Sales Enablement for SE (and Sales!)

A big thank you to everyone who has subscribed (via email) on the right or commented via LinkedIn or to this post (above or below).  Building great Sales Engineering (SE) / Pre Sales Engineering (for those of you in EMEA 🙂 ) teams is definitely an underserved topic and one we can help each other with.

Before diving in to this week’s topic I would like to give a shout out to a couple of great articles on SE talent and hiring.  The traits of entrepreneurial drive and hiring outside the box within your organization are two areas that have served me well in the past.  Go read the posts!

Second, even as SE’s we should  ‘Always be Selling’ right?   To that end I am currently hiring 3 SE leaders to cover our Americas business.  We also have roles open for Sales Engineers (NYC, Federal, OH), Architects, and Consulting Systems Engineers (cover new products).  Check them out and shoot me a note on LinkedIn.

Sales Enablement

After 10 days in my new role I have taken a step back to summarize and create themes/hypothesis on the major areas of need for my new SE team.  Surprise, surprise they are some of the most common areas, i.e. POC Efficiency, Measurement & Metrics, and scaling the team.  Metrics/Scaling are intertwined because the more time an SE spends on internal actions like tracking activities, documenting the same information in multiple places, and internal meetings, the less time available to spend with customers.  I believe you don’t need to make the team work harder but can work smarter instead.

You can do this through enablement.  In my last role I led Sales Enablement in addition to Sales Engineering.   As I was exiting the business and doing a knowledge transfer to the new team I drew out the following diagram on the whiteboard to explain my lessons learned:

Screen Shot 2016-04-25 at 5.55.22 AM

Not only do you need to create Content, Process & Tools, and Accountability mechanisms but you need to invest as much time or more in how you change the employee behavior to adopt them.

  • CONTENT: this is typically what people think enablement is – making customer pitch decks, white papers, and training.  The danger here is responding too often to one off asks from the field (different verticals, use cases, etc.)  You end up with too much content and variations and that it is hard to keep up to date.  Keep it simple.  Typically you want two core presentations, a high level value prop deck (What is going on in the industry, what is your company point of view on that, what solution does your company offer, why you think it is better/differentiated, proof points from customers/analysts on why, next steps). The second deck is a deep dive on details about ‘what you do’.
  • PROCESS & TOOLS: too often sales operations professionals sit down to design a sales process and author a very detailed plan and description.  Unfortunately, these don’t match or align with what the sales force is used to doing and adoption/consistency is a problem.  An alternate approach is to observe and document what your most successful sales people are doing, when they do it, and how they do it.  Generalize and document that and you have your sales process.  A process should be a codification of best practices.
  • ACCOUNTABILITY: based on what is working, are there key identifiers for that success.  These should be outcome based rather than activity based.  Once you have the metrics, what are the carrot and stick your organization agrees will be used to enforce that?  It is imperative that these are defined and agreed to up front to ensure consistency of execution.  If you say ‘update your salesforce.com by Wednesday’ and they don’t, what is the negative outcome?  Does everyone know it and believe it?

 

gi-joe-knowing-is-half-the-battle
Creating the collateral is only half the battle.  Now you need to do the hard part – create a system to drive consistent and sustainable change of behavior.  Behavior is most easily changed or modified when the individual required to change sees the value in it and has a desire to adopt it.  Ryobi-P320_D_Final-5x7Unfortunately, even then people are resistant to change.  For example, while doing home renovations I continued to use a hammer & punch to do trim for years.  I knew a nail gun was probably easier but I also knew the hammer worked and it seemed like more effort to try something new.  Then one day I tried a nail gun.  OMG!  No longer did I have to hunch over and try to punch those nails in, cover with putty, and then get ticked off when I missed and put a hammer dent in the wood (I am not very dextrous).

To drive sustained change and adoption you can do the following approaches in priority order:

  • AUTOMATION: the most desirable approach is to automate the change and take away the need for the sales rep to perform any action at all.  For example, if every time I put wood trim on the wall the nail gun automatically came to life and nailed it in that would be great!  Typical ways to automate could be activity tracking by using tools like YesWare to log emails to SFDC, Webex to log customer facing remote meetings to SFDC, or IFTTT to capture customer meetings in a google calendar and creating SFDC entries.
  • WORKFLOW: when documentation or tools are created outside of a sales rep’s typical daily actions or workflow they need to remember to go and use it.  This is hard.  Imagine I have my toolbox that I always use and right at the top of it is my hammer and punch.  A friend of mine was nice enough to buy me a nail gun and put it in my closet.  I am in front of my piece of trim and need to nail it in.  What am I going to do, use the hammer and nail within 3 feet of me or take the time to remember I have a nail gun, walk to the closet, walk back, and then use it?  However, if you took the hammer and nail away and put the nail gun at the top of my toolbox I might actually give it a try.  The goal is to make it so a person can not avoid using the new action.
    1. Incorporate the new action into the workflow, i.e. SFDC, CRM, Content Portal
    2. Take the Old Tool/Action Away:  people will complain at first.  If it is valid, use that feedback to improve the new action, if it is not – tell them too bad.
  • BRUTE FORCE: when you can’t automate it and you can’t incorporate it easily into the existing workflow then your only choice is to do brute force adoption.  Continuing the trim scenario…  every time I am doing construction I should have someone behind me watching me or at a minimum checking in on me every few minutes.  If I am ever caught using the hammer and punch then my hands are slapped and I am handed the nail gun.  If I am successfully caught using the nail gun then I am given a hearty pat on the back.  Either way – the approach is not 100% fool proof and requires almost twice the effort (two people).

The above approaches not only hold true for the SE/Sales Reps but are even carousel-lg-450-all-380x380-1more important for the Sales Managers all the way up the chain.  All too often sales enablement is rolled out to the individuals and we assume the sales managers get it.  They don’t!  They are human too, they are used to their excel spreadsheets and flip phones.  So what is the plan to Automate, Workflow, or Brute Force your expectations of them too?

I have also thought to add a fourth approach to implementation.  Unfortunately as an MBA grad we were always taught to make pretty Matrix/Models and 4 boxes on the bottom wouldn’t look McKinsey-esque.  The fourth rule of thumb would be ‘MANDATORY or REMOVE‘.  You should always be looking for ways to simplify things.  If you wouldn’t make something 100% mandatory then why do it at all?  For example, if every field in SFDC isn’t mandatory to fill out then why have the field at all?  Just in case some super sales rep decides to go above and beyond and fill it out?  Even if they did and you wanted to report on it, if it isn’t 100% complete then how could you trust the data anyways?  Furthermore, if you don’t have a report that you view/use on a consistent basis that utilizes the information then why capture it at all?  Just in case some day you might?  Chances are when that ‘some day’ comes the data won’t be in the right format anyways.

At the end of the day it is all about simplifying the actions, removing them from requiring conscious thought to do, and minimizing the need for brute force.  Finally, you must apply these strategies to the sales leaders before you have any hope of success with the sales reps and sales engineers.

I had thought about giving more detailed examples, but I also realize that your attention span is limited so I am ending it here.  I encourage you to share examples of what has worked or not worked in the comments section.

 

Setting Expectations

It is now my second day on the job and I was thinking this morning about how to begin setting expectations with the SE Leaders on my team.  It is always a careful balance as you are the new guy and you are joining a team and group that they have spent a considerable amount of time building.  On the flip side, people always want to know what is expected of them and how to partner with their new leader.

I remembered that I had written an FY kickoff email to the SE Manager team a few years ago and highlighted many of those expectations.  Rather than rewrite the email I of course pinged one of them…. “Hey… do you remember that random email I sent 4 years ago on ‘doing the right thing’ do you still have it?”

Luckily I was able to find it and upon re-reading it I realized that it is still applicable not only to today, but also regardless of company.  I share it here as an example of being open with the team.  You will likely have your own views on each topic and you would express them in your own voice, but ideally the framework is useful.

Thoughts and High Level Expectations for our SE Leader team

As we kick off our partnership I wanted to drop you a note and give insight to high level expectations/guidance for ourselves as SE Leaders.  These are lessons learned I have had observed over time.  I fully expect these to evolve as I learn from each of you and continue to evolve.   Warning, the below is long but I wanted to make sure you had as much background as possible.
I appreciate OPEN COMMUNICATION and would love to hear your views, insights, opinions, and CANDOR.  It is OK to say – “Bill, this is all fine and dandy but I think you are full of crap on point X,Y,Z”.  I am OK with this – see points below on Devil’s Advocate and Feedback.  There is nothing better than uncovering ideas that are better.  There is no NIH (not invented here).  I am looking forward to an awesome FY16 and from the short time together I fully believe we have a super team to make that happen!
Leadership

We each have activities and responsibilities, but it is the overall leadership we provide that will be the difference between success and failure.

  • Collaborate (Join the Team): How well do you work with your peers and team members?  Do you share ideas and look for win win?
  • Curiosity (Learning): This is not only technical skill set, but are you learning and developing as a leader and not just a manager?  When you make a mistake (we all do) are you learning from it?
  • Execute: Can you do the job, do you overcome obstacles?  Can you beat expectations?
  • Improve: This is where you start to add real new value.  Can you take an idea and grow it or scale it to deliver extra value?  For example, can you take the upcoming SE Summit and enhance it or ensure its success?
  • Innovate: This is innovation with positive business results.  Did you come up with an idea or find one, execute it, and add additional value to the business above what we do today?
Grading
Report-CardWe will define the requirements of (MANAGER PERFORMANCE MEASURE/TOOL) mapped to SE Leader as a team, but in terms of pay for performance, bonus’s, comp, etc I heavily weight to the areas above.  If you do CollaborateCuriosity, and Execution really well – than you are meeting expectations.  Blowing out your number, playing nice with others, and learning is just what we expect of each other as leaders.  To be exceptional a leader must also Improve and Innovate.  Did you in some way make those around you 5 or 10% better?  Did you run an initiative, sales campaign, or similar that grew the business at a faster than expected pace and then share it and scale it with others?
We will decide as a team how we will hold each other accountable and for what.  My role will be as a score keeper against those expectations.
Results not Activity/Status/Prestige
A core part of the (COMPANY) culture is SERVANT LEADERSHIP.  At the end of the day, we want people who strive to be their best and make others better and their customers better.  If we are successful at that everything else will come.
Hiring and Staffing
When we look for people we need to balance skill, expertise and attitude.  Given a preference I would ask us to look for not just those with X years of Y experience, but also those willing to go above and beyond and a pride for their work and business – many know this as the saying “Hire for Attitude not Aptitude”.  (http://blogs.hbr.org/taylor/2011/02/hire_for_attitude_train_for_sk.html).  Marc Andreessen also has an applicable view http://pmarchive.com/how_to_hire_the_best_people.html  In (COMPANY) terms it is SCRAPPINESS and ADAPTABILITY.  Our business changes fast – we need fast thinkers, learners, those who have a PASSION to be successful, and those who will challenge status quo and drive us to new heights.  We need people (and have people) who go above and beyond not because they were told to, but because they want to.  They have pride and ownership of their work.
Diving Catch, Fixing, setting Expectations 
NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at New England Patriots
Nov 21, 2011; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski (87) dives over the pylon to score a touchdown in the third quarter against the Kansas City Chiefs at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-US PRESSWIRE

Part of having pride in your work means you are ok with doing whatever it takes to ensure CUSTOMER SUCCESS.  Even a rich retail store owner will sometimes have to plumb the toilet in the public restroom.  We will always be faced with situations where our teams need to do dirty work and a diving catch, i.e. do an install, work a support case, or do an emergency demo.  However, after that diving catch is done have we fixed the root cause of the problem?  Did we set expectations with the requester?  If we had to do an implementation due to partner inability – what have we done to ensure that partner now has that capability once the fire drill is over?  If we had to do an emergency demo did you set expectations with the Sales member about how to go about scheduling demo’s in the future?

 
Investing for Scale
We are a growing business.  We can only scale and grow by running faster and faster for so long.  As we go we need to set aside time and effort to invest in a solid infrastructure so we can continue to grow.  Working harder not smarter will only take us so far.  For example do we need to train our Partners our extended teams?  Do we need to build a repeatable demo system or kits?  It is too easy to always say we are too busy to do this…  I would point to the concept of Pay Yourself First (http://www.investopedia.com/terms/p/payyourselffirst.asp) By investing time first – it is amazing how you realize how to still get the day job done.
“Do the Right Thing”
6d0a69502931bf1b997fb29371c72daaIn matrix leadership it is all too often easiest to avoid the tough discussion, try to make various people happy and try to play politics.  One way to avoid this is to strive to be open and always “Do the Right Thing”.  When making a tough decision, solicit input from your stakeholders and review the facts from multiple angles or sources.  Once done, do whatever you believe is the “Right Thing” for your customers and (COMPANY) overall.  In some cases this may not be what is best for either you,your team , or your stakeholders but is the best for the greater whole. When you make the decision be open and honest with why you made it.  In the end no one can ever question your intentions if you “Do what you believe is the right thing”.  It also helps you sleep well at night… “Criticism is something you can easily avoid by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.” -Aristotle
Escalate & Heads up
If you are doing the right thing the rest of the (COMPANY) leadership, and myself, are here to support you.  However, if you think it will be controversial please be proactive about giving us a heads up on how we can help support you.
Teamwork
A rising tide raises all boats.  While I highly encourage friendly competition among you, we are all on the same team at the end of the day (and yes this includes our peers in EMEA/APJ).  As we win market share it helps us all.  Lets continue to pitch in to help others.  If we have great ideas or capabilities lets share that.
Entrepreneurship
I encourage each of you to own your business.  It is your number and your team.  There will always be some Americas or Company level initiatives and goals but overall it is your business to run.  Free to take risks, fail, learn, and most importantly: be curious and improve.
My Role
My role is pretty basic
  • If something is broken or not working in 2 or more teams, I should take that on and fix it at the Americas or Company level.  
  • If something is working very well in one team, I should figure out how to scale it to the others.
Beyond that are the standard items such as develop the team (leadership for you and technical and sales mastery for the SE’s), be in front of customers, and making things happen.
Area Directors
You will each be aligned to multiple Area Directors (AD).  The best way to operate with them is to be a business partner.  Each of you will have your strengths.  Find out how you can complement each other.  This may result in you doing some things that may not be a typical SE Leader responsibility or them doing non-AD like things.  Second – understand the business and have ideas on how to grow it.  Don’t just wait to be told what to do or where to go (not that you would 🙂 ).  One of the best quotes from an AD I have worked with about the SE team is:
  • “Your aligned SE – recognize immediately that these folks are your competitive differentiation.  They are the best of the best and you need them so much more than they need you right now.  You will treat them with the utmost respect and reverence.  On your watch, they never buy their own lunch…become their firewall, their advocate, their partner.  Do not let them down. “ 
One on Ones
I will schedule weekly or bi-weekly one on ones with you.  This time is your time.  A typical agenda is covering things that are top of mind for you and what you need.
  • Hot topics from you
  • Hot topics from Bill
  • Customer Opportunities
  • Staffing: Recognition, Concerns
  • Internal Alignment: issues, positives?
Communication Preferences
tin-can-telephoneFeel free to reach out to me at any time.  My iPhone is never far from my side.  I do tend to be pretty bad with phone calls and voicemail.  The challenge with those mediums is I am often on conference calls or meetings and it is difficult to grab that.  I read every single email and strive to have a zero inbox every evening.  Email is great as well as IM or SMS txt.  You will often get a quicker response that way than voicemail.  What are your preferences?
Feedback 
One of the most valuable things we can do is give feedback to each other – honest, candid and constructive.  When we do something, ask “What were my rose petals and what were my thorns?”. Don’t give each other the good old thumbs up “Good Job!” and a wink.  The best thing I can do for you is to try and hold a mirror up to and offer the feedback of what I can see and what others see.  This could be on your performance, your career, etc.  Only through your success and growth will we all be successful.
Devil’s Advocate
al-pacino-devils-advocateIn our one on one’s or meetings I often will play the role of Devil’s Advocate.  This can be offsetting (annoying/frustrating) at first as it will seem that your new manager is questioning everything or arguing all your points.  I do this so we can vet the ideas in a safe environment before moving on to external stakeholders.  Other times it will be because I have the same view as you and I am exploring for pitfalls or weaknesses in the approach and hoping you can help.  If the debate or questioning is too intense it is OK to say “timeout”!  See the topic above – feedback. 😉
Planning
You know your business the best.  As a team we will sit down and plan for FY17.  We will identify the main areas we can impact, what we need to continue doing, and what activities we can automate or offload altogether.
If you are still with me, fantastic!    I am looking forward to an amazing ride!

Measuring & Tracking Sales Engineering

One of the dirty phrases in SE Management is the topic of time or activity tracking.  How does an SE leader or a Sales organization gain insight into the operations and success of the SE organization.  The SE role is a large investment for a company and measuring their success is more challenging than that of an Account Exec (AE) and what their quarterly quota attainment is.  How to do this well remains one of the most challenging and unsolved problems in SE leadership.

How should an SE leader track the operational performance of
their
team in a modern and low friction way?

Purposes of Measurement

Before deciding on the HOW it is best to understand the WHY you want to track SE operations.  I have found that tracking is usually driven by one of three primary reasons:

  1. Justification of SE Teamwhy should the business be investing in SEs and are the staffing levels correct.  This could be because there has been a downturn in the economy and a layoff is required or it could be because you are trying to reduce the ratio of AE to SE and increase staffing.
  2. Individual SE Performancecreate a metrics based stack rank of SE performance in order to see who has delivered the most demo’s, POCs, presentations, etc.
  3. Business Insight & Operations.  understand the SE involvement and contributions in each stage of the sales cycle, track limited resources such as POC hardware allocation, determine which products are “easy” to support and which ones are more difficult by comparison and serve as a triangulation point to validate what the AE are saying in terms of progress of an opportunity.

Personally I have found that only option #3 provides long term value to an organization.  When #1 is your driver people tend to be resentful of the process either through fear of big brother and a layoff or through resentment that their value isn’t obvious enough to justify on its own.  This can result in a spike of adoption when the data is needed and then it tails off after the fact as it isn’t providing day to day value – especially to the SE who must do the tracking.

The challenge I have found with #2 is that in every SE organization I have run the person with the best metrics are often the worst performers.  Their numbers may be high because they know they aren’t performing to the level they need to so they are the most diligent on tracking every single activity versus the high performing SE who has been focused on the customer and hasn’t gotten around to updating his stats.  The other reason is that top performing SEs may not require 3+ POCs or 10+ demonstrations to close a deal.  Instead they may be more efficient and effective in the smaller number of activities they do.

I believe the key to long term operational metric adoption and success is that it must

  • Provide value back to both the SE and Management on a weekly/monthly/qtrly basis
  • Be accurate via mandatory completion and not manager inspection/honor system
  • Track as much via automation as possible otherwise have it built into SE workflow

Approaches to Measurement

There are two typical types of metrics that SE leaders track, Activities and Outcomes.

  1. Activity Tracking:  is also be known as time tracking and is focused on the raw number of actions an SE does over a given period of time.  These types of metrics are often best used for high volume transactional type sales cycles, i.e. inside sales or small medium business.
    • # of demos per deal type/SE
    • # of POC per deal
    • # hours spent per deal type
    • # opportunities worked
    • # of opportunities won/lost
    • # remote/onsite customer meetings
    • % time on post-sales activities
  2. Outcome Tracking: is focused on measuring the output of actions rather than the actions themselves.  The intent is to focus on what goals your team are trying to achieve rather than how they are achieved.  Outcomes are often aligned to the steps of a sales process.  For example rather than tracking the # of hours spent doing discovery you instead capture the output of the discovery and infer that therefore discovery has been done.  Measuring Outcomes is often best for high touch sales teams.
    1. Technical Qualification Complete: captured the customer’s business requirements and technical implications in SFDC.
    2. Solution Positioning Complete: demo and high level presentations performed and the customer has agreed to a technical design workshop onsite at their location.
    3. Solution Validated: an architecture or solution design has been authored, uploaded to SFDC.  POC success criteria and scope defined in SFDC.
    4. Solution Acceptance: the customer has evaluated the POC and design and agreed that it meets their needs.  Services SOW scoping has been completed.
    5. Technical Closure: the SOW has been delivered, redlined, and accepted.

Methods for Tracking

  1. Surveys: at Cisco we would do a quarterly SE survey where every SE was asked to allocate their time in terms of percentages to the various activities and then there were open text areas for feedback.
    • Pro: good method to get qualitative feedback as well as quantitative.  Only required effort quarterly.
    • Con: provided little value to the SE themselves, SE Mgrs had to track down and ensure completion, all time reporting were estimates not actuals and therefore accuracy was a big issue.
  2. Weekly SE Progress Reportmany front line SE managers will ask that their teams fill out a google spreadsheet or excel with all of their activities and hours spent on a weekly basis.
    • Pro: good team consistency of execution
    • Con: high SE effort, often accompanied by a micro manager feeling, little value to SE unless SE manager turns data into a dashboard for the SEs to use (rarely happens), difficult to scale to SE organizations with multiple SE Leaders
  3. Salesforce.com 
    • Pro: utilizes the same CRM/tracking system that the SE would be using for their day job.  Built in reporting (not analytics).  Can define mandatory/custom fields.
    • Con: there are some many different ways to implement that it that you can make it 100% automated all the way to the most onerous and complicated approach possible.

 

SFDC Implementation Examples

In a recent discussion with Bay Area Sales Engineering Leaders the following examples were shared:

  • SFDC Cases: create a case for every activity (demo, business case development, scoping a systems integration, etc). If an app is supported in one way, there will be one case. If supported five ways, there will be five cases. This doesn’t show hours invested, but it does show relative level of effort on an opp. Because the cases link to opportunities, A report can be made on each type of engagement (demo, business case development, etc) and see the relative ‘success’ (how many opps are won, lost, qualified out).  An email-to-case system makes it as simple as possible to create cases. You can create a custom button on the Salesforce opportunity page that automatically creates a case – the sales rep can then fill in a few fields, save it, and it automatically gets assigned to the SE team.
  • SFDC Activity Log: similar to cases, you cam also create a custom Activity type for SE activities (ie, demo, POC, no-show meeting, etc), and have individual SEs log calls + details after meetings.
  • SFDC Custom Form: Create a custom form called Technical Decision Status that tracks the technical buying cycle.  You can use this to
  • SFDC Fields: create fields called “Event Type” in the Opportunity for demo prep, demo, IT workshop, RFP etc. Each week have the SE spend 10 mins going into SF.com and entering approx time spent on each of these activities per opportunity, based on their Outlook or Google Calendar.  
  • SFDC Field: similar to the SFDC Fields approach but simplified to all time for 1 deal captured in 1 field. At opportunity closure time the SE must log how many hours they spent doing all deal-related work: discovery, demo, prep (travel not included). An estimate is ok as it reduces process overhead. However, most SEs have opted to keep the time up to date as they work on a deal because they like to run reports on where they’ve been working the most.   The main downside to capturing it this way is you can’t really see when the time was actually spent as you’re capturing it all in one big bucket. For time trending, you can run reports on Opportunity Close dates.

Consistency

The biggest challenge to all of the approaches is getting data consistency.  No matter how easy you make the tool to track or enter information into you will still struggle to have the AE or SE fill it out.  I observed this at large companies like Cisco where we made it so only a checkbox was needed, at GoodData where we had weekly inspections and only a few fields, and this was echoed by every SE leader I have spoken with.

  • “The challenge is getting the data input into SF.com, even 10 mins has been hard!!!”
  • “Expect some folks to struggle finding time between meetings to log activities.”

I believe the root cause is because these tracking tools are outside of their every day actions and workflows.  If capturing the data is voluntary in any way then expect the quality to be very poor.

Compare it to submitting expense reports.  “If you fill out information on what you did in the last 30 days we will give you money equal to what you spent.” Yet somehow sales teams are notoriously bad on doing them – and they are getting money for it!  Good luck with your voluntary time tracking.

 

 

My Philosophy& Approach

A fellow SE Leader spelled out my perspective the best:

  • At the end of the day you hire adults to manage their time, you managing their every minute will seem invasive and counterproductive to what you are trying to accomplish. What you need to consider is what are you looking for in the measurements you are tracking. If you doubt someone is doing their job because the outcome (revenue/bookings) are not there, then another conversation needs to be had.  Interestingly, each of us instinctually know who’s the best, who needs help and who just isn’t cutting it. If you provided this stack ranking with some metrics on # of closed deals, # of reps supported, etc. it might be just what they (and you) are looking for. The quantitative metrics may not align to what’s really happening in the field – so first priority is your ranking, second priority is the metrics.

Thus my view has always been that the best measure of the value of the SE Team is what the Account Execs, Sales Leaders, and Company think of them through their every day interactions.  The SE role interfaces with every organization and unlike software engineering it is a customer and people focused role.  I have only been successful at increasing AE:SE ratios, salary, bonus, travel budget, etc. when our key stake holders have fought for them instead of me.  When a sales leader is willing to give up an AE headcount to hire an SE – that carries more weight than any spreadsheet I could create. Jim Collins a noted author said:

  • “The moment you feel the need to tightly manage someone, you’ve made a hiring mistake. The best people don’t need to be managed. Guided, taught, led-yes. But not tightly managed.”

When I joined GoodData the previous SE leader was focused on tracking every activity and he was religious about inspecting it every week for accuracy.  The team was spending about 5-10% of their time entering activity information.  Unfortunately the data wasn’t very useful to me for many of the reasons described above.  Instead we implemented the following Outcome Based system:

DATA CAPTURE:

Add in mandatory fields to each stage of Salesforce.com.  The AE could not move the deal forward in stage without this information being captured.  These fields are pieces of information that are required for the opportunity itself and assists the SE when inspecting the pipeline, handing off an opportunity when going on vacation, etc.  We then created reports that would take extracts of this information and infer what activities had been completed.

  • Stage 1 Technical Discovery: 3 fields about the high level technical sizing of the deal (required to do pricing and validate budget by the AE)
  • Stage 2 Technical Design: 6 fields about feature requirements of the customer and a field to be populated with a link to the solution design. Technical decision maker’s agenda and competitive information was also required.
  • Stage 3 Validation: 3 fields about the POC success criteria and a link to where it was located.
  • Stage 4 Technical Close: 4 fields on type of services required, dates, and a link to the SOW.

Yesware is an email tool that can be embedded in every email sent.  SFDC can be setup so that every email sent via Yesware is automatically attaches to the SFDC opportunity.  If you need to see activity at an opportunity you can also deep dive in via the email threads.

That is it.

Define what would occur if the outcomes you were looking for out of the team were completed and seek to tap into that data stream to create your activity tracking.  Try to never make the SE go to a different tool than they use everyday or have to enter in information that isn’t directly required to do their job (not yours).

Hope this was useful for other technical leaders out there.

Edited 4/14/2016

I was discussing metrics with the SE leaders on the new team and I realized that the best use of metrics are to discover what is and isn’t working and then adjust how the team operates. Use them as insights rather than measured goals – because at the end of the day there really are only 4 SE metrics that matter:

  • Customer satisfaction
  • SE (employee) satisfaction
  • Pipeline
  • Revenue/bookings.

Everything else are actions/activities that trying to improve those 4 outcomes.

Future Topics

  1. Sales Enablement Approach: whether you are enabling your own SE team or the entire sales force there are some basic principles of what you do (content, process/tools, accountability) and how you operationalize it (automation, workflow, brute force).  I will explain the model I created to help think through this.
  2. What does an SE do? Believe it or not many people do not know – even in high tech.  I recently had to present to a packed room of Services and Development engineers to explain the role.  Many functions see only a portion of the role and assume that is everything.
  3. What does an SE Leader do? The SE Manager/Leader role can be the best or worst position in a company.  Every leader has the opportunity to define the role and demonstrate its value to the organization to make it happen.  I will cover my personal viewpoint and strategies I have taken to implement it.
  4. Architects & Sales Engineers: almost all tech companies reach a point where they say ‘We need to hire Architects!’  Well, what is an Architect? ‘You know, a technical customer facing person who can explain the big picture, how it impacts the business, and can speak to CXO’s with confidence’.  If that is an architect than what does an SE do?  ‘Well, someone has to do the demo’. Lessons learned on the value each role can bring and why organizational design and structure is so important to its success.
  5. Performance Evaluation & Conversation: your goal as a leader is to have the best SE team out there.  However, come review time you can’t have everyone ranked in the Top 10% (can you?).  How do you handle these conversations, how do you keep the SE motivated and appreciated.
  6. Career Pathing, Titles: SE’s don’t often get pulled up on stage and given credit and the giant check for closing the big deal.  So why do they do it?  Street Cred and reputation are very important. So how do you balance this without becoming a title centric ‘big company’.
  7. So You Want to be a Manager? At some point in time your best SE’s will often express that they want to move into management.  Do they really?  What are the factors that drive this need and how can you help them answer this question for themselves.  On the flip side how can you identify people who make excellent SE Leaders but don’t raise their hand?
  8. SE to Sales Alignment and Org Structure: there are lots of coverage models and ratios for creating an SE organization.  Do you make the SEs pooled, direct alignment, or field/inside? Do you organize by geography, customer segment, size, skill?
  9. Making the Business Case for More SE’s: SE’s are always overloaded but are often viewed as a cost center.  How do you make a business case to increase staffing.  When should you?
  10. Interviewing and Talent Acquisition: the best SE’s are typically well treated by their current company, a lot of the value they offer are tied to their company’s product line, and they tend to be more risk averse (otherwise they would be a sales rep).  So how do you find the great ones (or the ones with the potential to be great), how do you validate their abilities, and how do you make them feel comfortable making the jump?

 

Visitors & Interest

It has been great to see the interest in the SE Topic.  I have been collating thoughts on my next post which I hope to write over the weekend (and ideally be a bit shorter).  I am debating whether to post on Sales Enablement Framework or Metrics – Measuring the Success of the SE team.

In the meantime I wanted to share some thoughts on metrics as related to the topic of SE Leadership.  I am new to the whole Blogging thing but I am impressed already by its reach and as a data nerd I find the stats behind it pretty interesting.  I created two sites, http://hollyhockvineyard.com and http://sethoughts.com and here are some observations:

  • The vineyard site has a broad appeal (it is about wine and vineyards) and has had almost 3 times as many views as SE Thoughts
  • The SE site has had about 5x more people subscribe to updates.  Is that attributable to long term interest or better positioning of the subscribe widget?
  • Linkedin.com has led to 10x the number of click throughs vs. my Twitter accounts (@robilium and @hollyhockvines).  What does that say about twitter and my 548 followers there?
  • Many more people on Facebook like Wine vs. SE stuff 🙂
  • About 500 people have visited each site for a total of 1,000 visitors.  Depending on your viewpoint that is a lot of people or just a drop in the bucket.  To me it is very cool and motivating.  That makes me want to see if I can keep the interest up and people returning for more.
  • 500 people per topic are about 499 more people than I thought may be interested.  Or maybe 498 as I figure my mother in law would have read it as well.  I know my lovely wife Julie wouldn’t have read it as she has to listed to me blab about this stuff enough as it is! 🙂

Thanks for visiting and if interested feel free to click the comment button at the top of the post and/or subscribe for updates on the left.  Also feel free to comment on what the topic of the next post should be.

 

http://sethoughts.com StatsScreen Shot 2016-04-01 at 4.52.34 AM

http://Hollyhockvineyard.com Stats

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