand on the street corner with a bullhorn and see if he could interest poor college students in your Stupendously Expensive Software 2009.3b. Thank GOD you suggested they have money.

3. Do not tell the Cranky Sales Engineer how excited you are about the future—The Cranky Sales Engineer makes money selling real things that exist today. While a roadmap is useful, it is not a replacement for a product that works today. When simple features are missing or broken today, do not tell the Cranky Sales Engineer that they will be fixed in 2010 unless you want the Cranky Sales Engineer to start selling your product in 2010.

4. Do not lie to the Cranky Sales Engineer—If a feature is broken, and you know it is broken, do not tell the Cranky Sales Engineer to sell it. The Cranky Sales Engineer test the feature, learn it is broken, then he will find you and he will kill you. There is nothing that Cranky Sales Engineer hates more than losing a customer’s trust because he sold something that was broken. Well, there is one thing, selling something that the Product Manager knew was broken.

5. Do not mistake features for benefits—The Cranky Sales Engineer is duly impressed by your cleverness and the cleverness of your engineers, but he is not impressed by features that serve no value. If you cannot cite a benefit for a feature then do not mention the feature to the Cranky Sales Engineer.

6. Do not have more than seven words on a slide—If you deliver 90 slides with dense text and read them to that Cranky Sales Engineer, things will go poorly. The Cranky Sales Engineer can read faster to himself than you can read out loud. If you want to write the Cranky Sales Engineer a memo, then write that. If, instead, you write a memo on a slide and start reading it to the Cranky Sales Engineer, he will respond by answering the email on his Blackberry until you go away.

7. Bring the Cranky Sales Engineer some real references—The Cranky Sales Engineer got cranky by being slapped around by Cranky Customers. The Cranky Sales Engineer has never thrown the product team under the bus and has taken it on the chin for the product team. Therefore there is nothing that impresses him more than a real reference from a real happy customer who found real value.

16 comments

  1. Nigel Thomas

    Good list, though I think the boot may be on the other foot for #7. Having been on both sides of the fence, I reckon the product manager can only bring references that have been delivered by the SE – slightly helped by a decent product in the first place, the salesman who con(vince)d the client and the consultants who did the dirty work.

    Regards Nigel

  2. Don MacLennan

    Great post. I think the product manager-to-SE relationship is worthy of lots of discussion.

    Recently, I recruited a top SE to my product management team for a 6-month rotation (yes, we have enough SE’s to afford one taking an assignment). I wanted to turn his complaints into a solution: a well-defined set of requirements that would satisfy his prospects’ unmet needs.

    About a month into it, he said, “Wow, you guys really are trying to help us. We thought you just weren’t listening. Getting stuff built is hard.”

    My conclusion: walk a mile in each other’s shoes. Product managers: go on the sales calls, *especially* first and second demos before you’re parachuted in to overcome specific show-stoppers. SE’s: see how the sausage gets made. Go to some internal meetings. Understand the scope of requirements gathering that goes on, how prioritizations and trade-offs get made, the intricacies of developing “real” products versus the cool prototypes you built with Ruby on Rails during your layover in Chicago.

    I spent 14 years in the field before getting involved in product management & marketing. It never ceases to amaze me how little these groups know about each other’s jobs.

  3. Paco

    Big props to Don for taking an SE on rotation. As a PM, it really is cool to hear all the insights an ace SE has from customer engagements, and to have that knowledge on-tap for months (or whatever the rotation period). Cuz the SE deals with a different set of people at the customer site than the PM (with some overlap), you get to hear more gory implementation details.

    Ultimately, I’ve only seen one ace SE permanently switch to PM. Some did it for a quarter or two but then, like the others, they go back to being an ace SE. Why? Cuz being an ace SE gets you much more visible props/respect, and more importantly, they usually make a lot more $$ than us chump PMs ;)

    I’m waiting with baited breath for whatever fury the CPM is going to release on CSE though. Hopefully the CPM will not disappoint…

  4. Pingback: The Cranky Product Manager Responds to the Cranky Sales Engineer - Part 1 | The Cranky Product Manager
  5. Mark Sigler

    Don had some excellent comments and I agree with the suggestion, as does Paco, that pre-sales and product management (incl prod mktg) need to learn more about each others responsibilities and challenges.

    I’ve been fortunate (and versatile) enough to have tried roles in bus dev (alliances/channels), sales (named accounts), pre-sales, prod mktg and prod mgmt, as well as engineering and IT ops. There are huge gaps in understanding and appreciating the challenges in each role by those who have not tried such. I wish more companies would rotate assignments to foster more teamwork.

  6. Pingback: Uncranking Sales Engineers Trainging « Evil Fish

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