Pre Sales Engineering 101

This article is the first in a series outlining my journey from site reliability engineering (SRE) to pre-sales engineering. The following tips will seem obvious to seasoned pre-sales engineers, but several were quite eye-opening for me when I first started.

1. Know how to host a successful Zoom | Teams | WebEx meeting. Sounds simple, but to make the entire experience feel smooth and seamless, it takes practice. Also, there are several key settings you need to configure before getting started, as many of Zooms defaults are sub-optimal for hosting meetings. For example, I like to use a unique meeting ID for each session. Also, it can be helpful to turn on the waiting room feature and disable “join before host” in case you are running a few minutes behind. I also like to turn on automatic recording. You will be busy hosting the meeting/demo, so it can be helpful to have a recording to revisit if you missed any critical discovery information.

2. PowerPoint: Not much to say other than you need to be proficient in using PowerPoint and creating beautiful and informative decks. There are great courses available online from Udemy, Lynda, or free on YouTube. Also, never underestimate the value of a PowerPoint class at your local community college or local learning annex.

3. In-person demos: Assume the customer will have a guest WiFi network with as much bandwidth as an airport bathroom in the developing world. Show up to on-prem meetings early so you can ask the staff at the security/reception desk how to connect. Usually, they have a printout or card they can give you. TEST IT! If you are lucky enough that your entire demo can be self-contained on a laptop, that’s great, and this step is optional. For the rest of us selling SaaS or PaaS products, you will need a functioning internet connection. Consider buying a MiFi hotspot or just using your phone’s hotspot function in an emergency.

4. Dongles: More and more laptops are becoming USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 only devices, especially Apple products. Most conference rooms in the world have not caught up to this trend. If you are lucky, the projector will be HDMI, but it may be DVI or even VGA more often than not. This might seem like a small thing, but nothing ruins an in-person demo faster than spending the first 20 minutes of the meeting trying to connect to the projector.

5. Your demo server is a production server: You may have an enablement team or internal IT group that takes care of the demo servers at a larger company. However, if you are working for a smaller organization or startup, chances are you maintain them yourself. Consider setting up monitoring and alerting for these demo servers. Nothing makes a worse first impression than the demo server being down or malfunctioning during a demo. Coming from an SRE background, this is very near and dear to my heart. I will be publishing future articles about setting up a simple monitoring and alerting system for your demo servers.



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store