101 Ways to Improve Your Career in Presales or Solution Engineering

101 Ways to Improve Your Career in Presales or Solution Engineering

This is an active blog that is frequently updated to ultimately provide 101 tips.  Follow me on LinkedIn for updates.

The role of Presales, also known as Solution Engineering or Sales Consulting (among other names), is a unique vocation that sits primarily within the enterprise sales domain.   

Presales professionals excel at blending the disciplines of business proficiency, sales presence and solution/technical prowess into a seamless, and critical, aspect of sales opportunities. 

No matter how long your tenure in this exciting field, there is always room for growth and expansion of your skills.  

Because of the nature of Presales, there are a multitude of options for career focus and development.  However, many traits of Presales are common throughout.  This blog provides a number of easy-to-consume “best practices” for anyone in this field.

Our book 3D Presales provides a more detailed field reference guide that expands upon these concepts in greater detail.

Feel free to reach out if you’d like to continue the discussion. 

Jump To:

Harness the power of 3D Presales to reimagine and transform your Presales vocation with these battle-proven techniques and best practices for the Presales professional.  Whether you are new to Presales, just a novice finding your path, or a seasoned professional, this book has experience and knowledge that will benefit your journey.  3D Presales provides a guide around Presales topics, giving definition of what it means to be a Presales professional and how to excel at doing it.  

Also available on Kindle.

Some of the links below are affiliate links at no additional cost to you. Know that I only recommend products, tools, services and learning resources I’ve personally used and believe are genuinely helpful.

Presales Role

Be a Chameleon – Adapt to Your Environment

Countless sales training programs exist to teach you how to work with customers of all types. They are amazing and you are encouraged to attend them if possible. But if you can’t, take heart knowing that much of it is common sense. Read your customer and adapt. Don’t spew facts to an emotional buyer. Don’t skip details for analysts. Be succinct for CxOs. It’s mostly intuitive – trust your gut.

Be an Internal Bridge

At the heart of Presales is creating a bridge between solutions and value for the customer. But you can also be an internal bridge in your organization. Take your field experiences and share them back internally with teams in Marketing, Product Development, Services and more. Be the voice of the customer and share their words and requirements. Bridge the customer to your company using your unique insights and perspective.

Be Willing to Challenge the Customer

Unless customers feel tension – feel pain – they will not act. But feeling tension without a way out just shuts people down. It’s ok to challenge the customer with their own metrics, objectives and goals to make them uncomfortable, as long as you provide the prescription to alleviate the pain. It’s not about scaring them, it’s about compelling them.

Your Job Title is Irrelevant

Solutions Consultant. Sales Engineer. Solutions Architect. Endless titles exist for Presales roles. Don’t get caught up in them – it doesn’t matter. The purpose of your role is to enable customers to obtain value from your solutions and technology. Period. Make your presence embrace it. Change your LinkedIn headline and other social profiles to reflect it. And do it today.

Schedule Everything.  Even Your Scheduling.

Without a schedule, plans fail to execute, and Presales descends into a chaotic, reactive role. Control your schedule and you control your outcomes. Schedules don’t just include customer and internal meetings. Schedule your demo/presentation prep, administration, education, innovation, downtime and personal events. Say it with me, “Let me check my schedule.”

Excel at Making Complex Topics Understanable

It’s easy to be complex. It’s easy to slap up an architecture diagram. We almost feel safe behind it, don’t we? Being simple, yet compelling, is difficult. There’s an age-old addage that challenges us to explain any topic to our grandma or a 4th grader. Why? Becuase it works. It is our duty to transform complexity into understanding. Simplify your presentation and demo. Simplify your talk track. Simplify.

Recommended Resources:

Simplifying Complexity (Ted talk)

Embrace the Real You

We’ve all done it – tried to be something that isn’t who we really are. It’s challenging, exhausting and not sustainable. Genuineness is easily perceived by others, and any attempt to mask it is quickly noticed. Embrace the real you – all of your strengths AND challenges. They define who you are – the unique you. You’ll be more comfortable and perform better. And, people respect those who are genuine with that reality.

Recommended Resources:

How to be Authentic

Empathy + Honesty = Credibility

It goes without saying that being honest is critical. But honesty without empathy can feel cold and even attacking. Empathy connects you with the customer. Honesty expressed from a truly empathetic viewpoint makes your message one of a trusted advisor and not just someone sharing cold, hard facts. Empathetic messages are relatable and memorable. For more credibility, you must embrace both.

Recommended Resources:

Customers First: Feel The Empathy

Mistakes Breed Growth

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” – Thomas Edison.  “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try again.” – William E. Hickson.  So many quotes, and for good reason.  Embrace mistakes and failure.  It means you are pushing forward, trying to improve and expand.  Mistakes test us, teach us, sharpen us.  No mistakes = stagnation.  Keep pushing.  Mistakes rule!  The Great One said, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take!”

3D Presales – the book

Get the complete guide to Presales and Solution Engineering in an easy to consume short-essay format.

Career Growth

Reflect and Reassess

Life is busy and most of us struggle to simply keep up with day to day demands (the personal version of keeping the lights on). In doing so, we can quickly lose sight of our professional goals and big picture. It is critical to step away from – and above – life’s demands on a regular basis. Reflect on the past – was it what you expected? What you wanted? If so, great! If not, don’t regret. Reassess. And apply it to the future. Immediately.

Take Time to Plan for Your Career

It is essential to take regular pauses for reflection and reassessment of your career. But it can’t stop there – you must also take time to update or create a plan to make your goals real. Being in a continuous crisis mode and failing to schedule time to further your carer agenda sets you up to be the victim and allows stress to consume you. If it is important schedule it. You are important and your career path is important! Block time on your calendar, even if just for 15 minutes to stop and plan for yourself. Think about what you need and then get it on the calendar!

Find Experts for Mentors

If you are interested developing a new skill, improving in a new role, or just learning from the wisdom of others, reach out and find a mentor. Or a few. There is no replacement for experience and the effectiveness of high-bandwidth conversations. Asking someone to be a mentor instills confidence in them and you may be surprised at how easy it is to get a positive response. Also, mentors don’t have to be direct relationships. You can be mentored indirectly, such as reading someone’s book/blog or watching videos (e.g. Ted). No matter the method, making experts your mentors will yield amazing results.

Always be Learning

Kaizen (改善) is the Japanese word for improvement and refers to the concept of active, continuous improvement. The old adage “learn something new everyday” has never been more relevant than in today’s accelerating, information-rich world. Don’t keep a box definition of learning. It can be small (read a blog, watch a short video) or large (earn a certification/license/degree) and everything in-between. Make it fun and interesting. The main thrust is to challenge yourself daily to grow.

Recommended Resources:

My Hardest Training Session

Never Underestimate the Power of Formal Training

It’s expensive. It’s takes you away from your daily job. You have to travel. Excuses are plentiful to avoid formal training. But the value of focused learning in a specific area is immense…if chosen correctly. Only engage in formal training if it will truly benefit you in some measurable way. Otherwise, it is a waste of time and resources. If you feel your manager won’t approve it, then make a proposal and fight for it. When you do attend, remember you will only gain what you put into it. Set expectations and kill the phone/email/etc. Own it and excel from it.

Dirty Jobs

RFPs, RFI’s! — Not a lot of fun! Working on them takes longer than expected and always seem to ruin the weekend. Yet, if you want to get strong, learn a new product, or be the one who can best handle on-the-fly product objections, then embrace the RFx! Not only will you improve your writing skills, but you’ll get exposure to the messaging needed to communicate business value. Your team value goes up when you participate in building a sucessful RFP. Be sure to appropriately schedule your time to ensure success and maintain your sanity.

Recommended Resources:

3D Presales book > RFx chapter

Jack of All Trades, Master of Some

Today’s enterprise offerings are more interconnected than ever.  As such, you must be able to communicate your company’s strategic, high-level story that interweaves all components at any moment.  But staying too shallow is risky, especially if others know the story.  You must also have a few specialties – anchor points – where your expertise shines.  An excellent Presales strategy is to be a Jack of all Trades (clearly message the big picture), but have deep expertise in a few areas to differentiate yourself (Master of Some).

Make Networking a Habit

We all know that networking is essential for many reasons.  But networking is not a one-way street.  The best networking starts with you helping others.  Focus on quality, not quantity, when networking.  A wealth of options exist – focus on those that fit your personal and professional style.  Mix it up – internal collaboration, social networks, local events and more.  And once again – give before you receive.

Embrace Fear

Everyone experiences the pulse-quickening, gasping feel of fear.  But when harnessed, fear is healthy and sharpens you!  It means you are alive and that you care about delivering excellence.  Knowledge and competency kills fear.  Internalize your content (not memorize).  Know your venue.  Ask for team support.  Have backups ready.  And most of all – visualize a successful event.  Remember, you cannot be brave until you fear.

3D Presales – the book

Harness the power of 3D Presales to reimagine and transform your Presales vocation with these battle-proven techniques and best practices for the Presales professional.  

Selling

Sell the Problem You Solve, Not a Product

Customers don’t buy software or hardware for the sake of it. They purchase these items to address a need – solve a problem, improve efficiency, ensure compliance, and so on. They are considering your offering as a means to that goal, so communicate what you sell in that manner. Put yourself in their shoes and empathize with their needs and challenges. Then communicate with them in their world and language.

Recommended Resources:

3D Presales book > Business Value and Who Cares? chapters

Know Your Company’s Sales Process

A simple, well-intended statement such as “we can do a POC” or “let’s do a deeper dive later” can dramatically affect a sales cycle. It is critical for Presales to understand your company’s sales process and the state of an opportunity in that process whenever you are engaged. Consult your sales team on what’s needed – and what’s not – before offering up options or making commitments to the customer.

Never Use the F-Word

This isn’t the F-word you may be thinking of. This word can impact a customer’s expectation of what you are proposing, including legally. Free. That F-word. Don’t use it in the context of an opportunity. Certain options and capabilities may be packaged with your proposed solution – use terms such as “bundled” or “included” instead. Consult your sales team for proper messaging in this regard.

Recommended Resources:

Never Say These 7 Things in Sales

Be Authentic

“Do. Or do not. There is no try.” – Yoda.  You are either authentic or you are not.  Humans have an uncanny ability to catch others “trying” to be authentic.  But they also have an innate respect for those who are.  Embrace your strengths and also your weaknesses – it’s who you are.  Make it part of your delivery.  Be confident and comfortable in being able to defer to someone more knowledgeable.  

Be Empathetic

Benefits, value, ROI.  We readily put forth countless numbers and metrics to define our impact and competitive edge for customers.  But do we understand how they feel about it?  How it affects them, personally?  Being empathetic places us in a different mindset and boslters understanding the customer’s thoughts & feelings – individually.  Decisions are frequently made, at least in part, emotionally.  Your customers are people first – listen to and empathize with them as people, not quota-fillers.

The Art of “I’m Not Sure”

In Presales, we have an inherent desire to help customers and answer questions.  We desire that all questions be answered & wrapped up as to not hold up the sales process.  But providing an incomplete or vague answer, you can actually delay the sales process.  Ad-hoc responses can result in confusion causing additional questions from the customer.  If not sure, better to defer and prepare a properly detailed answer.  If you don’t know, promise to research and return with an answer from an expert. Customers respect this response and your credibility is bolstered. Just be sure to follow-up.

Recommended Resources:

The Art of Not Knowing

3D Presales – the book

Get the complete guide to Presales and Solution Engineering in an easy to consume short-essay format.

Presenting

Know who is in the room — take charge!

Absolutely the first question!! Who’s in the room? Oh sure, the sales exec may think you’re just doing the demo, but to be truly effective and make a valued contribution, your messages must resonate with those in front of you. You can’t do that if you don’t know who is going to be in the room and what know what’s important to them. You can’t connect and relate to the strangers if you don’t know what keeps them up at night. YOU need to take the lead. Find out who will be in the audience and then personalize your business value messages to them.

Recommended Resources:

3D Presales book > Audience chapter

Illustrate – Prevent early check out!

After being shown the 4th slide containing only bulleted text, do you check out to the Bahamas? Slides with lots of text suck! Life without pictures is boring. Get comfortable with adding graphics to presentations and whiteboard drawing. Learn the tools that work with both onsite and virtual presentations. Start small and simple. Grow your graphical ability beyond smiley face and thumbs up. Unless you try and practice, there will be no improvement. Whiteboard whenever you can. Need more reasons to Illustrate? Your messages are more believable and easily remembered! So as difficult as it may seem to you, just do it!

Recommended Resources:

desylvia.com blog > The Power of Visuals

3D Presales book > Illustrate chapter

Share Your Personal Experiences

People buy from people they trust. Building relationships is key when trying to add credibility to your presentation and demo. When possible, add your personal experiences. Share experiences such as working with other customers facing similar challenges and situations. Be willing to explain the good, the bad and the ugly about using your solution. Share the lessons you learned in a social way allowing others to learn from you, including your mistakes. We are all humans just trying to do the best with our lives and our work.

Recommended Resources:

3D Presales book > Personal Experience chapter

Less

“In an effort to reduce the length and complexity of statements and responses, investigate and implement methods that result in a reduced verbosity on the topic at hand.”

OR

“Be concise.”

Our customers are constantly flooded with information.  It is imperative for Presales to distill your company and solution information into less, higher-value, differentiating content that results in MORE impact.  Yes, Less = More.  When preparing content, cut some out.  Then, cut again.  Make it count.

Tell Stories

I once participated in an multi-vendor event hosted by an investment firm where each vendor had 15 minutes to pitch their offering.  We spewed product features, roadmap and other techy facts.  Another company told a simple, personal story about why their company was created.  We lost.  They won.  Stories resonate.  Stories are felt.  And remembered.  Don’t overthink it, just tell it and why it relates.  Let your audience feel the rest.

Lose the Dogfood

“We eat our own dogfood” or “Stay with me, this part is always slow.”  These actual examples of solution commentary are subtle yet have a powerful, negative impact on customer’s perception of your company and offering.  Your solution will solve challenges they face daily, so be positive and passionate about it!  Use statements such as “We drink our own champagne” or “Our solution is the Ferrari of our industry.”  These statements may even garner a chuckle, but your customer will see your passion and that matters.

Recommended Resources:

3D Presales book > Xanadu chapter

3D Presales – the book

Dynamic Sales:  Mastering the sales process and creating memorable experiences for customers.

Demoing

Keep Context with Big Picture Visuals

Context matters. Whether a 30 min or 3 day demo, life and work distractions can cause customers to lose context as you demo your solution. Lost context = lost attention. It’s critical to communicate context related to a big picture to help them connect the dots and stay engaged. Use visual diagrams to present the overall demo flow, display how the demo segments relate together and track demo progress against the big picture. Display the diagram before, after and at key breakpoints during the demo and communicate the context clearly.

Plan for Demo Time Degradation

We practice our demo over and over, refining each aspect to execute with perfect precision on an exact timetable. Then the meeting starts late. Then a simple question becomes a 30 min discussion. Then you need to change conference rooms. The best laid demo plans fall by the wayside. So plan for time contingencies. Keep the demo tighter than the allotted time. Know which parts can be skipped if needed. And practice a demo path that takes 1/2 the time. Take more time to be prepared for less time.

Recommended Resources:

3D Presales book > Schedule chapter

Bring the Customer into the Demo

An engaged audience will retain more from your demo. Instead of just demoing to the customer, consider asking them to demo a portion with you. Select a segment where a customer can drive with you as their guide. Moving from seeing to doing can greatly increase confidence in your solution because you are showing confidence by having them use it. Just remember to manage any risks – pick a straightforward, solid section. This approach isn’t suited for all demos, but it can make your the demo experience more powerful and memorable.

Recommended Resources:

7 Benefits of Incorporating Hands-On-Learning into Your Classroom Training (training specific but provides some useful points)

Avoid Hazards When Possible

The forces of chaos are always present trying to ruin your demo. Demo success also means knowing your demo environment and avoiding the hazards that have a good probability of occurring. Know the critical dependencies of your overall presentation & demo(s) and work to remove them.  At a minimum, have alternative plans and resources.  Critical resources include projectors, power, network connectivity, setup time, room layout, knowing who will be in the room, etc.  The more critical the demo, the more time one should spend evaluating and eliminating hazards.

Stop Fidgeting

Be deliberate and minimalistic with your demo & presentation actions. You ask a lot of your audiences to comprehend what they see, follow what you say and process the abstract message you are communicating. Fast moving mouse pointers, flying through screens, talking too much, visible nervousness and unnecessary fidgeting rails against your message being memorable. Focus, be calm and be confident.  Credibility and success will follow.

Have at Least 2 Backup Plans

You have 1 hour.  Your host didn’t order guest internet access.  The wireless network is slow.  The demo system isn’t available.  Demo challenges will always exist in one form or another.  BE PREPARED.  Even 1 backup plan isn’t enough – you need 2 or more.  Be prepared with an alternate demo system, an offline demo, a video, or even a slide-based demo.  And have a backup system – if your laptop fails, be ready with your tablet.  There are no excuses, you a Presales professional!

Recommended Resources:

In 15 min your computer will…

3D Presales – the book

Get the complete guide to Presales and Solution Engineering in an easy to consume short-essay format.

Personal

Know Your Strengths

A weakness of mine? I have a difficult time understanding the realities around me. One of my strengths? I’m Batman! 🙂 Seriously, one can get hung up on not being good at something or become overly focused some inadequacy. But, more important as one engages in career planning, or just tries to survive a chaotic work situation, is to remember and focus on your strengths. Focusing on strengths builds on past successes and provides a platform of confidence for improving in other areas. Managers always want to know what you can get done. Inventory your skills and have them ready to discuss when the opportunity presents itself. Think job interview – know and put your best foot forward. You’ll feel better about yourself. (And, it’s never a bad time to keep that CV up to date.)

Know Your Passions

He’s Batman! He knows what he’s passionate about! Do know your passions? If you’re happy with your job and life in general, read no further. But if happiness eludes you, consider that your life activities and passions are out of sync. When change looms on the horizon, knowing your passions should take point. Embrace them. Identify what you like, and what you don’t. Disconnect the money aspect from this assessment. Knowing your passions and bringing that knowledge into the career equation can drive wonderful long-term results for you and those around you.

Just Stop

Frequently, we’re moving endlessly from trip to trip or meeting to meeting, but we are not immortal. If you don’t stop life at times, life will stop you. It is essential for your personal well-being and happiness to stop for a few moments and look around. Taking a break, even a small one, allows you to re-charge your mental and physical energy, gain perspective, and very importantly, appreciate the good things around you. You’ll be happier and return to work focused and with more vigor. So, stop and take a deep breath. Look for the positives and enjoy the benefits of a little time-out.

Lose the Clutter Anchor

It is said that a messy desk is a sign of genius.  NOT!  For most of us, it is a testament to distraction and inefficiency.   It acts as a mental anchor.  Piles of clutter around you drags you down with a persistent reminder of unfinished business. Take heart, it doesn’t mean you need to become a neat-freak.  Simply schedule a dedicated, recurring time clean up the clutter.  It’s like a mental breath of fresh air every time you do it.

Healthy Body, Healthy Mind

Steps.  Technology has elevated this one, simple word to represent health awareness.  Our devices track many types of data that we can harness to improve our health.  And for good reason – like a tide that raises all boats, positive health habits raise all aspects of our lives.  Physically.  Emotionally.  Mentally.  It can be anything – a full workshop, a few extra steps at the airport, shoveling snow, playing outside with the kids.  Indeed, a healthy body supports a healthy mind.

Learn Something Outside of Work

I love learning technology and am fortunate enough to be in a field that provides endless learning opportunities.  But in some ways, over-saturation in a specific area can yield declining results.  Seemingly unrelated knowledge can provide new perspective.  When I learned to snowboard, it required an entirely new learning method.  As such, it was surprising, and amazing, that this non-technical activity provided fresh ways to think about my work.  It exposed new ways to attack and solve problems.  And this enhanced my work.

Find Your Time

Find the time for YOU.  Today’s work climate will consume all available time, if you let it.  As difficult at it may seem, you must consciously make/allocate time for yourself to plan and prioritize what is important.  Especially in high stress situations, you must be able to regroup and recharge.  If you don’t, you will be ground down to nothing.  Be in control.  Review conflicts with your manager for priority.  We’re all too busy.  SCHEDULE it!

3D Presales – the book

Get the complete guide to Presales and Solution Engineering in an easy to consume short-essay format.

Being Social

Be Transparent

We’ve all experienced it – that person who wants to socialize with us for some stated intention, but we know in our gut it’s for some other reason. People aren’t easily fooled. Be transparent with your social networks regarding your intentions when you post updates, join discussions or comment. We all understand that everyone is working for some purpose, so be real. This blog is an example – we wish to share our Presales knowledge and experiences and hope you find them valuable enough to purchase our book 3D Presales.

Recommended Resources:

How to Be Transparent

Share and Share Again

We live in a 3-second world. Information is beyond pervasive and our attention spans are inversely proportionate. We often need to see content multiple times before it even has a chance of sticking. To build your social brand, it requires frequent sharing of content. Focus your social sharing to areas where you are personally passionate so you are motivated to continue. Post, share, comment and react. Then do it over and over. Augment your content with automated sharing services to offset the burden. Keep sharing!

Be a Net-Positive on Social Media

My mom used to say that strong people lift others up, not tear them down. Social media has made it quite easy to spout negativity and do so anonymously. Comments sections for just about anything are ground zero for this toxicity. Instead, challenge yourself to live a net-positive social experience. Share happiness, congratulate your peers, encourage those struggling and share your experiences (both good and bad) for others to benefit. If you believe criticism is in order, consider providing it privately, or at least in a constructive manner if socially. Let’s all raise the positivity bar together.

Get on Video and Get Used To It

Creating videos seems to come naturally for those born with a mobile phone in their hand. For many of us, however, it’s a bit more difficult. As communications continue to rapidly move from paper to digital, video is becoming a preferred way to consume content.  Video content has proven better for retention. Similar to becoming proficient in public speaking, learning video skills can be uncomfortable and difficult – at first. But, after learning a few skills, video becomes easier and second nature. So, get recording!  

Lighten Up

All prepared but still stressed out?  Shake the nerves and stress out of your presentation by lightening it up. You need to enjoy what you do so don’t take yourself to seriously.  Have fun and incorporate a bit of light humor. Your’ll find yourself more relaxed and will be able to focus and better execute the tasks you prepared so diligently. Attitude is infectious!  So RELAX and be of great spirit!

Recommended Resources:

Lighten Up And Laugh

Maintain High-Quality Social Profiles

Like it or not, social profiles matter, especially in the business world.  Keep them current. As you progress in your career, gain experience, and develop new skills, keeping your profile up-to-date makes your new value visible to customers, employers and recruiters. Active and current profiles also allow others of similar interests to find and network with you. Be sure to understand the social platform containing your profile. Never forget that someone is always looking, so keep it positive and avoid creating liabilities.   

3D Presales – Kindle version

Precise Execution:  Master the execution of everything within and around sales events.

Giving Back

Run Internal Enablement

On high performance teams, all members actively contribute to make those around them stronger. Every team member can contribute by running internal enablement. Show your leadership skills by giving back and contributing to the betterment of all. Volunteering to host internal calls or webinars on team processes or a new training topic can do wonders for you and the team. The team will appreciate your actions. In the eyes of your manager, your team value goes up and a new level of trust is established. And you’ll find yourself with a deeper understanding of the meeting topic. So volunteer that little bit of time to give back to your team!

Share Unique Knowledge

There are some with the belief that if they are the only one who knows a topic, they’ll be safe and always in demand. Managers struggle with these knowledge hoarders as they pose a risk to deals and the team. Tech knowledge has an 18 month half-life and so does your knowledge of a specific topic. A team culture of sharing is critical and provides more benefits to you than staying commander of the dinosaur bone pile. What goes around, comes around. Share your unique knowledge and use it as a platform to learn new skills. Staying on the leading edge and making team contributions makes you more valuable than a resource that ultimately may be outsourced.

Recommended Resources:

10 Reasons To Share Knowledge

Support Your Local Community

We live such busy lives. As the summer months slow things down, opportunities arise to make yourself stronger. Take this time to consider giving back to your community. Making this world a better place is a responsibility we all shoulder. Giving back also benefits you. You’ll find that volunteering improves your self-esteem and provides a greater sense of purpose. As you share your skills and experiences, you get an opportunity to broaden your network and meet new people. You’ll see things from another perspective and grow from new insights. Volunteering is a year-round sport and organizations appreciate volunteers anytime. Get yourself strong and give back!

Pay it Forward – Mentor

“You go do it.” -The World.  “Let’s go do it.” -A Mentor.  Most of us started our careers full of energy – as they say, “bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.”  Then reality hit.  We make mistakes and get discouraged.  It’s not the rosy walk our younger self envisioned.  How amazing would it be  to have someone come alongside to help and encourage?  You can be that person for others through mentoring.  Mentoring takes many forms – informal advice on sites such as CareerVillage, sharing your experiences in writing or video, or 1:1 relationships.  Whatever it is, mentoring will enrich both that person and you.

Write an Article or Book

Many positive returns come from publishing content:  1) You solidify your knowledge by having to write it down.  2) Your value goes up as you are viewed as a thought leader.  3) You make others stronger and garner their appreciation.  4) It’s hard work, but when finished there is a great feeling of accomplishment. 5) A published book might put a few coins in your pocket. So, why not? 

Empower Others

Each of us is stronger when the team is stronger. Difficult projects are more enjoyable when there is a team effort to carry the load. Ensure the entire team gets the credit they deserve. When the next difficult project comes along, they will be happy to join in. As a manager, this is one of the most effective & impactful management actions you can perform. Not giving credit and acknowledgement for work and success demoralizes the person AND the team. Be a Credit Manager.  Help others get credit for their success.

3D Presales – the book

Get the complete guide to Presales and Solution Engineering in an easy to consume short-essay format.

Networking

Give First

“The currency of real networking is not greed but generosity.” -Keith Ferrazzi. Networking is a powerful mechanism to grow your brand, skills, career and more. But don’t make the mistake of selfish networking. This is when you attempt to network with a primary focus on how it can help you. Instead, network with a goal of providing value first. Share your experiences, expertise, cuts & bruises and successes. Be authentic. Share value and it will be returned to you.

Recommended Resources:

3D Presales book > Networking chapter

Know Your Objectives

Networking is a marathon, not a sprint. You need to be committed for the long-haul. As such, it is imperative that you outline clear objectives. Are you trying to land your dream job? Grow your business? Connect with thought-leaders? Without clear objectives, it is easy to become diffused and unmotivated as results will be tenuous and unmeasurable. Time is a valuable commodity…be sure to focus on high-value areas for both you and your network. Never waste time of others when networking with frivolous requests and activities.

Try Various Networking Approaches

When thinking about networking, many think first, or only, about social networking. While this channel is indeed strong, it should by no means be your only consideration. Networking can occur anywhere such as within your current company or in your local community. Seek out networking groups that are relevant to your objectives, such as technology, industry or career events. You will find immediate points of commonality in these groups, so jump right in. You will discover your preferred personal networking motions which will help you focus your networking activities moving forward.

Recommended Resources:

10 Fun and Creative Ways to Network

3D Presales book > Networking chapter

Cross it Up

With large enterprise solutions, no one person knows the entire solution. Becoming an expert in one area makes you valuable. Adding additonal, broad-based skills increases your value even more. Develop these skills by working with other experts and other teams.  And share your skills with the team. When posed with a difficult and challenging task, you’ll have a network of associates to call on for help. Make it a personal goal to cross-train with other groups. You’ll find many benefits as you grow your network.

Recommended Resources:

Escape!

3D Presales book > Networking chapter

Reach Outside

Personal networks provide an amazing opportunity to both learn from and internalize the expertise of others, as well as a way to do the same for them.  But, as they say, it’s important to think outside the box.  Keeping a network comprised only of like-minded peers is certainly helpful, but limits your ability to grow.  Why?  Because those with other viewpoints or points of disagreement challenge you to validate your own positions and grow your own perspective.  Reach out beyond your comfort zone – it may cause anxiety, but the payback is immense.

3D Presales – the digital version

Get the complete guide to Presales and Solution Engineering in an easy to consume short-essay format.

Venues

Raise Your Virtual Game

Business communication continues to virtualize.  While face-to-face selling will never vanish, many activities are desired, or required, to be virtual.  As such, Presales must adapt to continue to be relevant and effective.  It is imperative to master this medium for presentations and demos.  Know your company’s conferencing solution inside-out, optimize your work environment for virtual engagements with aspects such as multiple monitors & a high-quality mic, eliminate distractions (barking dogs, office noise).  Practice beforehand and know your virtual environment!

3D Presales – the book

Career Excellence:  Making each event, and your career overall, focused on what matters most – the customer.

Communication

Keep Your Manager Informed

Think: “Make myself easy to manage.”  Managers often do not have time to ask, so volunteer information, trip reports, status reports, etc.  This is especially important if you work remotely in a home office or frequently travel. On a regular basis, let managers know what’s working, what’s not, your goals for the immediate future, and any challenges and concerns. If you need resources, this is an excellent time make those requests. Manager’s love this information and you will experience a growing trust when you provide it without being asked.

Recommended Resources:

Be an Easy Employee to Manage

When the Going Gets Bad, Proactively Own It

There is a time to be verbose and a time to be succinct. When things are going well, small and short communication suffices. But when things go bad, inform those above and volunteer solutions to resolve the issue. Managers hate bad news delivered as a surprise with no proposed resolution. Issues arise, it’s part of the game.  Managers appreciate their team being on top of the problems and working to resolution before there need for them to get involved. Owning the issue demonstrates responsibility and maturity, two attributes that are greatly appreciated.

Travel Tips

Carefully Schedule Activities Close to Travel

Travel is a core activity for many in Presales.  As with anything (everything), proper scheduling is essential to prevent conflicts.  When traveling, ensure that time in planes shows out-of-office or busy so others don’t schedule calls while you are at 35K feet.  When possible, don’t schedule calls immediately after landing, or at least inform others of the fact.  Getting to the airport a bit early is a great opportunity to hammer out administrative activities or quick calls you’ve been meaning to complete.  Following a few simple rules prevents issues that can quickly cast you in a negative light.

Thanks for Reading!

I hope you have enjoyed this blog.  Reach out to us with any comments or suggestions on future content.

For the full guide of best practices for Technical Sales, Presales and Solution Engineering, check out the 3D Presales book.

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