My rating: 79/100
See Book Notes for other books I have read. If you like my notes, go buy it!
The sales engineer’s handbook
Chapter 2 An Overview of the Sales Process
Many SEs (Sales Engineers) never rise above merely listing off the features of their products. If you aren’t beyond this phase yet, this book will help you learn how to put together a presentation that uses product demonstrations as the proof points for you key messages. In the end, it will be your ability to choose the correct messages – and then substantiate them – that will determine whether your proposal will be superior to that of your competitor’s.
Chapter 3 Lead Qualification
When prospects don’t have a budget, it usually indicates that it is unlikely that they have the ability to make a purchase, even if they decide that your solution fully meets their needs.
Questions to ask:
Budget – Do you have a budget for this project?
Can you tell me what the total budget is for the project? This helps us determine which level of solution may be appropriate for you.
Time Frame – When do you expect the purchase to be completed?
Need – What other products are you considering?
Are there any existing solutions we will have to factor into our solution?
Do you plan to implement this yourself or will you be using external resources?
Some prospects feel that if they tell you what their budget is, your price will be equivalent to the number they give you. A question like the following one is a good way to approach the issue: “Can you tell me what your estimate is for total internal resources and total cost associated with the project?”
Asking about the time frame for the project is usually a simple task. “What is your expected time of purchase?” will usually result in a direct answer. If it doesn’t, consider it a significant red flag.
Chapter 4 The RFP Process
We can beat gravity, but sometimes the paperwork is overwhelming. – Wernher von Braun, rocket scientist
Chapter 5 Needs Analysis and Discovery
The seven step needs analysis approach
- Identify Needed Information
- Build the perfect pitch
- Explain the needs analysis process
- Interview key customers
- Observe current processes – get to know then end user
- Synthesize information
- Prepare and present summary
Budget at least two days between receipt of the final significant source of information and your expected replay of your observations to the customer.
Adapt your questions to your audience. Your customer interviews will fall into three categories.
- Customer views time spent with you as a waste of time. Limit your questions, and ask open ended questions like, “Why is the current system not sufficient?”
- Customer will inundate you with useless information. Ask specific questions. Avoid wasting precious time with these individuals.
- Understands the purpose and is familiar with the business problem. Focus on getting information you don’t have yet.
Chapter 6 Business Value Discovery
TAG – Tell, Accept, Guess
It can be tempting, and perhaps viewed as a show of credibility and experience, to listen to the customer for just a few minutes and then say, “It seems like you have a problem with … we see that all the time; let me tell you how we can help you.” There are two things wrong with this approach: First, you have not let the customer fully express the current state of affairs (doesn’t it annoy you when you feel that someone isn’t actively listening to you?), and second, it’s not a problem until the customer says that it is a problem!
The second crime is that of accepting what the customer tells you without verifying the facts.
The final crime is that of guessing. Don’t guess.
Business Switchback – defer the technology discussion until you know why the customer is interested. (Otherwise you are guessing.)
The sales process itself can be subdivided into four simple steps.
- Get a full list of all the key business issues.
- Verify that it is complete.
- Add your own issues/challenge to the customer.
- Prioritize the list.
Step 1 Full List
So why did you invite us in to meet with you today?
What is it that your boss is worried about?
At your last staff meeting on this subject, what did you talk about?
We’ve done … for some other customers, is that of interest to you?
The most important rule is: You need to make sure you have a full list before you dive deeper into any one problem, even if it is the first problem the customer mentions and it is something you can absolutely solve.
We have determined that the first issue the customer gives you is rarely their most important one.
Step 2 Verify it is complete
Ask, “So if we fixed all these issues (and nothing else) would you consider this a success?
Step 3 Add a challenge
Step 4 Prioritize
Examples of Data Driven Nontechnical Discovery Questions
Who is impacted the most by this problem?
Who owns the equipment?
Who is the first person to complain when it breaks?
When did this first start happening?
When did it gain the attention of someone important?
When do you need it fixed?
Where are the customers/users of this system?
Where does the problem occur most often?
Where would you need the solution first deployed?
How do you measure it? What is the current value?
What would you like it to be in the future?
How many people are impacted?
How many hours per month of employee time will this save you?
Do you have a cost per hour for that saved time?
Are you going to bill your customers for this new service?
How many additional calls/procedures will you be able to run each day?
How much time do you spend doing this each day?
How many people perform this job function?
Will efficiency improvements drive more revenues or lower costs?
What is the worth? (Difference between now and future)
What are some of your symptoms?
What are your reporting/compliance requirements?
How have you analyzed this?
How have you tried to fix it?
How did this problem all get started?
We recommend that you mostly avoid WHY questions as many customers view them as judgmental or confrontational. You can usually rephrase them using another style.
Chapter 7 Successful Customer Engagement
Do not assume that the business decision makers are the only ones with whom you need to develop relationships.
you should expect that your early encounters will be businesslike and not overly familiar.
Keep the charm in check until you know your customers better, and you will avoid the risk of appearing manipulative.
If you are dealing with multiple factions that have mutually exclusive designs on your solution, try to support whichever group has the greatest influence on the overall decision.
Identify the people you need to know.
A coach is a person who works for your customer and who is willing to give you information beyond what your competitors have access to.
The salesperson-coach relationship usually comes about in two phases:
- You develop a good working relationship with the individual in question.
- Once you’ve established the relationship, the future coach determines that he or she will personally benefit from having your solution be chosen.
What if there are no obvious options for coaches? Start buying lunches.
If possible, you should try to physically meet your coach for lunch or dinner at least every six months, even if there is not activity at the account.
Think of ways to diplomatically avoid spending time with the “less important” customers who may not be critical to the purchase process.
Make sure you know how your proposal will advance the interests of each key individual with whom you are dealing. Self-interest will guide more decisions that feature and function comparisons.
Chapter 8 The Perfect Pitch
Our proposal is that you start and end with what is most important to the customer rather than what is most important to you.
Develop your presentation, start by answering these questions:
- What is the issue?
- What is the purpose?
- What needs to be presented?
- How much time do you have to present?
- How much do you know about the topic?
- How much does your audience know about the topic?
- Which ideas will need support and where can you find that support?
Then specify your objectives:
- What do you want to accomplish?
- What points do you want to make to your audience?
- On what points do you want to persuade your audience to take action?
- What decisions do you want to influence your audience to make?
Start with the structure S = RM + 3KP
The structure (S) equation is comprised of the residual message (RM) and up to three key points (3KPs) or objectives to reinforce the message. The RM can be defined as “one week from now, if you want the client to remember just one thing, what would it be?“
Sometimes you need to show the customer the cake before you get into the ingredients.
My note: basically this means some people need to see a quick overview of the whole product to get an idea of what it is.
Chapter 9 The Dash To Demo
In selling, as in medicine, prescription before diagnosis is malpractice. – Relationship Selling, Jim Cathcart
We determined that 78% of demos happened too early in the sales cycle. No one believed the data until we also noted that the 22% of deals that followed their real-world process had more than double the closure rate of those that made the shortcut.
In terms of logistics, you should always double-check some of the basic facts surrounding the event, particularly the following:
- Number of people attending.
- Names, titles, emails, and phone numbers of attendees.
- Third parties who will be in attendance.
- Part-time attendees, in particular any key decision makers or executives.
- Amount of time allotted.
- Projection and sound facilities needed.
- Network access or strength of wireless signal.
- Availability of an electrical power supply.
- Handling of breakfast and lunch breaks; people are generally most receptive on a full stomach.
- Requirements regarding the signing of NDAs.
Chapter 10 Snap Demos
Sample Snap Demo Structure
- Perform a mini “needs analysis”
- State the business problems you intend to address and the products that you will demonstrate.
- Demonstrate the product briefly and deliver key messages: Explain key product features; highlight benefits and key selling points; repeat as necessary.
- Tell your audience what they saw; explain how it addresses their expressed need; describe other tangible business benefits or differentiators; and confirm that this was responsive to their needs.
- Ask about next steps or follow-up.
There are a lot more chapters but I didn’t find them relevant to my needs and skipped them.