How to be an SE – My Guiding Principles

I’ve been wanting to make this post for quite some time, but having recently moved to Nutanix, I’ve been drinking from the “proverbial firehose” for a bit longer than I would have expected 🙂

I’ve been working as an SE since I left corp IT for almost 10 years now. It has been absolutely fantastic, and tremendously fulfilling. I’ve learned so much over the years about how to be effective in a pre-sales SE role, and mainly, I’m not speaking about technology, but rather the softer side of selling. This is by far the hardest part of being an SE. I’ve met so many gifted and talented people over the years, with credentials and certifications that look like a new foreign language, however, they wouldn’t necessarily be the right DNA for this type of role.

So without further ado, I present my guiding principles. These are how I live and breath as an SE. I think I have been quite successful, and although these have worked for me, please feel free to use them at your own risk 🙂

  1. Honesty and integrity first. I live this every day. I’m a firm believer in karma, and that you will get back what you put into this role, and how you treat your customers, partners, and peers. I try to treat everyone with respect…period!
  2. No shellac! I’m as up front as possible with my customers (within NDA guidelines of course) about what capabilities are real, and what are marchitecture. Could I have closed more deals/business with a little hyperbole?! Perhaps, but I’m a firm believer that this will bite you in the long run.
  3. I only work for companies that I am passionate about their portfolio….PERIOD. See point #2 above. If the story is bad (do your own research), then I would have no business trying to convince companies to invest in a technology I don’t believe in.
  4. “Learn it…Know it…Live it!” –> (Name that movie…yes, I’m old). The reason I’m 6 months behind on blog articles is precisely because of this. If you plan to take on an SE role, then be prepared to spend day and night investing your heart and soul into the platform. I’ve always felt that until you are absolutely confident in the technology, and the messaging, you aren’t providing enough value.
  5. Messaging. You MUST learn how to sell by developing your own style of messaging and pitches that suit your style and needs. Don’t be a robot, but use your background, expertise, and softer skills to hone these over time.
  6. Anecdotes – If you’ve worked in IT, you have them. Combine these with #5 and you will come across as a rock start and trusted advisor. You have “been in the trenches”, and can empathize with customers.
  7. NEVER bash a competitor. See #3 above. Educate your customers on the merits of your portfolio and guide them down the right path. Build trust here…
  8. You are part of a team, and your business partner is your AE (Sales guy/gal). You own your business. You are only as successful as the amount of effort you put into your team.
  9. Always be ready (see #4 above) I try to anticipate the types of objections and questions I’ll get with my customers. Over prepare, over prepare, over prepare.
  10. Never burn a bridge in this industry. If you lose to a competitor, learn from it. Don’t hate. If are are still alive, you are stronger for it.

These may be obvious to some, but this is how I live my life as an SE.

Good luck out there!

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