June 19, 2015 § Leave a comment
As I continue my tour of seven of the worst sales engineering (SE) traits, let’s take a look at skepticism. Selling complex, high-value products and services is hard enough even when everyone on the team is upbeat and optimistic. Long hours, grueling travel, and the interpersonal challenges of coping with mercurial prospects all result in generous amounts of stress and significant sales professional turnover.
An already-difficult job is made much tougher when the sales team is burdened by friction between the sales representative and the SE. In particular, skepticism is one of the most toxic attitudes an SE can display, and it’s often one of the biggest sources of tension in the relationship.
I define skepticism as continual – and even adversarial – questioning of sales representatives by their SE colleagues, especially in the early stages of a sales cycle. SE skepticism can emerge even earlier, such as when marketing leads arrive, or on initial telesales qualification calls.
I once had an SE on my team who needed to be sold – every time – on why he should deign to deliver a demo. Unsurprisingly, this created extensive and unnecessary hostility between him and his sales partner. This SE lost sight of the basic reality that his customer was the sales representative, not the prospective client.
Don’t get me wrong: rational, unemotional evaluation of potential opportunities is essential when allocating scarce sales resources. But unless something looks really off, the SE’s job is to give 100% and be an encouraging participant as the deal moves through the funnel. If something appears troubling about the prospect or opportunity, it’s most productive for the SE to position it as a challenge that can be solved by positive, constructive teamwork.
May 30, 2015 Comments Off on Increased reliance on APIs demands more effective testers
It seems everywhere you look these days, someone is extolling the virtues of APIs. For example, here’s an article from Fortune that highlights how APIs are serving as competitive differentiators.
However, those enterprises that are placing such emphasis on their APIs must appreciate that they also need to invest in their testing staff with proper tooling and training. I recently wrote about this on the SmartBear blog, which you can read here.
April 28, 2015 Comments Off on Excellent article on laptop encryption
Did you know that you have very few privacy rights when you cross a border (into the US or anywhere else in the world, for that matter)? I blogged about the dangers of bringing a laptop through customs a while back. Naturally, it’s a good idea to remove any sensitive information from your laptop, especially when you’re traveling. For those situations that require you to keep important data on a computer that’s at risk of being inspected (or stolen), full-disk encryption can be a lifesaver.
Operating system vendors have been doing a great job at strengthening their products, so there’s really no excuse not to take advantage of encryption. Here’s a link to an excellent article from Micah Lee on The Intercept that explains how to do this on Windows, Mac, and Linux computers.
With step-by-step instructions, it’s one of the best written tutorials I’ve seen about this topic. It’s well worth your time to make the effort, but remember: don’t lose your password!
March 1, 2015 Comments Off on ServiceV – a superb service virtualization technology for the API and Agile era
I’ve been working with SoapUI since its earliest days, and I’m very excited about the direction that SmartBear is taking the Ready! API platform, which includes products such as SoapUI NG Pro, LoadUI NG Pro, Security, and ServiceV Pro.
At WiseClouds we deliver classes and supporting consulting services on all these exciting solutions, and we’re honored that SmartBear directly sells these courses to their clients. Many of our students go on to earn their SoapUI certification after attending these classes.
Mock services have long been one of the most useful features in SoapUI. Customers use mock services to quickly stand up virtual versions of the real services (SOAP and REST) that are in development. They can then construct their tests using these virtual services and then quickly switch over to the live services once they’re ready. Some of these enterprises have come up with really creative uses for mock services, including simulating middleware, third party APIs, telecom switches, and all sorts of other scenarios.
ServiceV represents a bold step forward for SmartBear, offering tremendous new functionality (such as assertions, datasources, and simulation for network latency and message buses – to name just a few) for creating virtual services, which are now known as Virts.
ServiceV is an idea whose time has come, for two primary reasons:
1. The rise of the API economy
It’s no secret that APIs are more essential than even before: it’s nearly impossible to go through your day without interacting with an API, whether or not you know it. They are the foundation of modern software, infrastructure, and the entire Internet. And APIs commonly invoke other APIs, which is an enormous increase in complexity.
This means that properly testing these assets is not an optional responsibility: it’s mandatory, and will continue to gain in importance. Failing to adequately test APIs can be disastrous – just read the news most days for the latest examples of outages, breakins, and other API failures.
ServiceV makes it easy to develop comprehensive tests that truly reflect the realities of the modern, API-based information-processing environment.
2. The advent of Agile delivery methodologies for software
Thanks to Agile techniques, software of all types – including APIs – is delivered much more frequently now. In many organizations, the quality assurance team is finding it nearly impossible to keep pace with the frenetic schedules driven by these practices.
ServiceV is a way for architects, developers, and operations staff to provide something for their quality assurance colleagues to use while the actual services are still being shaped and refined.
At WiseClouds, we’re so enthusiastic about what ServiceV represents that in addition to our current training and consulting solutions, we’ll be launching an exciting new Software as a Service offering that’s built upon ServiceV. If you’d like to learn more about that, be sure to subscribe to the blog and I’ll keep you posted.
February 17, 2015 Comments Off on Fast Company names Poshly one of the Top 10 Most Innovative Companies in Big Data
I blogged about Poshly some time ago. One reason that I invested in them was that they’re a great example of employing Big Data to answer real-world questions, rather than just vacuuming up a bunch of information and trying to find a use for it.
Bradley Falk, Poshly’s CTO and co-founder states:
The great thing about beauty and personal care data is discovering how unique everyone is. We can create a portrait of a user in near realtime and discover how the small details can vary so much. We can react to trends, interests and sentiment to create value for both the consumer and the industry while protecting the user’s personal information.
As I’ve watched Poshly’s meteoric growth, I’ve been interested about the approach they would follow to maintain scalability. According to Matthew Drescher, Poshly’s Head of Data Engineering:
We are aggressively utilizing high performance, distributed in-memory computing techniques to vectorize our data, perform in-place analytics, and paint a landscape of insights for our customers to enjoy.
With the quality of data Poshly gathers, it is possible to take a very geometric approach to generating insights. It’s less like scraping through a haystack in search for a diamond than it is trying to realize the maximum realistic photo resolution.
If you’re interested in all things Big Data, stay tuned for a series of blog posts I’ll be writing on critical algorithms that should be part of your toolkit.
February 9, 2015 Comments Off on Don’t insult your audience at a technical conference by presenting a sales pitch
I’ve been going to technology conferences for a long time, and have seen – and delivered – tons of presentations over the years. I have particularly high expectations at events with the following characteristics: 1) I had to pay for my attendance, and 2) the breakout sessions are billed as technical in nature.
In the past few years, I’ve observed a disturbing trend of conference speakers providing what is essentially a jazzed-up sales presentation to a technical audience. Often times, a vendor (such as a technology provider or consultancy) will trot out a person with a technical title, and then saddle them with a sales pitch. I feel bad for the poor presenter, because they’re going to be in for a rough time.
The best-run conferences will actively discourage this, to the point of rejecting a presentation that’s too sales-y. But unfortunately, most organizers aren’t so diligent. In fact, the vast majority of presentations don’t get evaluated: conferences can find it difficult merely to round up a full roster of speakers, much less thoroughly review what they propose to talk about.
Here are some examples of detrimental speaker behavior:
- Spending 3/4 of the time talking about their brilliant CEO, prestigious investors, dedicated partners, and loyal customers
- Detailing their sales process
- Reading, verbatim, from industry reviews, customer case studies, and other marketing material
- Endless details about market growth and customer acquisition
- Describing their product or solution in glowing language: everything was, is, and will be perfect
This is a very imprudent approach, for lots of reasons. First, the audience at an event like this will be sophisticated, and often cynical. It’s unwise to try and fool them. The rise of social media means that the attendees won’t hesitate to publicly slam the company, speaker, market, and conference organizer if they feel that their time was wasted. These angry protestations often occur while the speaker is in front of the room – a great example of real-time negative feedback. And finally, no one likes to feel like they got fleeced, especially when you consider what it costs to attend a conference these days.
The good news here is that by staying truthful and focused on technical topics, you’ll end up with a better set of sales prospects than if you simply hammer them over the head with marketing messaging. Chances are, your technical solution – even if held together with duct tape – is still interesting to the audience.
Coming up soon, I’ll be writing a series of blog posts about what should be covered at a technology conference. For now, here are some brief guidelines:
- Keep the fluff to a minimum: no more than 20% of the allotted presentation time
- Be honest about the product or service that you delivered to the market
- Describe lessons learned – both good and bad
- Use lots of pictures to illustrate how it worked
- And above all: don’t read slides to the audience!
January 18, 2015 Comments Off on Bad Sales Engineer Behavior #1: Jealousy
Sales engineering (SE) can be a rewarding, intellectually challenging, and lucrative career. I’ve written many blog articles about the characteristics that exemplify a successful SE, but this series of posts is all about the kinds of actions that can damage a career.
I’ll begin with jealousy: one of the seven deadly sins that can rear its head even in places like technology sales. Surprisingly, envy is often worst when the firm’s having a great year, and everyone’s making money.
Enterprise technology salespeople live a professional life that’s fraught with peril. They must cope with constant rejection and dashed hopes from prospects, while their own management shrinks territories yet raises quotas. Predictably, this results in high job turnover and continual insecurity, not to mention lots of lost sleep.
With all these downsides, who would take on this job? Someone who wants to make lots of money, that’s who: it’s not uncommon for a sales professional to make two, three, or even ten times their expected income if (and only if) they have a good year. Meanwhile, their SEs tend to bring home a relatively predictable income every year. In a bad year, they’ll make less, but not drastically so, and in a good year, they’ll make more – maybe 25% or so, which is great, but not stunning.
In my experience, jealousy arises when a salesperson is paired closely with a single SE, and the team far exceeds their quota. Naturally, these uneven financial outcomes can breed resentment and envy in the SE, particularly when they perceive that they’ve “done all the work” to win the deals. Some SEs internalize this bitterness, while others broadcast it to the world.
A single, loud, jealous SE is all that’s necessary to create a toxic environment. First, other SEs may start questioning the compensation system and making demands, while salespeople will start wondering if their own SEs will “turn on them” if they have a good year. Ultimately, all of this reflects badly on the instigator and can even result in their replacement.
Fortunately, thwarting income envy is quite achievable. For the SE, it’s vital to accept that there’s a fundamental difference between themselves and salespeople. Quota-carrying salespeople get fired much more easily when they miss a number, while SEs tend to be kept on even when inevitable revenue shortfalls occur.
SEs should also be mindful about never complaining out loud about the disparity in take-home pay. If things seem really out of whack, it’s reasonable to discretely engage management to discuss the problem, but nothing will change the reality that salespeople will always make more money in a good year.
Finally, a relatively small percentage of SEs are capable of making the difficult shift to becoming winning sales professionals. A progressive management team should offer a clearly defined career path and supporting procedures for those that want to undertake this ambitious transition.