Saturday, September 23, 2017

Sales Engineer Guide: Hunter or Farmer

Enterprise level sales representatives are a whole other breed of person from their pre-sales engineer. Enterprise sales representatives execute and help formulate corporate sales strategies and programs.  They must be extremely self-confident sometimes carrying entire companies on their backs. Sales representatives performance directly impact the job stability of everyone else in the company. Pre Sales Engineers do best when they understand the personalities and styles of their partner representatives.  Two major personality types are hunters and farmers. Most people are a mix of the two but some are hard core hunter or farmer.

A Note on the Danger of Stereotypes

Hunters and Farmers are descriptive stereotypes.  You rarely run into someone who is completely anything.  Think of this as you would any other personality classifications. It is a useful way of reminding yourself that you may need different approaches with different people in the same jobs.

Hunters

These folks seek out, track down and kill whatever deal they can find.  They tend to be more aggressive in planning meetings and in sales calls. Hunters have a shorter more aggressive attention span than farmers.  Their sales situations can be very fluid with more aggressive posturing and positioning. 

Sales Engineers may struggle when working with their first Hunter sales reps.  Sales Engineers tend to be more cautious wanting to provide right answers.  Hunters can truly partner with their sales engineers but often use them as accessors to back their stories.  

Startup companies tend to use Hunters when spinning up.  They also tend to appear in tech companies looking for an IPO or acquisition.

Farmers

These folks tend to cultivate accounts taking the longer view. They build broader relationships and take approaches that can really frustrate their Hunter brethren. Farmers take the long view. Sometimes they end up with huge deals and sometimes they have crop failure and go hungry. I've seen farmers sell nothing for a 9 months and still end up on stage at the sales meeting because they closed their long term projects.

Farmers tend to do better with customer companies that actually want a partner.  Their approach is generally more holistic.  Consultive farming can be wasted on prospects that treat all vendors as adversaries.

Know Your Partner

Sales Representatives are the ones that are held accountable for performance.  They carry the quota, earn the bigger rewards and take the lead on customer interaction.  Sales Engineers act as their adjunct. Both parties are smart and driven.  If you are lucky, this creates a dynamic relationship where the zone between the two parties core competency is dynamic based on need.

The best sales reps know how to leverage their team resources including pre-sales engineers.  They know when and where to coach Sales Engineers in their operating style and the role then want the Engineers to play.  The reps best know when and where to let their pre-sales resources operate independently to increase account coverage and visibility.  

Pre Sales Engineers are engineers at heart and tend to focus on hard skills like product knowledge. The best sales engineers study how their various representatives operate and adjust to their styles. They learn where their boundaries and when to jump in or stay back. 

Wrap Up

Sales Representatives own the deal and the Pre Sales Engineers own making sure the customer has no reason to say no.  There is variation in how this works because both the sales team and customers are people.  I've seen Pre Sales Engineers carry big deals across multiple account realignments. I've seen Sales Representatives do great jobs at answering detailed product discussions.  Sometimes those both work and sometimes they end in smoking craters.  Know your representatives, know your limits an continually improve. Working in a technical sales environment can sometimes be the best job in the world.

Created 9/2017

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Playing with Web Apps in Azure? Create a Resource Group and App Service plan first.

I dabbled in Windows web app Azure deployments for 3 or 4 years before I realized I needed to pay attention to the Resource Group and App Service Plans I was using.   This became especially expensive when deploying CI/CD pipelines while teaching classes or when doing random operations while trying to understand how stuff worked.  I partially blame the great Visual Studio integration / wizards for this.  They made it easy to "start clean" every time I created a new project.

Resource Groups let you bundle all the components that make up an applications or composite system.   See the Azure Resource Manager overview for more information.  

Application Service plans are specific to web and task type deployments.  They describe the compute resources that will be sued by one or more Web Application deployments. You can think of it as a PaaS or Docker type container which is filled with deployments.  Multiple deployments and run in a plan.  A plan should generally not be used across application stacks.

Create a resource group for related work


My personal policy is to create a single prototyping/demo Resource Group that is my ad-hoc default.  I tend to name them in a way that I can figure out my intention for them from the main Azure dashboard and include my subscription, general usage area and the targeted region.  

This image shows the Resource Group creation screen.  Pay attention to the "Resource Group Location"
This shows three resource groups in in two different regions.  My MSDN free Visual Studio VSTS instance is in one resource group.  The other two resource groups are for application work.

Demos and prototypes can share the same resource group. More serious work requires more serious thought. You will have to decide which system components should be in the same resource group. Think about the lifecycle and retention policies of each component of a system.  Long lived components like data stores may be managed by other teams or have other management policies.

Create Application Service plan(s) into which you can deploy applications

Azure billing for PaaS style web applications is based on the App Service plan cost.  You can save money, especially in a prototyping or demonstration environment, by deploying multiple web applications into the same Application Service plan.  This is a good way of stretching MSDN Azure credits or saving your company money.  Enterprises tend to create Service Plans along business unit or billing code boundaries.

I keep a Free plan and a shared plan live for my projects. The free plan lets me do basic stuff without charge as long as SSL isn't required.  The shared plan runs $10/mo/app and adds SSL and 4X the CPU minutes. Free (F1) and Shared (D1) tiers have compute limits that may be good enough for demos and low volume sites.  

Create one or two plans.  One free 60/CPU minutes and one shared with 240/CPU minutes per month. 

Azure always defaults to "Standard" Pricing Tier when creating a new Application Service plan.  It does this in the Azure portal AND in the Visual Studio wizard. The picture at right shows a new plan using "D1 Shared". You must change the Pricing Tier if you want Free are Shared.  This is another good reason to create your App Service plan prior to coding.

You can fit one always-live Basic (B) or Standard (S) into an MSDN subscription if you want more performance or want to play with autoscale. 

Enterprises probably have standard Application Service plan sizes starting with the Basic (B1/B2/...) in development environments and Standard (S1/S2/...) semi-production environments.  

Microsoft has great documentation on Application Service plans.  These two can get you started

Wrap Up

Deploying Applications in Azure is easy.  Cost and resource management is also easy with just a little bit of pre-staging of Resource Groups and Application Service plans. 

These suggestions may not apply in situations where automation completely tears down and builds environments or where they are in conflict with larger enterprise policies.