Category: Sales

– The Brain of a Sales Droid – A Visual Guide

Behold, a visual guide to the inside of a Sales Droid’s brain!  Or more specifically, an Enterprise Software Sales Droid’s brain, as viewed from Product Management.

Please do not show to any sales people unless you are sure they have a sense of humor. (Fortunately, most sales people have better senses of humor than product managers, so you are probably good).



- Why Sales Bitches About Product Management & What to Do About It

You’ve heard that old chestnut. You’ve seen it in a million articles. The big advice Sales Droids offer to Product Management is “Don’t just talk about features.  Tie the features to problems.”

And whenever the Cranky Product Manager sees Yet Another Article offering this advice, she thinks, “Doesn’t every product manager already know this stuff? Duh? How is the Cranky Product Manager going to create a blog post from this nugget of obvious non-wisdom?”

But then the Cranky Product Manager thought about it.  Then she had a nice glass of Chardonnay. Then more thinking. And then mentally watching the game film from all the customer presentations she’s ever given or watched another Product Manager give, and from her years of observing Sales Engineers and Sales Droids interact with the customers.

And here’s what the Cranky Product Manager came up with.

When It’s Good (kind of like the finale of Dancing with the Stars)

There are times when the Sales Droid-Product Manager-Customer interaction is wicked awesome: everyone is in sync, everyone is providing what the others need at exactly the time they need it, and everyone leaves happy.

It does happen sometimes.

When It’s Bad (kind of like a Middle School Dance)

But more often, it is a clumsy, inept dance, with everyone thinking he’s/she’s giving what the others need but completely missing the mark.

In these cases, the Cranky Product Manager will bet ONE MILLION DOLLARS that the Product Manager in question truly believes she is tying each feature to customer benefits, all while the Sales Engineer/Account Rep thinks the Product Manager is just blathering on and on about features.

The Disconnect

How can this happen?  Because there are several steps between the “we added Warp Drive in release 2.0″ Product Manager-ish statement and the “Warp Drive increases your revenues AND decreases your costs” Sales-ish statement.

Using this example, the Product Manager would probably say “We added Warp Drive in release 2.0.  That makes our rocket ships now go faster than the speed of light, which means space travel will take one bajillionth of the time it currently does.” And the Product Manager often leaves it there, believing she successfully tied feature to customer benefit.

Meanwhile, the Droids think the Product Manager left out the business benefit.  After all, she did not tie the warp drive feature to either “saving money” or “making more money” (the only two customer benefits some Droids can understand).

Thus the schism.

To most Product Managers, it is OBVIOUS that faster space travel means people will spend more time working instead traveling, and will thus become more efficient, saving money.  And that with Warp Drive we’ll be able to reach more of the galaxy and thereby increase the number of customers we can reach, increasing revenue.  blah, blah, blah.

In fact, it seems SO obvious that many Product Managers worry they’ll insult the customers’ intelligence or annoy them if the Product Manager explains how each and every feature ultimately saves money or increases revenue.

Truth is, the customers probably need a bit more hand-holding.  As Product Managers we are genetically engineered for our superior feature-X-yields-benefit-Y perception. We forget that not everyone thinks like that.

But on the OTHER hand, the Sales Droid who can only talk about “saving money” or “making more money,” (aka “lower TCO” and “increased ROI”), often seems like a huge dumbass to the customer. Trust the Cranky Product Manager on this, she once was a customer.

An Obvious Tactic That Often Works

**So, for Product Managers, here’s a technique that sometimes works: **

  1. Before demo-ing or presenting the roadmap or whatever, ask the customer about his/her problems and the benefits that he/she is seeking from your software.  
  3. During your demo/presentation, tie the features back to the specific benefits the customer seeks, using EXACTLY the same wording.

Of course, this technique only works if you are able to talk to this customer one-on-one beforehand; it works less well if you are presenting to a huge crowd at a conference.  Also, this technique does not guarantee that the Sales Droid will be happy, only the customer.  After all, the Sales Droid might not understand the benefits the customer seeks – they might be too “low level” for a Droid to possibly comprehend.

This concludes the Cranky Product Manager’s “Obvious Lesson of the Day.”

No doubt, huge swaths of Product Managers are out there saying* “Isn’t this advice obvious?  Doesn’t every product manager already know this?”*  Hopefully, most of you do.  But for those who don’t, or who occasionally forget, hopefully this advise is more specific and more actionable than that “Tie features to benefits” platitude.

– OLD The Brain of a Sales Droid – A Visual Guide

–Guest Post: The Cranky Sales Engineer Shares Sales Secrets

Annual planning is nearly over and the Cranky Sales Engineer almost has his quota for the year.  In a tequila inspired fit of account-planning ecstasy, he has decided to share how he and his brethren actually sell products and what product managers can actually do to help.

The Cranky Sales Engineer and the rest of the sales force look for a mystical confluence of three features to make any deal happen:

  • A Technical Problem—Nobody buys anything because its “cool” or “neat” unless they are penniless early adopters.  The rest of the market needs a problem to solve or they aren’t interested.  We need to find a real problem.  Not a “my back bothers me sometimes” problem but a “I’m going to knock my own septic molar out with an ice skate” kind of problem.
  • A Relationship—The Cranky Sales Engineers spends an inordinate amount of time at sporting events, dinners, lunches, and, yes, pub crawls, with customers.  Why?  Because customers will only buy if there is a relationship. Without it, they don’t trust us to actually solve the problem.
  • A Business Proposition—There needs to be a business deal on the table that makes economic sense.  Without it, the problem remains unsolved, and the relationship is just another excuse to go to the ball game.  The business numbers must add up.

The Cranky Sales Engineer is constantly astounded by product managers who manage to be completely irrelvent to this process.  These managers talk about features with no problems.  In fact, that’s all they talk about.  Features they have, features they will have, features they don’t have, and the Cranky SE’s favorite: features that don’t work.

What can you do to help your SE’s sell your product?

  • Tie features to technical problems—You should know what gawd-awful problem you’re solving before you invest in new features.  It’s true, that sometimes the problem being solved is that the customer is tired of five mouse-clicks when there could be three. But that’s a problem if you have to do it 100 times a day.  Show us a technical problem to solve.
  • Make sure the features work—Trust is one of the keys to a sale, and the Cranky Sales Engineer loses trust and credibility every time a feature isn’t fully tested.  Here is a clue to when your sales engineers have lost the customer’s trust: the customer asks, “Don’t you guys test your programs?  Why do I have to do it?”
  • Ask the sales team about pricing—You can screw up pricing two ways.  If you make it too high, we can’t sell the product.  But worse, if you make it too low, we can’t make any money selling the product.  Here’s a thought.  Ask us.  Ask the good account managers and good sales engineers.  The good ones don’t want to sell cheap products, and they especially don’t sell on price.  Make it worth our while.

It’s hard to make all three parts of a deal line up.  Customers have no money.  They are retrenching.  Help us find toothaches and give your sales team the tools to pull the the deals together.

–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 craft a stern reprimand. Perhaps later.

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

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 v 7.2. 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.

– The Joy of Sales Kickoff

The air is brisk. The holiday chocolate is all gone. And, at last, the gluttonous end-of-year feast of discounted software licenses is complete. It must be that time of year. Time for the Annual Worldwide Sales Meeting. And what would a monstrous sales meeting be without…

kickoffboy Over-the-top parties, complete with ice sculptures, minor celebrities-for-hire, free-flowing booze, cigars, cigars, and more cigars.  Where else can you get the free show of the Sales Gods and Goddesses groping each other?  Or see that gaggle of 20-something Marketing Blondes throwing themselves at the married, yet playboy-esque, CEO?

Where else can the Cranky Product Manager be  essentially forced to dance with two to five male Sales Engineers and Product Managers at once, all because — as geeks — they are too intimidated to ask the Marketing Blondes or Sales Goddesses?

The Endless Awards Ceremony. It seems that everyone in Sales and Professional Services – even the spreadsheet jockeying Sales Ops guys — gets some kind award: “Rookie of the Year for the Western Chicagoland region”, “MVP for the Southern Florida region”, “The Billability King/Queen”, “Best Proposal Award,” “The Cold Caller Award”, “The Leading Lead Qualifier,” “Best Forecasting Spreadsheet,” and on and on and on…. and on and on…

And then, the real awards. Real awards with real prizes for all the Sales Droids that managed to actually do their jobs and achieve their quota. Congratulations — you did what DysfunctoSoft hired you to do! Here’s your all-expenses-paid trip to Aspen! Bring your spouse and go skiing for an entire week!  And no need to deduct it from your vacation time!

Ugh. Boring.

But more importantly, where’s the award for the Cranky Product Manager, beeyotches? Why are the only people ever formally recognized at DysfunctoSoft, in any fashion, all in Sales and Professional Services?  Why no awards for Engineering, Marketing, or Customer Support — or, more importantly, for Product Management?

The Cranky Product Manager wants HER tiny frakin’ statuette to display in her cubicle, goddammit.  She wants HER one-week trip, with her SPOUSE, during the WORKING WEEK, to the most luxurious resort in the Bahamas.  Why is she perpetually denied?

The Networking - A unique opportunity to meet all those brand spankin’ new sales reps, the ones that replaced all the fired sales reps with whom you carefully cultivated relationships at last year’s Sales Kickoff. Make it fun! Randomly populate a 5×5 matrix with the names of the new reps. In addition to helping you remember their names, when the Sales Rep firing-fest begins you can play “Bye Bye Bingo” with your fellow PMs!

The Training – Ah, yes. Training. Your raison d’être. The only reason why you, as a Product Manager, are even present at Sales’s celebration of itself: to train the account reps, sales engineers and consultants on your products.  Too bad they are all too drunk or hung over to remember a single thing you say.  And for the more technical sessions, too bad that no matter how many times you and your boss and their bosses remind them ahead of time, 70% of them will not even have your product installed on their laptops.  And if you correctly predict and allow for this reality by designing a lecture-style class, then 80% of them will complain that the class was not hands-on. Fan-fraking-tastic.

The Roommates – OK, the Cranky Product Manager needs to know. Is her cheap-ass company the only one that will not spring for single-occupancy hotel rooms at sales meetings? Every year, the CPM ends up rooming with Hilda from Professional Services. Because although Hilda’s snoring can shake paint off the walls, at least she does not watch TV, make loud phone calls, or hog the bathroom for hours at a time. But most importantly, she does not try to engage the CPM in conversation of any kind.