Guest Post: The Cranky Sales Engineer Reports from the Front … of the Room

Despite the Cranky Sales Engineer’s best efforts to educate product managers in the proper way to train a Sales Engineer, he is now sitting towards the front of a large room being pummeled by wordy slides.  He has written this dispatch from the front, in hopes that product managers will understand the nature of the immense pain they inflict on their captive audiences.

Some highlights of this death march of a presentation:

  • One hour into the presentation the marketing guy put up a slide called “Agenda”.  It is ten items long. He has promised us that he will talk about each one in detail, this has given the Cranky Sales Engineer the time to write this dispatch.
  • The presenter insists on using slides that the sales force has been presenting for the past year.  The Cranky Sales Engineer thinks he presents them better.
  • The Cranky Sales Engineer has suggested a murder/suicide pact to the SE next to him. The suggestion was met with enthusiasm.
  • After hearing the presenter say “But, you already know this” for the third time, the Cranky Sales Engineer knows why he drinks.

Only an hour and twenty minutes have passed … The Cranky Sales Engineer observes that he must be reaping the wages of sin.


  1. Dr. Jim Anderson

    Ouch! So this is exactly why agendas need to be circulated BEFORE the meeting happens. If you spot a 1/2/3/4 presentation on the list, there’s no harm in making a request that the it be cut in half.

    However, despite best efforts, you can find yourself stuck in this kind of preso. Take heart – this is exactly why the Blackberry was invented: get your email taken care of and then polish up on your brick-out skills.

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

  2. gander

    If all the SE’s were at the same competency, then I could trim my sales training slides to a reasonable number.

    But, alas, there is a pretty wide chasm, and unfortunately, in my case at least, I MUST present to the lowest common denominator.

    It really isn’t helpful to have a heckler or two in the audience who is bored to tears, and trading barbs.

    Of course, when we actually TEST the competence of the sales engineers, even the veterans come out poorly, hence the remedial agenda…


  3. The Cranky Sales Engineer

    Do you really think the slow/incompetent ones will be your best sellers? Perhaps it is better to leave them in the dust and energize the fast/competent folks.

    A slow/boring presentation will not catch the attention of those who have proven they don’t pay attention, and it will inflict pain on the very people you want on your side.

  4. gander


    I would LOVE to leave them in the dust, manage them out, get them rotated to other product lines, etc, but unfortunately, the agenda is largely defined by the sales management and they want it all. The remedial training for the laggards, the latest and greatest for the high performers, and as much of the future development as they can stand.

    My presentations are NEVER slow and boring, as I am great at getting the audience to participate (willingly). If I could get our sales management to start thinning the weak members from the herd, then our life would be much better.

    Of course the recent RIF’s that have impacted the field (and my team as well) thinned out some of our best people (WTF is up with that?!?!?)

    I guess I am doomed.


  5. Nigel

    Look on the bright side. At the end of this mind-numbing presentation, perhaps the sales VP will announce the presentation of a chunky piece of plastic to some underwhelmed SE in recognition of his (or her) herculean efforts helping the sales force to trouser some commission by working 24/7 and travelling coach on the red eye while the sales team arrives by business the next day and stays at a better class of hotel.

    Of course 8 times out of 10 the MVP award will go to the wrong player – but you don’t mind that; it’s recognition for the team after all…

  6. Paco

    The best-received presentations I’ve seen for a sales event all emphasized showmanship over content. And, if you look at how a typical sales kick-off is put together, that’s much more in-tune with how the event is planned.

    Doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to actually educate with useful information, but it’s worth it to cut down on content and put more effort into being creative. Examples of successes I’ve seen:

    * Over-the-top game show format. Use stupid game show music and some buzzers, dress like a game show host, and have lots of tchochkes to give away.
    * Over-the-top competitive bake-off. Use costumes (cave man for competitor and Star Trek for your product) and use lots of bad puns.

    See a trend? Over-the-top gets the job done while a sober discourse on the new streaming XML translator widget will lead to the above-mentioned suicide pact.

    I know, sounds like a lot of effort, and it is compared to a typical customer presentation/demo. But this is something you maybe do once a year at the global sales kick-off (or maybe a few more times).

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