A while back, when I was in the operations side of security, I wrote a series about how to be a good security admin / manager.Â It was fairly successful and got some good play out there in the blogosphere, so I figured that I would write something akin to those posts in aÂ blatant attempt to drive more traffic to my site.Â
Oh yeah, and I, ummm, want to make a difference in the security industry, or something… whatever.
So, how to be a good SE.Â First, let’s define the term “SE”.Â In many to most cases, that term means System Engineer.Â In my case, it means Security Engineer.Â Both perform the same function, however.Â At least they do in what I am referring to here, and that is in their pre-sales role.
AÂ pre-sales SE is often perceived as the salesperson’s lapdog, to be ordered around and told where to go and when to be there.Â This may be the perception, but it is almost always not the case.Â The real truth is that the SE is the one who follows the salesperson around and makes sure the salesperson is telling the customer the truth.Â For example: “No, Bob, this product cannot call down lightening and destroy hackers attempting to break in to the website.”Â
If you can’t tell, I have been reading “The Dilbert Principle”.
But in all seriousness, the reality is thatÂ the SE’s number one job is to protect the customer from making mistakes and buying the wrong product for their needs.Â Â That is also the salesperson’s job.Â And though I can say with all seriousness and honesty that all of the salespeople I have met at Accuvant truly are honest and try to protect their customers, this is not always the case out there.Â A salesperson has a quota, and they have pressure to meet that quota, and they don’t always have their customer’s best interests in mind.Â So the SE has to be that buffer.Â And when an SE meets with customers, he is EXPECTED to be that buffer that the technical people at the customer need.
In case you didn’t get that, I’ll type it again.Â The SE is EXPECTED to be the buffer.Â That means that the SE is expected to be honest in his appraisal of the situation.Â He is looked at as the guy who works for a living, just like the technical people in the trenches.Â He is supposed to be the guy who knows what the technical people are going through day after day, dealing with users, management, etc.Â Even if the SE has never held a true operations type job, he still will be perceived as such.Â That perception is what garners trust in the SE, and that trust CANNOT be broken.
What many people may not know is that pre-sales SE’s typically get bonused on salesÂ (they don’t get the same compensation as salespeople, but they do not have as much at stake either).Â And just like salespeople, SE’sÂ with VAR’s (like me) are often approached by manufacturers with incentives to push their product (these are often very good – money, electronics, etc.).Â This is called a spiff.Â These two things together canÂ cause serious temptation for the SE to notÂ make the customer’s needs the number one concern.
But if you are and SE, or are considering a move to this type of position, you MUST be able to resist this type of temptation.Â Notice that I am not saying it is wrong to accept these types of rewards (most of the time, you cannot take an SE job without the bonus, and I would personally think you are a little crazy if you didn’t take it -Â and taking a spiff is not wrong if you made an honest sale and kept the customer’s need on the forefront).Â But you must be able to look long term.Â The desire for an immediate reward must be superseded by the customer’s needs.Â
And when the SE does resist the immediate gratification, he will almost always see a long-term return that comes from a relationship with the customer because that customer knows he can trust the SE.Â It is often the case that once a relationship is established with a customer, the SE is the person who is contacted most.Â That is because the SE has direct knowledge and contacts with people who can solve the customer’s problems.Â So creating that bond of trust will lead to dividends for the SE’s employeer, and the SE as well.
So all that in a nutshell is this: create REAL trust with the customer by keeping his / her needs first.Â You may have to wait a little longer for your reward, but it will be a greater reward after all is said and done.Â And just so you know, I do not meanÂ only monetary reward.Â The reward of being trusted and held in high esteem is also a reward, and it can be more valuable than any earthly possession.