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.
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:
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?
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. Unfortunately, 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.
- Incorporate the new action into the workflow, i.e. SFDC, CRM, Content Portal
- 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 more 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.