Sunday, August 9, 2009

Official Sales Engineer

Thursday morning, I was crazy enough to get up at 6:30 AM to referee three basketball games starting at 8 AM. Fortunately I wasn't the only one as I had two others join me for the three games. One of my partners was Tiffany, who works in the same high school officials group with me. In addition she works junior college basketball games as well.

Tiffany is a good official and she offered lots of tips and suggestions during our three games that helped me out a lot. However, there was one thing we talked about that really sunk in with me. I had asked Tiffany if she was going to move beyond high school and junior college basketball for upcoming the 2009-2010 season. For lots of officials, junior college basketball is a spring board into NCAA basketball.

Tiffany said she had no such plans for the upcoming season. While Tiffany felt confident in her skills and abilities as an official, she felt she had not been exposed to enough different scenarios in her short time as a high school and junior college official.

The reason this resonated with me was due to my last job as a Sales Engineer. I had come into the job last August not completely understanding my role as a Sales Engineer. Fortunately, I had plenty of experienced people to help me. In my initial months on the job, I learned I needed to understand the software services as well as present them in a more "sales oriented" way.

It took me a little while to learn all our services and fine tune my "sales pitch" for the services. As I got comfortable, I thought: "This isn't too tough. I can do this job." Alas, life also has a way of reminding you that not everything is going to go smoothly.

As I progressed from some basic sales calls to more complex calls, I had a major realization. The initial sales pitch, my knowledge of our services and my technical sales pitch weren't always going to enough. For a business to plunk down hundreds or thousands of dollars a month for our services, they needed to be completely convinced the services were a fit.

This is where the challenges came up. Every business had different technical needs and as the Sales Engineer you were expected to handle the questions. The simple questions revolved around our services and what they could do. The harder questions sometimes revolved around competitors or whether our services could fulfill a specific require the business had in mind. Even the best Sales Engineer would tell you they don't know everything. However, they do know how to say "We'll get back to you" if they didn't know whether the services would fulfill the business need.

In a sense, basketball officials are glorified sales people. All officials want to do is to convince everyone that they are enforcing the rules of the game properly. Generally, being in position and blowing the whistle on fouls & violations are sufficient. However, on a game to game basis, there will scenarios that come up that need to be addressed. Some may involve just talking to players or coaches and diffusing things.

Like my last job as a Sales Engineer, there may be scenarios that need to be addressed with knowledge. Instead of technical knowledge, this would be basketball rules knowledge. But it isn't as simple as it sounds. A lot of people think they know the rules but the official basketball rules book is thick and very technical. It's not exactly something you can read once and understand. Once the knowledge has been gained, the rest is all about experience. You handle a scenario once or twice and it should stay with you.

Despite having quite a few years of officiating experience under my belt, I do feel like my rules knowledge needs to be improved. Also, while I have experience, I don't think I've absorbed the lessons as well as I could have in the past. However, it is never too late to get started! Getting up at 6:30 AM on Thursday was a bit crazy but learning a few things along the way was good. Hopefully, I can take these lessons and continue to improve.

1 comment:

  1. Kudos, Don. Great stuff. I look forward to more. you might consider shopping it to the NCBOA site.

    Keep up the good work!

    Chris H.