Category Archives: Selling

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'”…

We’re All Salespeople (Selling), So Don’t Sell Yourself Short!

Sales Engineers,

We tell it to everyone, but they just don’t seem to get it, or want to admit it. In David Lazarus’ article HERE, he gives more examples from Daniel Pink entitled, “To Sell is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others“. If you don’t know who Daniel Pink is, crawl out from under that rock and search YouTube.

A few brief paragraphs from the article:

Continue reading We’re All Salespeople (Selling), So Don’t Sell Yourself Short!

What to do 15 minutes before a sales call?

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!

This is a small part of a great article here, written by back on Jul 30, 2013. It appears on

It asks 10 sales reps what they do before a call. I consider this also a great practice for Sales Engineers, as we often do a lot more research than the reps do.

The best thing to do with the 15 minutes before sales call is to review the work you did in planning the sales call. You did plan the sales call, didn’t you?

You’re going to want to review the outcomes that you need to obtain in order to either create or to advance an opportunity. Achieving those outcomes almost always means creating value for your clients at whatever stage of the buying cycle they happen to be in. What do you need to do for your client or prospective client to help them get the outcomes that they need from this call?

It’s also helpful to review your notes from your prior calls. Review the names, titles, and needs of any and all of the stakeholders you are meeting with before your sales call. And make sure you’re prepared to cover all of the commitments that you made and kept since your last meeting.

Finally, it’s important to be in the right state. It’s important to be in a confident, positive, resourceful state. The interactions you have with your clients and prospects are too valuable to take lightly. You want to be prepared to create value and you want to be in the best state possible to do so.

Many years ago, I created my first Meeting Planner from MS Word, and it was designed to be filled out ahead of time to make sure we knew-even in the middle of a call, what we were supposed to make sure we left with.

Not many sales methodologies mention these kinds of tools, preferring instead to focus on what ‘base’ you are on, or what ‘stage’, etc.

What do you use to make sure your expensive call is productive & profitable?


SE Book – [DRAFT] What was there before Sales?

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!

I really would like the benefit of your feedback as I go through the chapters. I’ve just written them fast, top of my head, and found in doing these cold reads that my spell/grammar checker in Scrivener took some liberties. Some really trip me up.

Below this video I will paste the text I read. It isn’t perfect, it’s just a first draft. Comments about how awful I look aren’t actually necessary. I’m well aware.

The video of my reading the first chapter:

Can you imagine having to create, from scratch, everything you need to live? If you want electricity, you need to create it. There are no outlets on the Wall and no batteries. Would you like to wear clothes? You are free to make any you like-but fro meat? There is no clothing store, and you cannot even order on line. What would that have been like? Can you imagine it?

Before you could buy something from someone, there was a time when there were no buyers, and no sellers. No money was needed, because currency in any form simply wasn’t needed. You were roving, self-sufficient, and sometimes teaming up with others to make hunting for your next meal more likely to succeed before you died of hunger. If someone asked you to barter or trade, the concept would be foreign to you. If they want to trade a fur for a piece of obsidian, the person with the obsidian would wonder why you had too many furs, and what they would do if they gave you their only knife.

This was the age before bartering, and long before sales. The only people you learned from were your parents, or a communal group, but with lifespans so short you had to learn fast. Just having no Internet must have been a struggle.

Eventually, people are believed to have settled down in agrarian societies, making them more efficient at obtaining meals, and thus allowing them to spend more time on things like religion and making better stuff. Until recently it was thought that religious practices involving complex structures with large stones and other materials was only possible once people settled down, but findings in Turkey at Göbekli Tepe very recently have shown that assumption to be false. It is so old that it makes the Hypogeum look like a drive-through church. The point is that even though it is almost assuredly a center of worship, and at around 12,000 years old the oldest man-made structure yet discovered, it shows no sign of being a center of a society, or city. There is no garbage.

So as little as 12,000 years ago, man was still wandering about, chasing lunch. There were no excesses of commodity, and bartering, as explained, meant that I had to take time and produce excess at a time when I couldn’t find a surefire way to have dinner every night. It just wasn’t practical. The entire world had anywhere from one to 10 million people.

It is thought that the exchange of goods, or organized bartering, started around 6000 BE with the Phoenicians, who had observed this to a smaller extent in the surrounding tribes throughout their kingdom in Mesopotamia. This was a radical concept, where a person would do more than just over-produce for personal consumption, but rather exchange excess for stuff needed now, or before they could produce their own in time.

The first trade routes were developed to transport salt and flint. Jericho, founded in 9000 BE, was built on such a route. I always wondered why these routes weren’t called barter routes. The thinking is that a trade route is unique in that at no point along the route are the goods exchanged. You go with what you have, and come back with what you need. What you have and what you need determine the route, and ultimately the destination.

Agriculture is now a big deal, with the first sheep being herded in Northern Iraq (Fertile Crescent), domesticating of the pig in Turkey and China, and the 5 million people left on Earth are going back into Europe as that nasty Ice Age recedes.

If bricks at Jericho were the high tech of the 9th millennium, by the 8th millennium BCE, pottery was all the rage. And it makes sense why; you could now carry other goods-even liquids-great distances to trade as well as the dry goods. In fact, things like salt & flint, and later obsidian (first traded from Anatolia (modern Turkey) to Southwest Iran), were items traded most simply because they had a high value for their volume & weight. In other words, you could trade more for carrying less.

You might be forgiven for thinking that in the 7th millennium BCE every one of the 5 million earthlings are living in nice agricultural centers, or even cities, living the good live. But we’ve only been talking about a very small part of the world, and most everyone is still in hunter-gatherer tribes, or bands, roaming around. Pottery itself isn’t yet widespread, so it was good top live in the Middle East back then. The cow has just been domesticated and for the first time gold and copper are made into ornamental jewelry. The Chinese, who will essentially invent transcontinental trade, have just domesticated rice, millet, soy beans.

Pottery was a game-changer. The earliest pottery had bottoms that were pointed, and couldn’t stand on their own. This was for the simple reason that the inverted cone shapes could easily be tied to pack animals by using loops of rope. Interestingly, Central America invented pottery at the same time, with no communication or travel between the societies.

With animal husbandry (pastoralism) well along, and the transport of seed across vast distances to keep their grazing land fertile, it was getting easier for populations to grow, and excesses in vital staples to be stored for use or trade. This is considered the age of The Rise in Agriculture, all because of the early versions of sales-trade and bartering. The earliest beginnings of money are found in “counting tokens” in the fertile crescent (modern Iraq) about now. And if you wanted wine, you were in luck because Persia was making it 8,000 years ago. In Africa pottery was first being used decoratively along with a boom in jewelry, which are sure signs of a society with desired goods to trade. If you are the first or best, other people will want it, and give you what you want for it.

Egypt will play a key role in the development of sales. In the next 1,000 years of our abbreviated history, the area of Northern Africa starts to become a desert. It is thought that this gradually forced the peoples of Northern Africa Eastward into what would become Egypt, as the Sahara Desert began to take shape. These new arrivals to Egypt took full advantage of the Nile and pioneered advanced agricultural technology in 5,500 BCE to take advantage of the seasonal flow of the river, thus bringing fertility year round.

But the biggest advance for our concerns was the virtually instantaneous creation of a modern civilization in Sumer in 5,400 BCE by the Sumerians in what today is Southern Iraq. They pioneered irrigation and many advanced that will lead civilizations to a sales oriented culture, starting with the technology of the day, irrigation.

Agriculture has been the basis of economy and trade for thousands of years, so it is surprising that only in the 5th millennium BCE we got around to inventing the wheel. Even the plough wasn’t invented in Europe until 4,500 BCE, and after a hard day using it, you could now have a beer.

With the 4th Millennium BCE, things really start to move fast. Sumer and Egypt were the most advanced societies and advances still used today just kept coming from the Sumerians. Among them, the very first bit of writing, called proto-cuneiform (or “Prue-cuneiform) in pictographs, along with advanced, creative writing, base-60 mathematics, astronomy, astrology, civil law, complex hydrology, schools, and even the sailboat. They even had time to create the first proper cities, managed as such.

During the period from 3,000 to 2,000 BCE we had the Early to Middle Bronze Age, and all of sudden nobody was happy with what they had. Imperialism, or the desire to conquer, seemed a lot faster and easier than keeping up with the neighbors the old, hard way.

This theme is familiar to us today, but back then your king would look around and see that a neighbor had developed a collection of wealth, or a crippling military technology, that he really wanted. In one fight, he could gain land, the possessions of others, and all the housing and technology. If you were fierce enough, and had a reputation, the locals would just drop everything and run. The Hebrew Bible is filled with stories of just what this was like. But this was a double-edged sword, with the birth of revolution from within as a concept.

Sadly, the highest technology of the time, in Sumeria, fell victim to war between the city-states it was comprised of, and as it is today, war drains the will and wallets of the people. If you didn’t profit from war, you could always go over to Egypt and see the great pyramids under construction, which included Khufu’s, which would be the tallest man made object on the planet for thousands of years.

Thankfully, the Sumerians saw that never-ending war was not helping, and the 3rd Dynasty of Ur was ushered in by a unification of the warring city-states. They even had time to invent poetry and the telling of epics, and with writing, they had a way to jot it all down instead of trying to remember it all. If it weren’t for the Armories constantly nipping at their heels, Sumeria might still exist today.

Now the development of trade and eventually sales, by way of money or currency, is speeding up. It’s the 2nd millennium BCE, now, and Egypt has calmed down a bit, along with the Armoried kings over in Babylon. And as you’d expect, when people stop fighting, they start thinking. Well, at least after the upheaval in the 1,600s.

We get chariots and a [Phoenician] alphabet, and there was a movement toward using writing for bureaucracy and international trade. In fact, the Phoenician traders were also so skilled at sailing that they spread their language and alphabet though out the Mediterranean expanse, it was used virtually exclusively in the region, and as the first Canaanite language it was the parent of many languages using alphabets.

The Bronze Age gave way to the Iron Age with the invention of wagons, which could haul exponentially more goods than the equivalent of just horses, and shipping routes for trade were forming, as it was far faster than overland. Two horses can only carry so much, but those same two horses could pull an extremely heavy wagon much easier and faster. I guess you could say the wagon ushered in the concept of “Time To Market”.

The first millennium BCE is still in the Iron Age, and it was the time of empires. Empires meant conquest, and it meant trade. The father of monotheistic religion, Zoroastrianism, is spreading in and from Persia. The Greeks just made the first language with vowels, calling it… Greek. We now get Geometry, the concept of atoms, the first railway, large trade/war vessels, lighthouses to keep them afloat, the crossbow and the siege engine. On the barter, or trade, side we see by 500 BCE the trans-Sahara trade routes out to Morocco.

In fact, in a way we can blame writing for having Sales. Around 3500 BCE the Sumerians advanced from pictographs to cuneiform in order to keep track of the quantities of goods moving throughout their kingdom. By 2,500 CE there were already gold and silver standards as the basis for determining and stabilizing prices. Coins, though not widely used, appeared as early as the sixth century BCE in Iron Age Anatolia (Kingdom of Lydia). They were initially made of elect rum, an alloy of silver, gold, and copper. But again, it would be a very long time before widespread, much less consistently recognized, coinage was used in any fashion.

Paper is invented in China in 105 CE by Cai Lun, ushering in the paycheck (eventually), and the first paper money and bank notes are issued in 670 CE. That technology would be given to the Arabs in the mid-8th century. In 785 CE, China develops sea trade routes to the East coast of Africa, which cuts out the the Arab middlemen. This trend of spend a little up front, make a lot on the back end is something we still profit from today.

Muslim traders settle in Madagascar in the 9th century, while in 863 CE the Chinese author Duan Chengshi writes about the Somalian slave, ivory, and ambergris (a waxy, flammable substance coming from the festive tracts of sperm whales) trading. In 1088 CE we usher in the era of proposals with the invention of movable type in China, and with the printing press in 1439 CE in Germany we can see mass mailings in our future. And with the invention of the proper newspaper in 1605, we can now advertise in style. Anders Celsius develops the Centigrade scale for temperatures, and to this day nobody knows why this was necessary.

But we’ve sped past a point in history that is of vital importance to our story: The Renaissance.

From the 1300s to the 1700s it bridged the old and the new, the Middle Ages and modern history. At it’s roots it was Humanism, or the philosophy that “Man is the measure of all things”. The positive influence and impact of specialized leaning and widespread educational reform were balanced by the lack of basic knowledge in the family unit. This period was made all the more dramatic by being right after the Dark Ages. It is postured that the Black Death pandemic (from the pathogen Yersinia pestis), which killed 1/3 of the world’s population from 1346 to 1353, was responsible for the attitude or outlook in people. For the first time, people were thinking about mortality as much as morality. If Florence was the actual century of the origin of the Renaissance, it was likely because the city lost a full half of it’s population.

Sociologically, the plague spread to all levels of society, but the poor were hit hardest due to the physical  conditions the plague thrived in. This left moderately more educated people than not. After this, money and art were close friends, with wealthy patrons sponsoring large works of paint, construction and sculpture. This money came from increased trade with Asia and the rest of Europe, and from sources like silver mines in Tyrol and booty from the Crusades. Some even think that the money came from those that had the plague hit a little too close to home, and they saw extravagant religious works as acts Of devotion, piety or repentance. If you wanted textiles, you went to Florence. If you wanted fine glass, you went to Venice. And because ideas and news travel with goods traded, Venice naturally grew in educational centers.

And it is exactly this distance between those who knew, and those who didn’t that comes to us from the Renaissance. Prior to then, throughout the Dark Ages and before, your family knew all you needed to know to survive. Remedies and practices of hunting and farming were handed down to the next generation, and the only specialists were those with a specific basic skill, such as working metals and perhaps animal husbandry. But even then, they were within the same village or quite close by.

All that changed when the Renaissance created centers of learning, and advanced education in very specific areas was possible. Those with the money, connections, or even skills could travel beyond their small villages and live in large cities. Larger cities were more lucrative, as if only a small percentage of the population would buy your product or services, a larger population within reach would make that small percentage lucrative. Collections of similarly skilled people formed associations and guilds to protect their income, ensure only those properly capable were bidding on work, and wield power over going rates. And today we see this in specialists in every vertical, from doctors to lawyers. Specialty is the way things are today, and we find ourselves camping in automated palaces, incapable of surviving without electricity and WiFi.

end of chapter 1 draft. In the end, these numbers will change as chapters get deleted, moved or added.

Here’s A Breakdown Of The Speech That Won The World Championship Of Public Speaking

[Saying it was the World Championship is like baseball in the US having a World Series]

On Aug. 23, Sri Lankan human resources consultant Dananjaya Hettiarachchi was crowned the World Champion of Public Speaking by Toastmasters International. He survived seven rounds of a competition that lasted six months and included 33,000 competitors from around the world.

He and eight other finalists competed at the Toastmasters annual convention last month in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Hettiarachchi took first place for his speech “I See Something,” which clocked in at seven minutes and 20 seconds. You can watch the full speech below:

We spoke with Hettiarachchi about his winning speech and what you can learn from it. Here are a few things that made it great:

He keeps you guessing.

Hettiarachchi tells us that the modern style of speech-making has  transitioned from a theatrical monologue to a conversation with the audience.

There are several theatrical elements to Hettiarachchi’s speech, but they’re done in a way to connect with the audience rather than dive deeper into himself.

He bookends his speech by holding a rose in his hands — the first time to pull the audience into his message and the second time to send them off with a laugh. He avoids being melodramatic or silly by finding a rhythm of silence and laughter, drama and humor.

“A speech has to be like a rollercoaster,” he tells us.

He starts with a message.

Hettiarachchi tells us that a common mistake beginners make when crafting their speeches is starting with a topic instead of a clear and concise message. This message is whatever you want your audience to be thinking about when your presentation concludes.

The message of “I See Something” is that anyone has the potential to be great, even if they’ve long abandoned their greatest aspirations. To avoid making that sound trite, he tells his own story of going from a law-breaking and lost kid to a motivated and focused adult. His story is the vehicle for a message, which the audience can personalize for themselves.

He fluctuates his cadence and gestures without making them distractions.

Hettiarachchi is far from monotone, but he also doesn’t sound off the wall. He expertly alternates between lowering his voice to a solemn level and raising it for comedic effect.

Pay close attention to the way he makes use of pauses. He takes anywhere from one to a few seconds of silence to emphasize a point, staring into the eyes of audience members to hook them even further.

At the same time, his gestures are open but controlled, so he doesn’t look like he’s flopping his arms.

He ties everything together.

There’s a technique comedians use called a “callback,” in which a joke alludes to a previous joke in the set for added laughter. It serves as a sort of reward for being an active listener and makes the set feel more cohesive.

Hettiarachchi pulls this off with the phrase, “I see something — but I don’t know what it is.” It shows up in the beginning, middle, and end, and feels fresh each time because he plays with the delivery. He also introduces his parents in the story with similar audience prompts.

When he concludes his speech, you’re left laughing and feeling satisfied.