The Cranky Product Manager Responds to the Cranky Sales Engineer – Part 2

(Continuing the Cranky Product Manager’s long-winded response to the Cranky Sales Engineer’s diatribe on training at Sales Kickoff.  See part 1 here.)

Let the Cranky Product Manager next respond to this nugget of advice on product training, courtesy of the Cranky Sales Engineer:

7. Bring the Cranky Sales Engineer some real references.

Ummm, Cranky Sales Engineer, isn’t that YOUR job?

Let the Cranky Product Manager get this straight… before YOU can start selling the NEW product (or new version of the product) you want REAL references from REAL customers.  And you want the product manager to provide these references to you on a silver platter?

OK. Would you also like a mint on your pillow and a foot rub?

What, you can’t sell something unless someone ELSE has ALREADY sold it?  You must be a real SALES GENIUS! So glad we have you on board and pay you the big bucks!  Thank Cheezus you are at a tech company, where new products and new versions come out constantly.

Seriously, NO ONE has the new product / new release yet. Hence the word “NEW.”  There are NO “real” references yet.  That is why Product Management is even at Kickoff – to train you on the product. So YOU can sell it to real customers and go get those references.  The Cranky Product Manager can (and does) tell you about the customers who gave input on the product concept and feedback on pre-release versions, but you’d likely scoff at that.

OK, one more:

The Cranky Sales Engineer is giving up chunks of his life to sit in your presentation—he may even have gotten up early to get there and may be hung over. He will sell your products if they add value and make customers lives better. But, if he walks out of your meeting mourning two hours of his life that he’ll never get back, you can kiss his support goodbye until the next Scotch-soaked Sales Kickoff in 2010.

AWWWW. Poor, put-upon, entitled Cranky Sales Engineer. Having to get up EARLY! While you are HUNG OVER, no less!

Dear Cheezus, how outrageous of your company to interfere with your PAID, booze-drenched, awards-laded excursion to the tropics. How DARE they expect you to attend and listen to some presentations about the products you are PAID to sell. The nerve!  It is all such an inconvenience when you are trying to get your drink on.

Anyway, just remember that while you got up early (boo fraking hoo), the Cranky Product Manager giving the presentation got up EARLIER. And while you’re hung-over after a night of clubbing, strippers, gambling, cigars, and boozing it up, the Cranky Product Manager spent that same night working on that presentation and practicing it in her hotel room’s bathroom mirror, over and over. NO HANGOVER, but no fun either.

You moan about losing two hours of your life, but remember that the Cranky PM lost way more than that working on that fraking demo you so casually ignore.


Cranky Sales Engineer, you are indeed lucky.  No matter how disrespectful you are of the CPM during product training (because she didn’t bring you references, had slides with too many words, and had the nerve to be enthusiastic about the future), and no matter if you “kissed your support” of her goodbye, the Cranky Product Manager will still help you sell the product.  She won’t kiss her support of you goodbye.

Why? Because she’s not a coin-operated mercenary.  Because she actually cares about what’s good for the product and what’s good for the entire company.  Because she is not solely focused on her own wallet. Unlike the vast majority of you Droids.

So, yes, in a few weeks the Cranky Product Manager will save your ass yet again. Even though you won’t deserve it. She will give the product demo to YOUR customer — the demo you SHOULD have learned during training but didn’t.  She will give you a private tutorial on the customer problems and how the product alleviates them. Because she’s not going to let a ding-dong Droid get in the way of her product’s success.

Surely, the LEAST you can do in return is give the Cranky Product Manager the sales commission that SHE earned for you.

  • Howard Pressman

    Commission-based PM’s. Now wouldn’t that be something? I actually worked at a company once, where one of the sales guys got a SPIFF for being the first to sell a new product. A sale that of course would have been impossible without help from yours truly as a PM. And wouldn’t you know, I received a nice little gift in the mail Nothing big, just something that the sales guy thought I would like. (The SPIFF wasn’t that big either) It probably cost him a hundred bucks, but don’t you know how appreciated that was? And next time he needed help, he wasn’t met with a snarky attitude.

    Of course, there’s a reason we PM’s aren’t in sales, and I for one like the salary and not worrying (so much) about the fickle nature of sales. But having an incentive based on your specific product success and sales numbers should be the norm. (sounds liek a topic for another post).

    Great post CPM. The Cranky SE’s post was very entertaining and I definitely enjoyed it because we already knew that’s what SE’s and Sales were thinking, but it would be good if they saw the other side of the projector.

  • Jeff Huth

    I came across this blog in a round about way but glad I did. Definitely will be coming back for more.

    This does raise an interesting question I’ve thought about several times over my career. Is PM training at sales kickoff appropriate? It comes down, I believe, to the “culture’ of the sales kickoff. In my recent past at mid-size enterprise software company the sales kickoff wasn’t radically much different than presented here. It was almost completely about motivation and enthusiasm. As a presenter I was coached to be as blindly enthusiastic as I could without looking foolish. Even the music played by the hired DJ during breaks and again when the faux casino was stood up with the open bar at the end of the day the entire theme was energy. Very good and very fit for purpose but what a PM needs to convey in training is quite frankly going to be missed under this theme.

    Fast forward to current. Small company in emerging market. Sales kickoff has more of a desperation feel to it. A much more receptive audience but one that is absolutely clamoring for products that …”add value and make customers lives better”.

    That comment by the way is where I happen to agree with the CSE. Sales droids are the same everywhere. Hard to live with but impossible to live without. An attention span that is only marginally longer than a customers’ when presented with a product. If they don’t see it you can guarantee customers won’t.

  • Bill S. Preston Esquire

    References, is that all? I am sure he’d really prefer to say case study with lots of great quotes about how great the product is and a bunch of metrics that don’t exist. Oh, and an ROI calculator. And a fortune teller….and….well…a stack of warm leads.

  • Jackie Burhans

    Yeah, love getting CSE requests for references (desperate! please help!) and never getting my requests for references for the library (you’ll need these one day, please help!) answered. And yes, I am female and a PM, I was an SE and I am coming to realize most people see me as generally cranky. In fact I was invited to take on the PM position in part due to my pointing out crankily to the then pm that his idea to take a free feature and charge for it would be GREAT given that each of our competitors offer that feature for free oh and, by the way, that new feature you implemented will BREAK all of our existing customers’ applications. . And that is why these blog posts ring so true.

  • Azucar

    It was the hung over remark that killed me….POOR BABY who ACCIDENTALLY fell into a fifth of Jack!

  • Cranky Product Mgr

    New blog post: The Cranky PM responds to the Cranky Sales Engineer part 2.

  • Jean Sprauer

    7. Bring the Cranky Sales Engineer some real references.

    I assume that the CSE is talking about any customer reference and feedback. Included would be references of companies involved in beta-testing the new product as well as specific feedback, benefits and comments about all the life-changing features of said new product.
    Details that go beyond the quotes in the PR would I’m sure be helpful.

    I do realize though that the CSE will never be satisfied and will always ask for more

    Great thread of posts, by the way!

  • Pingback: Uncranking Sales Engineers Training « Evil Fish()

  • The Cranky Product Manager

    Dr. Jim.

    Hmm. Didn’t see “sales is lonely” brought out as the main point of the post, or even the sub-text. Maybe as the sub-sub-sub-text.

    Anyway, if the main purpose of Kickoff is just to get liquored up and psyched up, why not let the PM stay at home with her kid, or maybe use that time to visit some customers instead? In fact, why schedule any presentations or training of any kind at Kickoff?

    Wait, isn’t there a venue that truly IS just for sales and is for the sole purpose of helping motivate the SalesDroids? YEP there is. It’s called THE PRESIDENT’S CLUB or whatever. You know, that lavish trip to St. Barts with all the senior execs and every Droid/SE that even sorta-kinda-almost hit their number.

    Oh, and the Cranky Product Manager could stand for someone trying to fire HER up for a change. Seriously, all she ever hears is everyone’s bitching. She never gets any training herself, never gets any frakin’ awards or trips . Basically, she gets to GIVE GIVE GIVE all the time and never ever gets to TAKE. Sales Droids, they are TAKERS.

  • Dr. Jim Anderson

    So I’m hesitant to wade into these angry waters, but I feel an obligation to do so. Yeah, so the Cranky SE is a bit off base; however, the CPM has missed the main point here – sales is a very lonely gig.

    Us on the PM side just don’t understand it: we work with teams of developers, Q/A folks, marketers, etc. Sales folks basically work alone and either succeed or get fired every quarter. Sales kick offs are not about product training (like Jeff Huth pointed out), but are rather “recharging” events to get the lonely sales folks fired up before they get sent out again. They’ll discharge over time, but that’s what next year’s sales kick off meeting (booze and all) is designed to take care of.

    So give ‘em a break, walk a mile in their shoes, etc. Ultimately it takes all sorts of cranky folks to make a product be successful…!

    – Dr. Jim Anderson
    The Accidental PM Blog
    “Home Of The Billion Dollar Product Manager”

  • The Cranky Product Manager

    WKRP? How old ARE you, Dr. Jim?

    After that big lecture, would you be SHOCKED to learn the CPM was indeed once a SalesDroid?

    It is on that basis that the CPM disagrees with you. That plus having run product management for lots of years. Bottom line is there is no excuse whatsoever for the disrespect that Droids give PMs during these presos. None – sorry.

    Of course, it’s usually the BAD Droids that engage in the disrespectful behavior (do you think PMs are the only ones they disrespect and that they don’t ultimately treat customers similarly?). The good Droids have enough of an understanding of basic manners, reciprocity in human relationships, and an inkling that they might need help from PM down the road.

    Anyway, gotta say, the CPM finds this thread annoying because, well, just about everything. First, a LOT of PMs came from Sales – so your “fundamentally different” argument is really hard to swallow. And, no, PMs are not there to entertain or to just “mill about” with the Sales People. The CPM once proposed her team just attend but not give training — that didn’t fly at all. They are indeed there to train people.

  • Dr. Jim Anderson

    Now CPM Pandora, just how are you going to go about shutting that box of sales – PM interaction that you’ve gone and opened?

    I only continue this thread because I believe that it’s a key point that most PM’s don’t understand – and it’s critical to our success!

    So here it goes: your grumbling (although well worded) is missing the point. The sales beast is different from the engineer beast and the two will NEVER understand each other. However, we can work together.

    This was all explained wonderfully during an episode of WKRP in Cincinnati when the sleazy salesman, Herb, got sick and the station manger, Andy, had to try to do his job. Andy blew it because he didn’t understand that sales is all about relations and Herb had to straighten things out when he got out of the hospital.

    The reason that the CPM was REALLY invited to the sales kickoff was not for your stage time. The presentations are just background noise. When I do these presentations I try to ENTERTAIN, not EDUCATE. That’s how I’m going to get the sales teams interested in selling my product. The real reason that you were invited was for the “milling about” time in which you could meet and greet the sales people. This is how the relationship gets started. It’s how they know who to call when they have a questions – you are no longer just a name in the corporate directory, you have a face and your kid has a name (yes, they do remember things like this – it’s their job).

    Oh, and FYI – generally all sales folks go to the sales kickoff meeting but only a few get to go to the President’s Club meeting at the end of the year. It’s a prize – these folks respond very well to prizes because they are competitive by nature. Everybody who was on your high school’s football team is probably in sales these days.

    Sorry in advance about this next bit: the CPM gets a guaranteed paycheck every two weeks or so. That’s why you don’t have to be fired up. A salesperson generally gets maybe $25,000 base (he/she can count on getting this) and the rest is commission based. They NEED to be fired up. Just like you see a coach get a sports team fired up in a locker room before the start of the game or during half time, this is actually really important.

    So there you go. Sales people are NOT like engineers / PMs. They actually have a rough job. However, they’ve been bred for it and they love it. We get confused when we see the best parts (kick off, President’s club) and we don’t see the constant travel, hotel rooms, firings, rejections, losses, etc.

    Ok, I think I’ve hit my 500 word limit. I need to go prepare for my next sales kickoff meeting…

    – Dr. Jim Anderson
    The Accidental PM Blog
    “Home Of The Billion Dollar Product Manager”

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