The Presales Reading List

Aaron Janmohamed

Top 10 Books to Up Your Presales Game

The best Sales Engineers know they have to constantly sharpen their skills to stay relevant. But just as important, the wave of people starting out their careers in Presales need help defining what success looks like. To help everyone in Presales, regardless of your experience level or motivations, we put together this Top 10 Books to Up Your Presales Game. 

Selling is Hard, Buying is Harder By Garin Hess

He’s our Founder and CEO, so of course we’re starting with Garin’s book. 

If you’ve found that the linear sales process you’ve lined out for customers isn’t working anymore, that’s probably because to the customer, the buying process isn’t linear. In fact, it’s extremely disjointed and doesn’t involve sales as much as you think. Sales must shift from a seller-centric attitude to a buyer-focused one. You need to become a buyer coach.

This book is the handbook for implementing a Buyer Enablement strategy. Which makes sense, since Garin coined the term during the early startup days of Consensus over seven years ago. Since then, we’ve covered the topic plenty and even made a simplified guide to help get you started on a Buyer Enablement strategy for your own organization. Seen all that already and still want more? Go right to the source with Selling is Hard, Buying is Harder.

The Sales Engineer Manager’s Handbook: Mastering Technical Sales by John Care and Chris Daly

Making the shift from SE to manager is a huge disruption, especially if you’re new to leadership. Luckily, John Care and Chris Daly outline a simple framework that applies to everyone from SE’s considering moving into management to seasoned leaders looking to level up their game. They set out the 3+1 rules of SE Leadership. This book provides a blend of tactical and strategic advice the authors have gathered from their 30+ years of experience in sales and many years of running SE specific workshops. 

The 3+1 Rules include: 1) develop and serve your people, 2) run pre-sales as a business, and 3) serve your customers, all matched up with rule #0 – manage yourself. If you find yourself needing to improve your leadership skills or find yourself unsure how best to perform your new duties even after perusing a few online HR resources, this book could be your guide. 

Want more info before jumping in? Garin Hess shared his thoughts on the previous edition in a two part review here and here.

The Trusted Advisor Sales Engineer by John Care

Survey after survey shows that customers view the Sales Engineer as the standard of truth. That’s why Sales Engineers have been referred to as Trusted Advisors more frequently in the last twenty years. But that doesn’t mean the designation is a given. Becoming a Trusted Advisor is harder than it sounds. In fact, many organizations either never try to live up to the name, or make a half-hearted attempt. 

Trusted Advisor – two words, five syllables and fifteen letters that John Care says hide a massive complexity. Which is why he wrote this book specifically to start the individual Sales Engineer on the journey to becoming a Trusted Advisor. 

He breaks the process down into three sections:

1. Learn how to define and actually measure trust with your clients. 

2. Look at the practical aspects involved in building trust through Discovery, Presentations, Demos and all the other standard activities of an SE. 

3. Examines how to get started and put it all into practice – both for individuals and for SE teams. 

This is not a tiny list of tips and tricks or even a 40 page eBook covering the basics. This book is packed full of thoughts, ideas, best practices and real life examples based on dozens of clients and thousands of students who have already taken the workshop.

Great Demo! By Peter Cohan

Delivering effective demos is an art. One that takes lots of skill and practice. And, even if you’re a pro at demoing, you might be looking for a new strategy to up your game. Great Demo! outlines a proven methodology for improving your demos. 

Peter Cohan shares his experience from delivering and viewing thousands of demonstrations. Deliver intelligent automated demos that are highly compelling using what he refers to as the “Do the Last Thing First,” concept. This book offers a straightforward process that can easily be applied to the demos you’re already doing every day. 

Look Me In the Eye: Using Video to Build Relationships with Customers, Partners and Teams by Julie Hansen

Video calls and online meetings aren’t going away. The way we interact with colleagues and customers has shifted from in-person to largely online. So what happens when the skills we have for selling face-to-face fall flat on camera? 

You still need to establish the same amount of credibility in virtual meetings, but many people make accidental blunders on camera that can derail the conversation and even the entire deal. Whether you’re interacting with customers or creating automated demos, this guide provides all you need to know to create a near in-person experience in a virtual or hybrid world.

The Six Habits of Highly Effective Sales Engineers by Chris White

Wanting to up your sales game? Gain the skills to confidently demo every time. Avoid the common pitfalls that are holding you back. Master the art of answering difficult questions, apply best practices to your process, and accelerate pipeline velocity and close more deals. 

The habits in this book help you smoothly deliver and answer questions during any presentation while simultaneously avoiding burnout by building the confidence of saying “No” when required. The Six Habits of Highly Effective Sales Engineers will teach you skills you need to enhance your abilities.  

The One Thing by Gary Keller

What’s your ONE thing?

To be successful at anything, professional or personal, you have to be dedicated. It also means you have to let certain things go. You can’t do it all, and nor should you. Focusing your energy on one thing at a time allows you to live a more rewarding life. 

Trying to keep up with simultaneous demands of work and family takes a toll at a heavy cost. Falling behind deadlines, substandard work, and strained relationships all pile on to create more stress.

So how do you strike a balance? Get more productivity from your work, more income, more satisfaction from life, and more time for yourself, your family, and your friends? You find ONE thing.

The ONE Thing teaches you to produce extraordinary results in every area of your life. Cut through the clutter to achieve better results in less time. Build momentum toward your goal while dialing down the stress. Overcome that overwhelmed feeling, revive your energy and stay on track to master what matters to you.

 WHAT’S YOUR ONE THING?

Rule of 24 (Second Edition): The Future of B2B Client Engagement by Bob Riefstahl and Dan Conway

The old ways of doing business to business (B2B) sales don’t work anymore. Changes to the market have been happening for years, and recent global events have only increased the rate those changes are happening. The old sales strategies aren’t working anymore. Strategies that used to be effective no longer achieve the desired results. Don’t remain stuck in the past.

Robert D. Riefstahl and Daniel J. Conway have discovered a new way forward: The Rule of 24.

The Rule of 24 will show you how to audit yourself, your industry and learn exactly what your customer is expecting from you. Then use that knowledge to transform your sales process by utilizing the power of extreme personalization. Become a master of all of your selling mediums and crush your competition. The rules have changed, but that doesn’t mean your future is uncertain. Understand what’s coming next and how to deal with it.

The Social Sales Engineer: Timeless Principles for Achieving Thought Leadership (The Art of Greatness as Pre-Sales Consultant And Sales Engineer) by Patrick Pissang

Are you afraid of software making your job obsolete? If not, you should be. 

Specialized SaaS applications are automating repetitive tasks and will soon replace you if your job involves running intro demos or dozens of other low-level tasks. The software being used to make things easier may one day take over most of your tasks.

So, how do you avoid becoming obsolete?

The Social Sales Engineer shares timeless principles you can use to shape your sales engineering future on social media and position yourself as a trusted advisor in your client’s organization. 

Patrick Pissang shares his philosophy on how to lead the client with methods they don’t expect and therefore won’t forget. He uses a buyer enablement approach to coach customers while they run the proof of concept. Patrick then explains how his original thinking can be expanded to work for social media, something that even sales engineers need to build their brand. Learn to confidently sell more solutions while building your brand original ideas––both online and offline.

Demonstrating To Win!: The Indispensable Guide for Demonstrating Complex Products by Robert Riefstahl

Performing a demo can feel like you’re leading an expedition through hazardous conditions. Often prospects feel the same, and they want to run back to the safety of technology they know. You have to coax them along to guide your prospect to your solution. 

It can feel like an overwhelming task, but Robert Riefstahl has the tactics you need to become the best in your field. He outlines how to identify and avoid “Demo Crimes,” build a value case for your solution, winning demo techniques, and ways to manage your audience’s personalities. Don’t give poorly constructed and mediocre demos. Demonstrate to win with this guide for demonstrating complex products.