All posts by Pat

What Are The Characteristics of a Great Sales Rep?

I was asked on LinkedIn what a great sales rep is. It seemed so easy, but the answer took me some time. The following is my answer as written, unedited:

I’ve worked with some great sales reps, some I’ve had to carry, and a huge multitude in-between. Discounting/ignoring inter-personal skills with prospects/customers, what a sales rep needs to be depends entirely on their own actual/perceived knowledge of what they are selling.

Lets face it, sales people sell “confidence”. They are convincing people to take a risk, and being confident in doing so. Selling tangible, inventoried things is a different world from selling what they have to envision, conceptualize, or flat out imagine. Are you a good story teller? If not, you don’t need to be to sell vacuums or shoes. People already know 2 things:

1. What a shoe is, and
2. Why they need one.

In conceptual, as well as strategic, selling, that is not the case. We have 2 possible ways in:

1. They want what they don’t have, or
2. They have what they don’t want.

Traditional Sales is always asking “Where is their pain?”, which is a classic case of the legacy version  of #2 above. That kind of selling is not fun. Once you fix something, out you go. That is not consulting, but contracting-to me at least, and yes, I am simplifying things greatly, glossing over a lot of exceptions for the sake of brevity.

Strategic Sales (#1 above) is about getting the prospect somewhere, achieving more, and generally speaking: succeeding. I can either patch you up so you are as you were, or I can transform you model to be more innovative to your vertial, and capture more from your competitors.

Which do you think is more fun? More profitable? More efficient? :)

With that foundation, we can now approach the ideal sales rep with a clearer perspective. And guess what… there is more than one perspective.

If I had to choose one personality trait, it would be humility, or at least enough humility to listen to the prospect/customer and Sales Engineer with open ears when he/she is trying to help you make more money. And having a rep make more money is how most Sales Engineers make more money, so you can hope for/expect a low level of baloney. If I can’t get a sales rep to listen, I can’t foster their skills & career as their manager & I are tasked with, and they will never drop/modify their well worn bad habits.

From the perspective of their managers, the bottom line is all that counts. Reps are easily & often replaced. A good sales rep is one who sells. You can’t take anything away from that. From their perspective, their own compensation is based on how much product their reps sell.

As a fast aside, people ask me what should a sales rep do, or what are they currently doing & why. My simple answer is “look at their comp plan”.

So now we get to the perspective of the prospect/customer (imagine this being the third overlapping circle in the triad), who once again is looking to be convinced, and then assured, that what you offer will do the trick.

There’s just one problem, and it comes back to what I said about what the rep is selling. It can be summed up as a question:

Q: Does the prospect know what they should about their need? (see want vs. have at top)

If they are a technology company, and you are selling technology, it is not a slam-dunk. Just like a sales rep with bad habits, a prospect who “knows” what they have & need is a pain. They lack perspective (trees vs. forest) and will always consider “build” when given the “buy vs. build” decision. I cover this axiom in my videos (can’t remember which one!). If you’ve ever raised a teenager, you know how difficult to negotiate with someone who already “knows everything”.

Lets bring that concept home. Unlike with shoes, I need to tell you about a conceptual/ethereal thing that you must understand as being bad for you, or you have to have (want/need). Only once I convince you how miserable you are without it can I then suggest the way out (us, of course), and have you confident that this is they way out of the jam you had no idea you were in!

So imagine you go to a prospect who has never heard of shoes! You say, “Buy some shoes!”, and they go, “What is a shoes?”. That is what it is like in a strategic selling situation, and if the rep will not delegate account responsibilities to those able to answer these questions wisely, they will lose the opportunity.

If the rep has no vision, or ability to sell conceptualization, they had better depend heavily on someone who can (Sales Engiener), or go sell pencils. You can see where a naive rep would lead off with the only thing they know-addressing the “pain points”, where a wiser rep would take the “kitchen of the future” approach.

I describe this sales rep attitude as asking whether your sales rep is selling drills or holes.

With all that on the table, you asked about the rep & the prospect organization. We in sales management or sales support/consulting need to work with what we have. Too often we only have reps that are only a rolodex. They don’t see their jobs as anything more than getting the call/meeting, an introduction. They don’t want to learn. They sit in the corner checking scores & emailing while others do their job.

I also don’t like reps who know too much, as they look at selling as a technical problem/task, when it really isn’t. I want a rep that is approachable and can be counted on to help create a plan fopr the account, deal, and meeting as an equal participant. I want the rep to get the Sales Engineer in on the very first call to guide qualification. All of this takes humility.

I guess a “great sales rep” is a team player, who sees their team as working for their own best interests, and not unnecessarily introducing complexity that will spook the prospect. A team should have skin the game, too, to be respected by the rep(s).

I have avoided the closing part until last. In the larget deals I have ever done, 7 figure deals, I have so prepared the prospect that in the last meeting they just ask which paper to sign. My rep wasn’t the closer-the prospect was.

A person in front of the prospect who is looking for the quick kill is poison. The rep claims something, and the prospect looks at me and asks, “Is that true?”. How do the negative people on the prospect side get dealt with? This is not a closing skill to satisfy their sniping in front of their managers. You can’t solve having sharks in a sales call by adding more sharks.

The prospect needs to come up with your ideas/solutions on their own. They need to be patiently taught what a shoe is just to the point where they are begging you to sell them a pair.

So who is the “closer” here?

This question would seem to have a simple, generic answer. But I’ve learned over a long career that really important things in a complex, dynamic environment are never simple, and never repeatable.

And that is why I like being a Sales Engineer!

I have the best of both worlds, and the worst of neither! :)

SEU 014 All About Demos Part 2 of 2

What kinds of demos are there?

Are generic demos just as good as targeted ones? Worth the effort? Who should give a demo?
Risks & Rewards…
How do you actually *do* a demo (or present anything, for that matter)?
What should you accomplish in the first, second, and third minute of any presentation/demo?
How to give “qualified yes” instead of a “no”.
Who gets what out of these demos? And finally, we touch on just what an SE is really supposed to be doing, and how to keep your sales reps calibrated.

SEU 013 All About Demos! Part 1 of 2

Love ’em or hate ’em, there they are.

In this first of 2 video lectures, I hit the high points of “demos”, and what the word really means.

Why demo at all?

Can you close without one?

Do you even have a sales methodology, Bro?

We find that qualification rules everything, and what the earmarks of a lazy rep are.

Is it a Pilot? A PoC? A bird, a plane?

An SE is in a powerful place to give out power, and that puts you in a leadership role to making your reps successful-even if they don’t know you’re doing it!

What about making the prospect think they’re in charge-the one who is qualifying the other? But don’t give too much power to the prospect and let them drive, or else they will play their ‘veto’ card.

More of Pat’s triads, and “Never give them enough information to say ‘No'”…

SEU 012 Are You a Well-Kept Secret? YES! You Are!

This lecture is loosely based on the agenda below. I just jot down the order of topics as you see, then just record. This is how I give talks, demo software, do voice-overs, etc. This style isn’t for everyone.

  • Are you a well-kept secret?
    • HR/recruiters are lazy and under-capable
    • How/where would someone, or a search program, find you?
    • What would they find?
      • Social media search
      • Google blunt search
      • Reasons you would be a risk?
    • Why ‘branding’ and ‘image’ are crucial
  • Do SEs need more than skill?
    • Job keywords/resume only get you noticed-no INTEREST generated
    • The soft skills
      • Are you annoying or unpresentable?
      • How to say “No” w/out saying “No”…
      • How to say “You’re wrong” w/out saying “You’re wrong”…

SEU 011 Job Hunting/Being Hunted as a Sales Engineer

This lecture is loosely based on the agenda below. I just jot down the order of topics as you see, then just record. This is how I give talks, demo software, do voice-overs, etc. This style isn’t for everyone.

  • Did they contact you?
    • Hiring company/manager
    • Hiring contractor/headhunter
    • Your network
    • 3rd party/offshore//middleman
  • Did you contact them?
    • Job keyword alerts
    • LinkedIn/network contacts
    • Targeted company
      • What is ‘targeted’
      • How targeting/hunting works
    • You are a well-kept secret, but does that serve you?

SEU 001 What is a Sales Engineer?

Are you a Sales Engineer? Do you manage Sales Engineers? How about Sales Consultant? I’d really like to help you get some visibility in my book in exchange for a few quotes from you. Free is a great price, and it’s a win-win! Contact me!

Making Sales Professionals Successful

You like one liners? You got it!


Now before you cry havoc, I already know that the video is not the flashiest video you will ever see. I’m still working out the kinks in these in a new way to video-using dry board/dry erase. I usually use this format in front of prospects/customers and when training, albeit on larger boards and in front of audiences.

Still, this video will give you an idea of my speaking stye, and more importantly how I see the Sales Engineering role today. The job has come out of obscurity since technology has gotten so complicated that sales reps are no longer required to be technical enough to describe what they sell, or demo it.

I do these off the cuff (from memory/experience), but without a live audience it’s more difficult to do. I find myself distracted doing it alone, trying to remember everything-things I wouldn’t do in a live setting. So be merciful about the delivery.

The content, though, I tried to make invaluable to someone wanting to know if being a Sales Engineer would be what they’d like. I cover the basics at an extremely high level, and even that took 44 minutes. Future videos in the series will tackle one subject at a time, but it was only fitting to get the biggest question out of the way first.

I will be numbering these (this one is #1, unsurprisingly) for easy sorting and locating on YouTube.


Why Do You Need A Sales Engineer? Part 1

Are you a Sales Engineer? Do you manage Sales Engineers? How about Sales Consultant? I’d really like to help you get some visibility in my book in exchange for a few quotes from you. Free is a great price, and it’s a win-win! Contact me!

The biggest benefit a Sales Engineer can bring to you is the justification, mechanism, and leading-by-example to change your culture from an internally focused one to an externally focused one.

This first video simply illustrates the kind of problems and missed opportunities a company will have if Sales Engineering is not in play. When the entire company becomes focused on Customer Service as the #1 priority, and prioritizes & justifies everything as such, only great things can happen.

In addition, we talk about misaligned corporate culture than doesn’t treat everyone as a customer (internal or external). I make no assumptions as to whether your executives have realized this is the direction they need or not, so I start from square one, building a case and justifying why the benefits of making the Customer King are worth hiring a Sales Engineer to do their part to lead by example to make it reality.

In the first installment of this video series, we take a high level look at what a Sales Engineer can do for you to change your culture forward to a Sales- and Customer-focused one.

Subsequent parts of this small series will address each of the components shown here separately, namely: Exec/Decision Makers, PDM (Product Development Managers), Sales & Sales Management, Engineering & Development (QA, support, etc.), and of course Prospects & Customers.

It is hard for companies selling technology to see how they can move from being a technology-centric culture to one that puts Customer Service at the top. Most who are simply used to doing that way can’t see how focusing on Sales and the Customer will pan out to enable revenue.

I share my experience helping companies understand exactly WHY this should be done NOW, HOW this is done (what customer-focused communication looks like), and HOW a Sales Engineer fits into all this as a catalyst for change, and WHY every company out there needs a Sales Engineer.

Each of these parts is not short, and can be likened to about an hour session I would do when training a group, or at a show. Some are relatively short.

I did not speed through these as fast as I could for a few reasons. For one thing, even though I write out most of what we talk about, some like to take notes, and find pausing a video annoying. In making videos like these, I have to consider the common denominator, and not leave anyone behind.

I apologize in advance if this more thoughtful pace is too slow for you. I think there is a way to play videos at multiples faster than they were recorded on YouTube, so I invite you to explore that option if you need to.

Why Do You Need a Sales Engineer? part 2

Are you a Sales Engineer? Do you manage Sales Engineers? How about Sales Consultant? I’d really like to help you get some visibility in my book in exchange for a few quotes from you. Free is a great price, and it’s a win-win! Contact me!

How does a Sales Engineer fit in? What does an org chart look like when you have a Sales Engineer? Which departments in a company does a Sales Engineer interface with, and why?

We start at this highest level, representing the areas of a company that work together at a block diagram level. The value to each in bringing about a Sales- and Customer-Centric culture is emphasized.

Sales Engineers are chartered with making everyone work together for the Prospect/Customer’s best interests, and for the sake of the deal.

Our next part dives right into how Sales Engineers directly assist Sales and Sales Management.

Why Do You Need a Sales Engineer? part 3

Are you a Sales Engineer? Do you manage Sales Engineers? How about Sales Consultant? I’d really like to help you get some visibility in my book in exchange for a few quotes from you. Free is a great price, and it’s a win-win! Contact me!

Sales and Sales Management is the focus of Part 3, where we tackle the most commonly thought of reasons a Sales Engineer helps get and keep more revenue. No other job title in a company is tasked with making all the different departments work together for stellar customer service, and to focus on the deal.

Throughout this series, I am pointing out very specific tasks that are vital for your success, but are not assigned to anyone, and thus fall off. In each case, we see why a Sales Engineer takes care of each of these, and why your Sales Engineer is the best person to do it.

All too often, the role of a Sales Engineer is confusing to companies with management that is naive or winging it. The purpose of these video lessons is to help companies understand why the role is so vital, but also to illustrate to HR/head hunters/recruiters personnel why exactly a Sales Engineer is NOT a Solutions Engineer, or a Sales Rep/Manager, or an Engineer, or any of the dozens of off-target descriptions I see every year.

Hopefully, when everyone realizes the value, the rich reward of having a Sales Engineer will permit salary to be correctly placed (comp, etc.).

Interestingly, the changes in culture that will push you forward are the ones that don’t require you to change much at all. In fact, it’s simply working BETWEEN the existing elements you already have-but keeping Customer Service the #1 priority. When we make decisions based on how it will help the Customer, and not ourselves, we instantly become more efficient.

Just ask yourself: “How Much Will This Cost?”

P.S. I thought perhaps turning one of the lights off would make less glare, but it really ended up making less light! In future installments I go back to more lights…

Why Do You Need a Sales Engineer? part 4

Are you a Sales Engineer? Do you manage Sales Engineers? How about Sales Consultant? I’d really like to help you get some visibility in my book in exchange for a few quotes from you. Free is a great price, and it’s a win-win! Contact me!

In Part 4, Engineering & Development are the company entities, or departments, we’re taking a look at. How a Sales Engineer works with Engineering to make them more accountable, and more efficient is discussed in detail.

The Engineering, or technical portion of your company is likely only tasked with engineering, development, quality assurance, support, and other goals and objectives relating to them internally. But part of accelerating your business with a customer service culture involves bringing Eng/Dev into the fold with the rest of the company.

We discuss how Engineering can use the Sales Engineer to quantify & justify their needs to elements of the company that have no knowledge or visibility into their space. Making everything into a budgeted project, and making product changes that are designed to positively impact sales and our existing customers is just part of it.

The Sales Engineer helps channel the skills of Engineering into phenomenal customer service, which is the ONLY path to gaining revenue, which allows them to increase head count, improve tools, and generally do their job better.

A Sales Engineer is a win-win for all components of an organization!