Pre-Sales Engineer to Executive: What I’ve Learned Along the Way

15 years ago, I often wore the hat of a know-it-all pre-sales engineer. I was annoyed with sales people and wanted nothing more than to talk technical details for hours on end.

A Letter to the Younger Me, an Overeager Pre-Sales Engineer:

Dear John,
Congrats on being both a great technologist and someone who can get along well with people. As a result, your’re frequently pulled/pushed into sales calls. It’s not surprising you have been tapped to start focusing on pre-sale engagements! No longer are you just sitting in the back cube, eating pizza, and cranking out code. Now, you can gaze longingly at a boxed lunch that will remain untouched on the conference room table as you are busy demoing your products/solutions to potential customers.
Only, there’s a catch (well, another catch)… The sales people don’t like you. I mean, they seem nice, but they blow you off, keep you in the dark, and try to get you out of the room as fast as possible.  Why is that?
Here’s what’s happening:  You are jeopardizing the sale, and your own livelihood!
The sales rep is actively keeping you out of her conversations with the business decision makers because you are sucking all of the air out of the room with your irrational exuberance of an a_vti folder and what it stands for.
How do I know?  Now, I’m the exec! I care about how your product, whatever it is, can help me achieve the initiatives I’m currently working on as an executive. Distracting me with details of how your product works will not only confuse me and cause me to think the product is too hard to use, it will waste valuable meeting time for your sales rep.  Don’t bog me down with details! Tell me how 3Sharp’s cogs can be reduced by 20% over the next year with your product. This is something that would get me very excited as an executive! 

My Advice to the Pre-Sales Engineers

So, to the me’s of 15 years ago, my advice is to slow down.  Learn about the customer and use your demo to show business benefits, rather than product features. Do your best to get some time with the sales rep before meeting with your customer. Learn what the account’s biggest needs/initiatives/pains are, so you can tailor your product demo accordingly.  And, please, stay out of the weeds!

My Advice to the Sales Reps

And – to all of those sales reps from 15 years ago, be patient with me.  Do your best to guide me toward thinking about the product benefits. I promise I’ll get it eventually!

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