Even Hemingway Had Help Telling Stories

Bill Balnave
4 min readSep 13, 2022

It is said that the best solution demonstrations tell a story that touches the audience. If done right, the demo convinces and inspires that audience to examine the solution further and hopefully decide to buy it. Sales engineers, to be effective, need to know how to tell good stories. And the good ones do. And the best ones are particularly good at it.

There is a risk that comes with being so good. I’ve seen it in many a great SE, and even the mediocre ones like I was. The SE that knows how to craft an amazing demo also tends not to step back and be objective or ask for outside help. You can get yourself so deep into building out this amazing story and so excited about it that you don’t consider how anyone else would not also think the same thing. The issue is that you are immersed in the story. You are not just the tree, you’re down to the roots and ferns at the bottom of the tree. There’s a chance you’ve forgotten the forest completely. You think about prepping with your AE, but he’s probably going to just tell you to do whatever you think is best. You may consider showing your manager or one of your colleagues, but you tell yourself they wouldn’t really be helpful because they don’t know the opportunity (which is exactly why they would be very helpful). So, you spend the time going through it yourself, making sure you have your talk track and click path, looking forward to how impressed and excited the prospect will be when you show it.

Just these thoughts alone still give me that kick in the gut feeling. I don’t remember the prospect, but I remember being convinced immediately following the initial meeting we had with them. We had the best solution. There was so much we could do for them. And I was going to craft the most amazing story. It was an important demo, so I asked the AE if he wanted to do a dry run to validate what I was showing. “No — I trust you” was all he said. And of course, he did. I had a great reputation and had delivered some good demos. I executed my carefully crafted flow and told my story. And as my demo progressed, I could see the little faces in the Zoom squares glaze over. Some of them even looked confused. I normally feed off audience energy, but I was getting nothing here. When the demo wrapped, the prospect confessed it seemed complicated. My brain silently screamed: “How could it not be — what you…

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Bill Balnave

Half geek half sales guy wholly opinionated writer who found sales engineering and made a good living at it. Giving back to help those looking to do same.