Despite the somewhat tongue-in-cheek title, this is a serious post.
It’s all about the burden pre-sales staff labor under when selling technology solutions…
… and under what conditions does ‘content marketing’ (the current ‘holy grail’ of many b2b marketers) help progress the sales cycle, and hopefully close the deal.
The author, @matthewnorwood, makes a good case for pre-sales teams often having a ‘harder’ time than post-sales (or ‘the cleaners’, as we IT veterans used to say, when the kit had been sold and now we/they had to make it work!)
“Analyze, Analyze, Analyze”
That heading is what Matthew used to make the point that pre-sales SEs need an affinity for competitive statistics comparable to the most devoted sports fan.
He went on to say:
“That same dedication is required for pre-sales when it comes to technology. I don’t care if you sell for one vendor or a dozen; you better know the competition. You also better know about the products you are selling as well. You want to win don’t you?”
As someone who now helps contribute to this statistical data fest by writing white papers, case studies and sundry marketing collateral, this is both reassuring and puzzling.
Reassuring, because there is apparently still a large demand for what I’ll call “b2b content marketing“.
Puzzling, because I’m wondering what the pre-Sales folks working for VARs and IT vendors are doing with this avalanche of information.
In the first one, even though RiverBed has a much smaller product portfolio than larger competitors, there are around two dozen companies to keep tabs on!
And in the second, he gives us a breakdown of knowledge levels required by the sales reps and engineers of both VARs and Vendors in order to be effective when selling Riverbed solutions.
So what does it all mean?
Excellent Pre-Sales SEs Are Learning Machines
At least that’s been my experience… as a technical instructor for a networking vendor, and as a subject matter expert on the customer side.
When top-notch SEs appeared on some of my product courses (for 3Com), I would get nervous because they’d often ask questions comparing other vendor offerings to the device I was teaching about. It was a rather uncomfortable feeling to not know most of the answers, especially if the SEs were on a course with actual 3Com customers.
(A word in their ear about off-topic questions and the need to finish an agreed syllabus for paying customers was usually sufficient to end my agony.)
In the SME customer role, it was very easy to detect the SEs who knew their stuff from those just ‘winging it’.
Why? The Internet was the great leveller because multiple vendor information was easily accessible, and even sharing experiences with other customers worldwide (in forums) became possible.
Of course, there was still value in meeting with vendors (both prospective and incumbent) because, having done the preparation research, an intelligent exchange of ideas and possibilities could then take place. The savviest sales reps I recall were those who brought along their own version of a ‘Pre-Sales SE Learning Machine’ – perhaps someone like Matthew, a person who clearly has a passion for IT learning and tinkering.
Conclusion: Pre-Sales SEs Eat, Dream and Sleep Content Marketing
The only conclusion I can come to is that the very best pre-Sales SEs really do consume ‘content marketing’ on a continuous basis. They’re wired to learn, tinker (‘how stuff works’), and plain enjoy using what they’ve found out for the benefit of others.
However, I want to know more about WHAT types of ‘content marketing’ they are munching on and HOW, WHERE and WHEN they are doing so.
Well, self-interest is, of course, part of the reason.
Since the pace of product innovations and new vendors in the ‘IT networking’ marketplace is rapid and also sometimes unexpected in direction and impact, there is an insatiable need to know (by Pre-Sales SEs, customers and prospects.)
And putting myself in a place to help create more of these materials is likely to be a rewarding proposition.
To that end, I’d be pleased to read your feedback and comments here to the question posed above. Especially if you’re a pre-Sales SE in the IT networking space.
As a follow-up, I’d also like to interview a pre-Sales SE, such as Matthew, transcribe the call, and publish the results – similar to the b2b case study writer series I did with fellow writer, Pamela DeLoatch, back in December 2011. (Though, with hindsight, any clips for YouTube etc should be less than 5 minutes each.)
Hey Matthew, what do you think? I know you’re very busy but let’s see if we can make this happen… or not! Whatever works.