Do You Send Salespeople On Pre-Sales Site Visits Alone?

This was a topic of constant debate when I was an integrator, and I think it remains one today. Do you find your salespeople qualified enough to visit the customer, walk the site, and return with the right information to develop a proper, accurate proposal? Or do you find that they frequently overlook things which can require return visits at best, or disaster at worst?

According to most integrators the times where margin offered place for 2 guys on site is over. A security sales is a technico sales and shall be able to go back with distances, heigth, luminosity and being able to use luxmeter and telemeter , taking pictures and so on. So that, back to the office, you can work only on the focal issues. I also advise sometimes to do pure technical IP testings when you want to confirm you can re-use an old telephone wire or a coax. (Network often weights 60% of global) Then I also train sales guys to work on focal calculators. Engineers shall be kept for network architectures and routing.

So answer is probably : if you need everytime 2 guys on site , you probably will lose more and more deals compared to sales able to be self suffisient on most field survey taks.

This is a good point. The most successful integrators have salesmen who don't need engineers!

I agree that increasing the cost of sales by doubling the quote overhead is not the most profitable approach, but designing in mistakes is also very expensive!

The point about training salesmen to think technically is great, but hiring good smart folks is key to making that work.

It might actually be less expensive sending one mediocre sales person and junior field engineer than the cost of hiring one rare, highly sought-after all star salesman.

As a former engineer, I welcomed being invited on site visits. Heck, I could prevent so many problems and mistakes from ever seeing the light of day just by walking the job. The division of labor that worked best: me (engineer) = think about designs / you (salesperson) = shake hands and smile a lot

In fact, I loved putting the entire quote together too. And talking to the customer instead of the salesman. In fact, it was better if they didn't even come along in many cases.

(BTW: several of those people are site members, and will see this comment.)

In fact, it was better if they didn't even come along in many cases...

It can be intoxicating to be capable of delivering on every aspect of an engagement from pre-sales lead generation to eol decommissioning. Those rare birds who can often are the very reasons that new companies or divisions spring forth. But strangely, too many of these salengineers can lead to organizational defects that make fledgling and seemingly promising business falter due to the creation of multiple fiefdoms.

These "superstars" often operate as companies within companies, and oversight becomes challenging, since the high performing employee becomes the choke point of the informational food chain. Corporate values and goals become filtered and idiosyncratically twisted when viewed thru the lens of the all-knowing and indispensable autocrat.

Inexorably junior staff exposed too long to the incessant chest thumping of the self-aggrandizing taskmaster, develop fierce loyalties that are not properly aligned with that of the rest of the organization and inevitably end up as sacrifices on the altar of the capricious and ravenous sub-overlord's ego.

Or so I have heard...

(There is a fair amount of levity and sarcasm in my reply.)

I am many things, but megalomaniac doesn't break the top 100.

It takes a clever man to boast about their own humility. ;)

I hate to be that guy who says it 'depends on the application', but...

Large deals, two person team. Small deals, one person.

As Marc mentions, a big issue is economics. It's hard to justify 2 people consistently unless the prospective sale is large enough. However, as the size of the projects grows, so too does the technical issues and the technological sophistication of the buyer.

Having a guy who is great at both sides is the exception, rather than the rule. It's not just knowledge/skill, it's personality and mindset.

Alright John.

Moreover when you are asked to talk about 4 Hours maintenance and SQL/Network redundancies with routing multicast & Vlan (on large projects) obviously one guy, even a nice tall one won't be enough ;-)

At my previous job some of the sales people wouold pull on us Engineers if the project was complex. If it was a few cameras or a small opportunity then they would bring us back whatever information they could find out. A lot of times on the smaller jobs the customer didn't really know enough about the network or what they needed anyways. If we needed more information it wasn't a problem for us to call the customer and try to get what we needed anyways.

For some of our larger customers that I had basically designed their system and continued to help maintain it I wouldn't even need the Sales person with me I could just go out and do the site visit, engineer the job and give the proposal to the Sales person. Most of the Sales people were pretty good when it came to a large project to pull on us to assist. Of course there were some who just didn't care but they were the minority.

Can you add an option for us "trunkslammers" that fill both roles?

As an end-user, my expereience has seen the full gamet of whomever was sent to our facilities by potential vendors. From clueless sales persons to extremely knowledgable sales persons / engineers more than capable of describing and answering the tough questions.

I think from a pre-sales, customers perspective, I would much rather prefer to have a that person tell me an honest "No, we cant do that" than try to obviously BS their way to get our business only to waste our time in the long run by over promising and under deliverying.

"I would much rather prefer to have a that person tell me an honest "No, we cant do that" than try to obviously BS their way"

And many salespeople would prefer to BS you as long as you can to see if they can close the deal...

"I would much rather prefer to have a that person tell me an honest "No, we cant do that" than try to obviously BS their way to get our business only to waste our time in the long run by over promising and under delivering."

If they under delivered, they must have landed the project. A salesman walking from a job because they don't think they can fulfil any given task is unheard of!

As the industry constantly changes, sales persons need to be more up-to-date in engineering basic terms or knowledge. In most cases, those days where you as "the gifted" sales person of closing a deal are over. Is not just about go to the site and sell you a hundred cameras because they match your front door color... you need engineering knowledge period.

It all depends on the customer and facility you are selling to. If it is a school for example, you kind of already know what is involved. Most districts are looking for that ‘check in the box’ solution to satisfy the board. The cheaper the solution, the happier they are. I just recently walked a school project, the IT director already picked out some cameras from his Anixter catalog. “I want 1.3 mp cameras on the interior etc..” specifying all kinds of goofy things like SD storage etc… We walked the project and he’s telling us just to use old camera location / boxes to mount the new cameras. No concern for pixels on target or lighting or focal view. I’m trying to educate him during the walk on ways to get the most for his investment. He had appliance recorders spread all over the campus. Then I’ll visit a larger district and they have hired a well known engineering firm specifying solid products.

Then you have the big picture sales professionals. I have worked with many of these types, they admit to being completely ignorant to the technology details but are rockstars at finding the big opportunities. They are simply driving opportunities…leveraging relationships. Typically with the higher C-level executives who also are also non-technical.

Personally, the only folks I typically bring to the opportunity are the operations guys. I want a buy-in on the labor hours.

How to instantly tell a Salesperson from a Tech:

Write the word UNIONIZED on a napkin, ask the candidate what the word is, if you get back "YOON-YUN-IZED" or some such, chuckle and say your right, and then keep looking for a real tech...

Anyone know any others?

Ten years ago my 'golden ears' neighbor Hoss (real name, real long story) was looking to put in a fancy hi-fi/projection entertainment system in his 'screening' room. A two person team came out two bid, a carpenter and a/v specialist. Hoss says "I've looked at a bunch of them all-in-one systems and they are junk. So keep in mind boys, no matter what, this system has got to be discrete!" They looked at each other and the A/V guy leaned in and said in a low voice, "Your secret's safe with us."