SE Secrets for Doing the Work that Drives Deals

Perri Bronson

Every hiring manager dreams of finding more Sales Engineers like Pablo Bonilla. He joined Cloudera as a first-time SE armed with a wealth of relevant experience from years of administering his previous companies’ Cloudera instances. He led Hadoop administration at HP for years before that. From a technology perspective, this gave him a major leg up in his new role. But, no matter how deep the expertise one brings to the table, it can be tricky to ramp up when starting in the world of PreSales.

Having started my own SaaS career as an SE, I’ve lived the pain of getting my “sea legs” in PreSales–sifting through endless CRM reports, opportunities, and fields just to check the pulse on deals I was assigned. Investing time on activities without knowing if they moved the needle. And most frustrating were my futile attempts to add insights to my deals and product feedback, knowing they’d be lost in the abyss of PreSales notes. 

Given all of this, it was encouraging to hear how Pablo’s experience differed, having started his SE career at a company that uses Vivun. Knowing how much PreSales leaders care about their people, I’m sharing a synopsis of our discussion to shed some light on how Cloudera sets up its SEs (new and seasoned) for success.

Perri: Coming to Cloudera, new to the SE role, how did you ramp up?

Pablo: First and foremost, my amazing teammates and manager were, and still are, my top resources getting started in a PreSales role. Hero by Vivun has operationalized their wisdom and helped me learn faster. It’s my source of truth and data for my deals and opportunities. Since the beginning, it has helped me understand my customers better, which lets me manage my work to drive value for them and impact deals.

Perri: Having gotten to know Henry Sowell, VP of Solutions Engineering Operations at Cloudera, I learned that one critical insight he gained when the team adopted Vivun was that too much time was being spent on “break/fix” types of support. Quantifying this impact renewed focus on core revenue-driving activities like product demos. Given that demos take priority now, how have you optimized your own?

Pablo: Most importantly, I constantly practice the demos I need to present. Through that process, I learn what works and correct my mistakes. It’s also essential to keep up to date with the latest technologies to ensure the stories we tell are relevant, compelling and will set us up for a technical win. I also got a lot of value from reading the book The Six Habits of Highly Effective Sales Engineers, by Chris White and attending one of his workshops.

Perri: I know that Cloudera doesn’t buy into traditional “time tracking” for SEs, but team members spend around 10-15 minutes per week capturing activity using our Hero’s Calendar Intelligence. What has it been like adopting that process?

Pablo: Other tools I have used in the past did not have this smooth integration with my calendar, making it difficult to ingest all the data on a weekly basis. Having my time tracking organized by deals and customers in the vivun calendar view gives me a better idea of how I am spending my time and helps me see where I should focus.

Perri: That’s wonderful to hear. How does Hero help you know where to spend your time?

Pablo: With the PreSales funnel, I can easily see each of my deals and their stages from my team’s perspective and my counterparts in Sales. For example, I like to prioritize my deals on the “Solutioning Stage,” where I have to get my demos prepared.

Perri: That sounds incredibly useful. In what other ways are you getting value from Vivun?

Pablo: All of the deal management aspects are great and help me partner with Sales to close more business, but we haven’t even talked about my favorite feature yet! Hero makes it easy to track Product Gaps on accounts and opportunities in a single, integrated flow. This is awesome because we have a massive stack of technologies at Cloudera. You might have 10 Product Managers working on any given product area. If the customer feedback were spread across too many sources, it would get lost and become outdated. With Vivun, we get critical feedback to Product and Engineering in real time and automatically show the revenue impact. For example, a customer identified a gap in one of our on-prem solutions that truly put the deal at risk. Since we could identify and surface this with Hero, we rallied around the cause of this risk, found all the other opportunities and customers that were affected, and got the fix prioritized, which saved the deal and benefited the existing accounts.

As you can see from Pablo’s experience, the PreSales team at Cloudera has a tremendous impact on their business. Curious to learn more about how Vivun helps them from the leadership side? Check out the webinar with Pablo’s VP of Solutions Engineering Operations:

Perri Bronson January 10, 2023