2022 SE Trends: Creating Connections with Chris White
To start, give a high-level introduction of your background
I now run an organization called Tech Sales Advisors, but I was an enterprise architect and IT consultant for 15 years before I got into presales.
And after I got into that, I discovered I wasn’t as good as I thought I would be. I thought this role was basically about moving your mouse and talking at the same time, so made some mistakes early on but eventually figured it out.
When I took over a team of presales consultants, I realized they were making many of the same mistakes I had when I first started. So I created the first iteration of my training for them in 2010. I published a book in 2019, then launched my business, and now I spend my days teaching and training presales engineers and teams on best practices and habits.
What are some tips for SEs to level up their skills?
First and foremost, people buy from people. So we need to be human in our jobs and we need to be authentic.
People don’t want to hear a robot. They can listen to a recorded demo if they want a one-way conversation. So one of the most important things is to make calls all about the customer. Make it conversational. Make it engaging.
People just don’t like to be sold to, talked down to, or talked at. Show as much interest in them and what they’re struggling with as we are interested in our product. SEs should be as enthusiastic about the problems our solutions can solve as we are about our product’s features.
And because we’re doing everything through a camera lens, we have to work that much harder to make a connection. Looking straight at the camera, speaking slowly, and being yourself can help establish a trusted relationship. Customers are looking for sincere help and advice from experts.
What positive trends with presales are you seeing this year?
One of the positive trends is solutions coming to market that help presales.
It’s great to have software to take some monotonous and tedious tasks off presales team members’ plates, such as the introductory demo. Those can be automated through software like Navattic and sent to customers through email. SEs can spend more time on high-value activities like discovery and deep dive demos.
Kerry Sokalsky and I also wrote the Presales Buyer’s Guide about a year ago and interviewed over 20 vendors that have brought solutions to this space. It’s a great time to be an SE – sales leaders and CROs are recognizing the value of presales professionals.
And new people are finding out about presales – even people without a tech background. The last time I checked, there were over roughly 120,000 open presales roles on LinkedIn.
What trends are you ready to see end this year for presales?
I’d like to see all harbor tour demos or click-through tours be automated. SEs shouldn’t spend time giving introductory demos.
Another trend I’d like to see end is more presales professionals understanding and developing skills to make demos more about the customer. I see SEs spend too much time talking about the product in so many demos.
They need to stop focusing so much on the product and more on what it can do for the customer. For example, I think you should open a demo by saying, “imagine you’re X persona trying to achieve Y thing.” And it should match who the prospect is and what they want to do.
It’s natural to talk about the product. But presales professionals need to be the change agent. They need to think in the user’s mindset and what that person wants to accomplish.
What are some of your favorite resources or tooling for SEs?
Whenever I can, I like to highlight The 6 Habits of Highly Effective Sales Engineers. But there are many other books that have helped me, such as Peter Cohen’s Great Demo!, Mastering Technical Sales by John Care, and The Social Sales Engineer by Patrick Pissang.
Presales Collective, SENY, SE Boston, and SE Toronto are fantastic resources as well. And there are so many good podcasts about there. I’m a big fan of Ramzi Marjaba and his We the Sales Engineers podcast.
I also run LinkedIn Lives on Mondays at noon ET, where I invite various SEs and sales leaders and share presales advice.
Tell us more about Tech Sales Advisors
My organization, Tech Sales Advisors, trains presales and software sales teams in person and online.
One of the workshops that’s worked particularly well is one that coaches sales reps and sales engineers together. This unique atmosphere allows them to learn from us and each other. Check out www.techsalesadvisors.com – we are happy to help in any way.