Echoes From the Past, The Mother of All Demos – Douglas Engelbart (1968)

We tend to envisage modern desktops with keyboards and mice as something that appeared in the early 1980’s. Microsoft did a great job of commoditizing this for the masses, but they did of course get the idea (or copied the idea, depending on your point of view) from a Xerox research project that never quite made off the ground.  Anything prior to the arrival of Windows stirs up visions of large mechanical devices with green text consoles and paper punch cards for input/output.

The reality is that the embryonic beginnings of the current desktop stretch back closer to 50 years ago, even before the Xerox project. I wasn’t aware of this until I heard about a 1960’s demo on a recent podcast (thanks Speaking in Tech).  The video below is of Douglas Engelbart, who unfortunately passed away in recent weeks.  This is probably the first ever large scale demo of this kind of technology. In this video, Douglas cuts a ghostly figure as he is superimposed on the film along side the desktop he is operating.  Working as a Sales Engineer, I do a lot of demos.. you always like to feel like you’re on the cutting edge and showing your customer something new, but I think this video shows that although the technology changes a lot of what drives demos is fundamentally the same.  Great demo from who should be considered both Jobbs’ and Gates’ predecessor.

Book Review: Life’s A Pitch, What the World’s Best Sales People Can Teach Us All

This is a really cool book by Philip Delves Broughton:

What struck me about this book was that it didn’t try to position itself as some new scientific methodology for improving your stats as a salesperson. Nor did it evangelically preach someone’s view of sales and how life should be if you want to achieve your full potential. The book takes an objective observatory stance, where the author simply seeks out people who excel in the field of sales and attempts to understand what drives them, how they do what they do and why it is working for them. Personality traits are explored from a qualitative angle to give a broad sense of character and what may or may not be similar across different successful sellers.

From Moroccan souq rugs, through USA teleshopping to Japanese Life Insurance, the author takes a very broad and international sample of successful salespeople. as you might expect there are certainly some extravagant stories from this special breed of person.

Of particular interest to me were those individuals who were in the tech field, more specifically towards the final chapters where a hybrid type is identified. A hybrid type being someone who can comfortably straddle the core skills of both technical and soft skill competence. Having been in technical sales for many years, this type of individual really resonates with me as I believe it’s possible to be both technically competent as well as commercially and emotionally intelligent. Having that underlying knowledge base on the technical aspects of products can significantly boost credibility in a sales engagement and underpins Expert Selling.

This book definitely comes recommended as worth reading.

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Book Review: Brilliant Selling 2nd Edition – What the best salespeople know, do and say

Brilliant Selling by Jeremy Cassell and Tom Bird takes a one inch deep, one mile wide look at selling skills, activities and results. If you are new to selling or just need to step back for a refresher this is a great book to get you started.

The book takes you through a journey to understand all aspects of selling. Starting with views on your personality as a salesperson, moving through processes and planning to effective to communication for understanding buyer needs and motivations. The journey is a well structured one where each chapter builds nicely on the previous nuggets of wisdom. Although lacking depth in some areas it does provide an excellent springboard to give a wide view of the topic and also stirs lots of different ideas for you to think about.  I found the content associated practical exercises very useful to help me understand and analyze my current opportunities. They can really give you a push to think laterally and honestly about where your opportunities really sit.

One major highlight for me in the book was the section on understanding buyers mindsets, needs and motivations. This includes the main reasons why people do or don’t buy. The documented survey results really help isolate buyer fears and motives; every salesperson should have an understanding of these to help bridge that cross-table relationship between buyer and seller.

Another recommended read. If you would like to purchase this book, please support this site in the process, by clicking the image above.


Book Review: SPIN Selling

In the last decade, SPIN Selling has become one of the most prominent sales methodologies. Primarily, the methodology is developed by the Huthwaite Research company under the direction of and based on the research of psychologist, Neil Rackham.

From the outset the research has metered itself by requiring strict empirical evidence to prove or disprove theories as they are examined in real life situations.  This is a scientific view of sales behaviors from a group of scientists. There are no subjective opinions here, only hard facts and figures are used to back up statements and views.  Sample groups are often wide, diverse and for the most-part large enough to provide a credible read on the activity or behaviour being measured.

The 30,000ft view of the SPIN selling approach takes us through four defined stages during a single sales cycle. It suggests that the use of effective questioning can help us understand the prospects situation, identify problems they need to address, the impacts of the problems and the result of finally resolving them. This journey from introduction, through discovery to solution presentation and closing is dissected in much detail.

Alongside the scientific stats, there are also a wealth of case studies and anecdotes related to the challenges and trials experienced as the research progressed.  In addition, there are a number of common myths examined and dispelled around the whole sales process, from first impressions to closing techniques, there are some real eye-openers.

Although I’m sure in-depth results and transcripts could be found, a great strength in the book is it’s ability to summarize findings for us in a concise and understandable manner. The whole system is described in around 200 pages, I would suggest anyone working in sales would benefit immensely from investing a couple of days worth of reading the text.

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The Importance of Hands On Technical Experience

To operate effectively in a pre-sales role detailed product knowledge is a must.  You can not truly understand how a product works and it’s functionality without having some experience of it working on a real system.  At the very least installing a demo or test environment will bring you closer to the capabilities of a product, but where possible get involved in  real implementations, in real customer environments.  Occasional secondments to the service delivery arm of your organisation can give you the opportunity to build some real world experience which can be applied to your current and future customer opportunities.


Practical experience is particularly useful in environments where you are working with multiple products and multiple product components. Understanding the underlying requirements of each component and how they will integrate with the other components can be of vital importance when proposing a solution.  You may find that two of your components have conflicting requirements and simply can not fit together in the configuration you have designed.  It is better to understand as much as possible about these dependencies early in the sales cycle as these can become show stopping issues which may become critical at the later stages of a sale.

Simple advice on this would be read the manuals, install your virtual machines, install the products, configure the products and run through some mock scenarios.

International Technical Sales – Top 5 Tips

I love to travel. I’ve been lucky enough to travel extensively, experience different cultures and have worked in many multi-national teams.  I would definitely class myself as a travel nerd.  I found this WebApp on Trip Advisor and have been looking to get more pins in the map ever since.  Here’s my current travel map (to create your own, use the links below the map):

Maps and pins aside, working outside of your home country can be a daunting idea for some. Especially, if you are not used to working with different cultures. Here’s a list of quick tips which I hope are helpful.

Top 5 Tips

Tip 1: People are the same.

People are pretty much the same the world over. Of course, we all have different cultural quirks and ways of doing things but fundamentally people are the same wherever they are from.  They all have hopes, dreams and motivations and you’ll find the same hopes, dreams and motivations in each country.  If you’ve worked in your home country then working abroad is exactly the same.. the only difference is language and location. Continue reading

Sales Funnel vs Buy Funnel – Sales Cycle vs Buy Cycle

As Pre-Sales resources we should have an in-depth understanding of the Sales Cycle and the traditional sales funnel.  Although the Sales Manager orchestrates the deal, pre-sales should be aware of his strategy and the steps they are going to progress through to turn leads into closed deals.

I came across this video on YouTube. It is probably more interesting for Sales people, but I found it an interesting approach.  The Interviewee hear has written a book called “The Funnel Principle”.

He argues that the traditional Sales Funnel is outdated and an artificially created process developed by Sales people for Sales people and not customers.  The Buy Cycle changes the focus back to the customer, where you as a sales organisation are working to understanding the buying process of the customer and matching your activities to fulfil the procurement needs of the customer.  The jury is out on this one for me, the Sales funnel is a time tested logical process for generating  a large amount of leads which you can whittle down to closed deals.

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) – Pre-Sales Content

The search engine has fast become the first step in any users attempt to access content on the web.  Businesses and individuals alike have realised the massive potential of delivering your information to peoples web browsers at the click of a button.  Targeting higher rankings on search engines, essentially pushing your content closer to the top of the search listings, has spawned an entire industry of it’s own.  The act of creating, implementing and monitoring strategies for improving search engine rankings is know as Search Engine Optimisation (SEO).

I’ve recently been assisting my partner with her SEO strategies for her online perfume retailing website.  It seems great prices on perfume, fragrances, aftershaves and gift sets isn’t going to get you to the top of google alone. Continue reading

Ethical Sales – Core values for building long-term mutually beneficial relationships

This article is essentially about approaching your day to day business activities with ethical core values.  Fostering mutually beneficial relationships with customers based on honesty, integrity, respect and dedication will not only encourage short term success but also long term sustainable performance. This applies to any role in business. My first rule of business is:

  • Always do what you say you will.

By adhering to this simple edict you will earn the trust of not only your customers but also your partners, managers and colleagues. Let’s expand on the following core values and see how they are relevant to your pre-sales activities:

  • Honesty
  • Integrity
  • Respect
  • Dedication

Continue reading

What is Three Dimensional Pre-Sales?

Introducing Pre-Sales

Depending on the organisation or industry you work in, pre-sales can mean very different things. The main perspectives people hold when categorizing pre-sales as a role are generally polarized at opposing ends of a linear spectrum.  At one end we have technical activity and at the other we have commercial.  The technical-to-commercial spectrum is widely used as a frame of reference.  Some organisations expect their pre-sales employees to be very technical with an ability to dig deep into code where necessary and others don’t require any hands on experience at all. In reality, the definition of the role is flexible and the expectation is that a pre-sales resource will fall somewhere in between.

The linear spectrum of pre-sales activity.

 My loose definition of Pre-Sales: Pre-sales provides the medium to bridge the gap that exists between a customer’s business needs and the functional capabilities of the products and solutions provided a supplier organisation.

Continue reading