Frequently Asked Questions

To help in your understanding of how a Solution Sales Process and SE Skills Improvement Program might apply to your pre-sales organization, below are a few questions we are asked fairly regularly.

If you have a question that is not addressed below, feel free to send us your own Question.

Why do SEs need specialized training?  Why not just send SEs through standard sales methodology training?  Won’t they get the same benefit?

We are reminded of a cartoon by Sidney Harris.  A university professor has a blackboard full of esoteric equations, and right in the middle is the phrase, "Then a miracle occurs".  That's how sales methodologies treat the notion of Solution Closure.  They just assume miracles happen.

In fact, it takes specialized skills on the part of SEs to acquire the solution decision.  Salesengineering.com's program is unique in showing SEs how to "project manage" achievement of solution closure.  By contrast, sales methodologies show sales reps how to achieve business closure. Solution closure is almost never discussed -- it just happens... somehow.

Ask any SE who has been through sales methodology training how much of it applies to their job role.  You'll typically hear answers in the 30-50% range.  Most SEs resent being "flea dipped" through sales training, and most sales managers do not want to waste half of their skills investment money on something that does not resonate with their pre-sales team.

The pre-sales role is highly technical in nature.  Sales methodology is not technical in nature.  One thing that makes salesengineering.com unique is that we apply about a dozen engineering principles to the pre-sales roles -- And SEs love that!  Within the first few minutes of training, most SEs are saying to themselves, "Ok, this is for me."

In addition to leveraging engineering principles, we apply a set of very specific sales best practices tailored to the SE's role to help further increase their effectiveness at shrinking sales cycles, better qualifying deals to improve the quality of the funnel, growing deal sizes, and increasing win rates.

What do you mean when you say a Solution Sales Process "plugs into" and aligns with any sales methodology?

Every sales methodology is fundamentally the same (think about it) having a handful of high level phases:  Identify, Qualify, Develop, and Close  (refer to the diagram on the Solutions page).

As sales reps and SEs work through their respective sales cycles, they each manage data specific to their roles.  Along the way, there are about a dozen critical points where data (sales intelligence) needs to be shared -- We call these "Touch Points".  It does not matter where in the respective sales cycles the Touch Point happens, but that it does.

For example, as prescribed by their respective sales cycles, the rep leverages their relationships to gather qualification from business constituents and the SE leverages their credibility to gather qualification from technical constituents, who tend to be more forthright.  In the Touch Point, they assess discrepancies in the stories they are hearing.

In this manner, at a data level, the Solution Sales Process plugs into and aligns with any sales methodology cleanly and easily.

What benefits does a Solution Sales Process provide for sales reps?

There are many.  Sales reps gain back time they had been spending on technical constituents, on technical activities, on unnecessary four-legged sales calls, and on follow-up activities with their SEs.  With new best practices, SEs help grow the reps' deals, shorten the time to the solution decision, identify more better qualified deals, and increase the win rate.  See our Case Studies which document measured results.

Does sales management need to buy into a Solution Sales Process to be successful?

Absolutely!  Sales management support is a critical success factor.

Positive reinforcement of behavior change is critical for a quick and successful adoption cycle.  Learning best practices is one thing, applying them over the long-term requires behavioral change within the teams.  We have found that when sales management is not bought into a behavioral improvement program, the likelihood of a slow adoption cycle or even no adoption at all is increased.  Cultural indifference is very difficult to defeat when there is no sales management support.

How long does it take to achieve benefit from a Solution Sales Process?

It depends on many factors.  Some improvements, such as incrementally better qualified deals, begin to take hold in the first month or two.  Other improvements, such as time to solution closure, depend on the length of your typical solution sales cycle.

We’re rolling out major products to the field and our SEs need lots of product training.  Why should we spend money on soft skills?

All the product training in the world does not help the SE persuade people to choose your solution.  There must be a balance between technical competency and potential long-term revenue benefit.  Shoving SEs through a fire hose of technical training can be counter-productive.

My team really needs objection handling / presentation skills / proof of concept skills.  Who can help?

Many vendors offer tactical pre-sales skills improvement as noted on our Resources page.  Again, our advice is to strike a balance between tactical and strategic pre-sales skills.  Tactical skills improvement do not, directly, contribute to accelerated revenue.

What value can an SE Improvement Program provide senior SEs who have been at the role for 10, 15 years?

SEs who have been through standard sales methodology training will see similarities in some aspects of a Solution Sales Process (SSP).  What is new and unique to SEs is the use of engineering principles as applied to best practices.  They've never seen that before (because it's never existed before).  SEs appreciate that a Solution Sales Process is specifically designed for SEs in SE's terms.  The SSP talks about everything involved in achieving the solution decision, which is unique to the pre-sales role.

This sounds intriguing, but we don’t have budget allocated for pre-sales skills improvement.  How can we proceed?

From an accounting perspective it is helpful to think outside the "expense bucket" box.  Your skills investment can be addressed with minimal impact on quarterly income statements by capitalizing the investment in IP and amortizing it over time, or deferring expenses into future quarters as a pre-paid expense asset.

We can suggest that the first step in an SE Skills Improvement Program is to take our complimentary on-line SE Process Maturity Assessment.  This will highlight possible areas of improvement and areas where you're in good shape.  Then the next step is to conduct an executive workshop where both Sales and SE management hash out thorny issues, develop an SE Skills Improvement implementation plan, and gain support from both pre-sales and sales management.