Q&A is a series on the Business Intelligence from the Swamp Blog that interviews key members of the Pentaho team to learn more about their focus at Pentaho and outlook on the Business Intelligence industry.
You may be familiar with our interviewee today from reading his blogs on BI from the Swamp or watching a demo on the Pentaho Evaluation Sandbox. If you are a customer, there is a very good chance you have met him virtually or in person. Michael Tarallo is the Director of Sales Engineering and our feature today on Q&A. To learn more about Mike and his role at Pentaho we asked him 5 questions.
1. What brought you to Pentaho?
It was spring of 2007 and after about 9+ years at Information Builders (IBI), a proprietary Business Intelligence company, I felt I achieved all that I could and decided to “find new cheese”. Around the time I was promoted to Senior Sales Engineer at IBI, a recruiter approached me speaking in tongues of this “thing” called “Open Source Business Intelligence.” I remember thinking, “Sheesh, I am having a hard enough time selling this expensive proprietary stuff, how the heck am I going to sell Open Source since it’s already free?” However, after a thorough investigation, I decided to leave my comfortable position at IBI for a company that was new and exciting called Pentaho.
When I finally learned that Open Source is not about “free” software but more about community, collaboration and better software, I was immediately enlightened and couldn’t wait to get started. I distinctly remember the Sales Manager at IBI, attempting to put fear in my head, “Ya know Mike, the grass isn’t always greener.” Well, sir 4 Years later, not only is the grass greener, but it is thicker and fuller than ever. Remember, comfort is the enemy of achievement – (Dr. Farrah Gray)
2. What do you do?
I am the Director of Sales Engineering, responsible for leading the Sales Engineers and pre-sales activities within the organization. I started 4 years ago as the first Pentaho Sales Consultant (SC), responsible for Pre-Sales activities. There are technical and consulting related activities that occur during the sales cycle, before the actual sale hence Pre-Sales. Pentaho was still fairly new at the time and either sales team members or Product Management performed many product demonstrations. As the company grew it became increasingly important to a build a group that would focus support on the sales team as its pre-sales activities increased. My initial goal was to introduce pre-sales processes, create collateral and demonstrations that focused on “solutions” for business problems, rather than demonstrate a bunch of “tools”.
As the Pentaho Sales and Pre-Sales teams grew worldwide, there was a huge demand on Sales Engineer (SE) resources. With the continued growth of the company and finally a larger team of SEs – I was promoted to Director of Sales Engineering in order to lead and proliferate those processes throughout our group.
3. Why are Sales Engineers a vital part of the success of a sales cycle?
Sales Engineers are the stage performers of the IT world: immensely capable, adaptable, confident, excellent communicators who are equally cool in front of large crowds and intimate groups. Sales Engineers work closely with Pentaho Account Managers to demonstrate the breadth and depth of Pentaho products as a complete solution.
Sales Engineering provides what I call the “Solution Vision” to the prospect who is evaluating our software. We present the “Art of the Possible” by demonstrating and discussing how Pentaho software fits in the context of their landscape. At all costs we try to stay away from generic demonstrations, but sometimes you have to play the game. And when we do play, we play hard. Let’s face it; there are a lot of software packages that can “do” the same thing. Sales Engineering provides that 2% factor by establishing a relationship with the prospect and making them feel comfortable that the Pentaho solution can meet their specific needs. Without Sales Engineering, a crucial piece of the sales process would be missing.
4. What makes a good Sales Engineer (SE)?
There are a number of facets that make a good SE, good. But, there are key factors that make a good SE, great. Some of these characteristics are learned over time, and some are just part of one’s personality and are difficult to master. Aside from technical expertise, one important quality of a great SE is, communication. Learning not only how to communicate with the prospect but also with the account rep and other members of the SE team.
Every person, whether prospect or rep, is different. The key is being able to listen to what is being said and also what is not being said. This is important so the appropriate persuasive questions can be asked and proper expectations can be set.
Once communication skills are honed a SE should be able to translate the product’s technical software capabilities into the suitable business value to the prospect. There is nothing worse than demonstrating software to a company who has no idea why you just showed it to them.
I feel that an SE also needs to establish themselves as a leader in his/her domain. If your technical strength lies in some sort of application development you may want to focus your talents in the OEM group – where it is more about embedding and integrating the software into the prospect’s applications. If you are able to articulate the business value better or provide subject matter expertise you can specialize in creating vertical demonstrations and collateral relevant to the sectors you are working with.
Finally….energy, lots of energy, enough said.
5. What does the “Pre” in Pre-Sales stand for?
Doing a demonstration without knowing anything is called a “show up and throw up.” Hoping you know what a prospect wants is not good enough. It is critical to know their exact needs and how to best demonstrate our capabilities. I prefer to think of the “Pre” to stand for: P-prepare, R-respond, E-execute. Those actions will make for shorter sales cycles, proper customer expectations and increased sales.
Want to see what Mike is up to now?
Do you have additional questions for Mike? Is there someone or a certain role at Pentaho you would like us to interview? Leave your questions in the comments section below. We’d love to hear from you.