Episode 008 – Introducing The PreSales Candidate Spotlight! An Inspiring Chat with Senior Software Engineer Leonard Aronson on His Pivot to PreSales

Summary

In this uniquely formatted episode, I interview one of our amazing listeners, Leonard Aronson, who is a Senior Software Engineer that is in the process of pivoting to a career in PreSales! It was so, so awesome to have him on the show to discuss questions that he shared in advance (thanks again, Len!) 

This episode is also a preamble to our forthcoming three-part learning series that will help you confidently navigate the PreSales job hunt and interview process. 

We discuss key strategies to identify the ideal PreSales position tailored to your unique skills and aspirations. Len shares insightful tips from advice he’s received on resume refactoring to help you craft a compelling application, and our discussion breaks down common interview processes so that you can more confidently navigate your next interview. 

I’m confident it will be a helpful initial guide on how to find the right PreSales position, optimize your interview prep process, and gain clarity on the end-to-end candidate journey within PreSales pursuits!

Resources Discussed

Learning Resources within the PreSales Community

Sales & Demo Skill Building (Books, Courses, Sales Frameworks / Methodologies, etc.)

Technical Skill Building (Course Platforms, Youtube Channels, etc.)

Recording Tools

Demo Automation Tools


PLEASE NOTE: I use an AI-based service for episode transcriptions, so please forgive any transcription typos found below!

[00:00:00] Matt Madden: Hey everyone, this is Matt Madden and so excited for today's episode. I'm here with Len Aronson and Len reached out to me to let me know he had heard the podcast, he had some questions about where he's at in his journey, and I'm gonna let him share the story of his background and that origin story.

But I can't tell you how excited I was and just how grateful I am to have Len on the show. And so just wanna start by saying thanks for coming on, Len.

[00:00:26] Leonard Aronson: Thanks for having me.

[00:00:27] Matt Madden: Absolutely, man. And. did something amazing, which was you put together a list of some topics around three key areas that are top of mind for you right now with where you're at in your journey, looking to break into presales.

And so this episode is gonna be the first to really kick off. What I'm really looking forward to a series around these topics, which is really to summarize, like if we were gonna boil it into one thing is the process of when you're looking for the job, there are some key components, and if we break it into three buckets, that's, finding the right position within presales, it's application and interview prep.

So when you're at that stage of it, what are best practices when you're going through and doing that? And then finally, when you actually get into the interview, what should you expect? And so just wanna thank you again for putting the time into thinking through that. And I'm hoping we can answer a lot of questions so far, and I'm looking forward to just kind of hearing about your learning journey as you've, dove into that.

[00:01:32] Leonard Aronson: Yeah, absolutely. My pleasure. I'm glad I could send those over to you.

[00:01:36] Matt Madden: Awesome. Well, Len, I'd love to start just by, go into where you're at in terms of your technical career, because you already work in tech today, which is amazing. And there are certainly folks out there that are totally green to working for a technology company. And so I think it'll be helpful for them to hear your perspective.

But can we start there? Just give us a high level understanding of your current skillset, your role, and then we can move into your interest in, transitioning to pre-sales after that.

[00:02:10] Leonard Aronson: Yeah, totally. so I've been working as a software engineer for the last eight years, and I've had the opportunity to work across a couple of different industries. I've worked in healthcare, tech, um, sports technology and education technology, and. Through working at those companies. I've worked as a full stack engineer and I'm currently working as a senior backend engineer.

But really all in all I've spent a lot of time building software systems to, help promote my company's passion or, or mission, whether that be healthcare or sports or education. Um, and so I've worked with, multiple different tech stacks and I've had the opportunity to work with a bunch of different engineers from a bunch of different backgrounds, and it's been a really wonderful experience.

I've, I've loved building software and, working with other folks to overcome, specific challenges. And, um, yeah, it's been great.

[00:03:02] Matt Madden: That's amazing. And within that, it sounds like you've covered a lot of ground within these different areas, different companies. And just curious, if you had to say within your engineering tool belt is there one or two or three areas that are like, this is my superpower and I'm really bringing that to the table?

regardless of what I do next, whether it's in pre-sales or if it's within my current role or, or another engineering role.

[00:03:27] Leonard Aronson: Yeah, definitely. so I really enjoy working on the backend side of things, so building out APIs and working on backend infrastructure. specifically what I really have enjoyed over the last year is warning, Kubernetes, which is kind of like a backend specific technology and diving into that I've found to be really fun, challenging and pretty interesting.

Uh, so working in that area has, has it really been where my main focus is and where I have really thrived.

[00:03:59] Matt Madden: got it. I mean, with where you're at today and the thought of how valuable, within certain companies that really specialize in, orchestration and so on, like

Is that an area that you could see yourself? Wanting to go and work for a company that specializes maybe in services or tooling or so on within the backend. it sounds like you're very well-equipped at that space, but is that an area that you would like to, if you were more on the customer facing side, while also still being able to put on your, your technical hat as needed, that you're interested in?

Because I think this really brings us to one of the first things you were asking around is when we think about looking for the right position, you had some great questions around, are there positions that are best suited for individuals with certain backgrounds? And so that's one I wanted to ask you and just get your thoughts on.

[00:04:47] Leonard Aronson: Yeah, I definitely have found that, when trying to break into a new space, playing into your strengths is super important. And so, like you said, working at a company that is promoting a service like that around tooling or, dev tools or some type of API solution,for me personally, would be really wonderful because I think that I would really be able to quickly dive in, understand that product, understand the architecture from a technology standpoint, which really helped me in moving towards some type of pre-sales role, and working in that space.

[00:05:24] Matt Madden: Definitely, and I would certainly encourage that because there are so many opportunities I would imagine, within just that particular, Area of, technology that you could go and find some lucrative pre-sales roles. And oftentimes, I will say, what I've learned and observed is while being a sales engineer at certain companies doesn't necessarily require having the strongest technical background like somebody on your level, there are certainly companies where that needs to be the case.

You have to understand from the, back in engineering shoes, like I've been there. I've been the one working within Kubernetes. I know exactly what you're going through and why the solution we're gonna deliver is gonna make your life so much better, easier. Eliminate that pain you're feeling.

Whatever the value or pain that you know, your tool is just made to help deliver or solve in the case of pain, then That credibility that you bring there, I think is key and huge. So to your point, playing to your strengths, keeping that in mind, I mean, it sounds like your head is in the right place there, but I'll also say I would encourage you if you do have interest in maybe going to work for a certain organization that's just in a space that you really want to grow within and you really are interested, maybe in that particular vertical, have nothing to do with dev tooling.

I wouldn't rule that out, especially with your background. So, just would say don't feel like you're limited to that is what I would encourage. And I'm curious to hear, um, I know you mentioned before we started recording that you've connected with some others, since we, you know, initially started speaking and preparing for this episode.

What type of advice have you gotten along those lines? compared to what I just shared? Is it similar or anything else that'd be useful for others to hear?

[00:07:12] Leonard Aronson: Yeah. it's very, very similar to what you're saying. I personally am interested in AI right now. I think that's a super hot topic and, I would love to work in a pre-sales capacity in that space. And I think that there are definitely parallels between the things that I know and what I can bring to the table in that industry as well.

And so I think that it's about, you know, not necessarily strictly playing to your strengths and doing exactly what you know, but I think it's kind of taking what you do know and translating that into a space that you may not know as well. um, and, and working towards that goal, uh, is great.

And that's kind of the advice that I've gotten.I've talked with a lot of people who work in a bunch of different industries and I've asked a very similar question of, Should I be focusing on getting in, in working for, a company in an industry that I have a little bit of experience in?

And of course the, the answer has typically been, yeah, it would definitely help, but it's definitely not necessary.

[00:08:13] Matt Madden: Yeah, no, that's spot on. and it does bring us to some of the skillsets that can always be shored up, even if you feel like you're. Great. Or you have a natural strength around relating existing experience to something that has parallels like Just being able to tell the story of how, while the experience you have today might have been in a completely different vertical or a completely different focus area in terms of the product or service that you were focused on, helping develop as an engineer, working with the backend team and so on.

Being able to relate that to just as you've taken the time to do your homework, which we should talk about cuz you brought that up as one of the things around how deep should I go? Perhaps when I'm at the stage trying to find the right company, in learning what they do, What's the lay of the land?

What's gonna be key information to just help them know that I know what I'm talking about when I, try to speak to the value of their company throughout the interview process and, and why that's interesting for me and relatable to your experience. So I think that is gonna be key, being able to just relate that and I mean, that's something even once you start as a sales engineer, solutions consultant, whatever the title may be, within pre-sales.

You'll need to continually refine and, great leaders and peers will, help you do that. Learning through their examples of, how do we relate, problems we've solved for maybe one vertical using our solution that had a similar situation, but maybe different in terms of, the space they're in.

If we think about like healthcare and the ecosystem there versus financial services and how one solution could drive, value in a similar way. But it's serving a lot of very different stakeholders in terms of the problems being solved by the solution and so on. So, and that's kind of high level and, but hopefully that parallel is helpful when you think about the job hunt process cuz it, it doesn't stop there, you know, in terms of refining that skill of transferring your, your experience into the situation as you would transferring the products value, from one use case to another.

[00:10:23] Leonard Aronson: Yeah. And, as I've been looking for these types of pre-sales roles, I've noticed that, as I'm going through and looking at potential employers and potential companies, I'm looking at their products and their websites in a completely different way. so when I was applying for tech jobs, I would typically look at, a company's website and say, okay, what solution are they providing and what's the technology solution that they're trying to promote?

but now I'm looking at their websites and I'm saying, What business problems are they trying to solve? What value are they trying to bring to their clients? And it's great because looking at a company's website in that way has put me, in a position where I'm wearing that kind of sales engineering, pre-sales hat.

I'm trying to understand the, solution in a totally different way. and even more so. It's been interesting because I've, I've been looking at these websites and I've noticed, the top menu on a website. They have the, the product, and then they have a solutions tab. And I've started to notice, oh, there's a reason for that.

They're trying to display their value in beforehand, when I was looking at, uh, technology solution, I was just thinking, what's the tech stack? But now I'm looking at it in a completely different way.

[00:11:33] Matt Madden: Definitely. No, that's great.

I think continuing to look at it in the way that you are now is just gonna serve you very well as you dive in learning that, and we can get into, this is kind of a nice segue, but I don't wanna go there yet cause I want to Spend some time on the why for you in transitioning to pre-sales, cuz we hadn't quite come back to that yet.

But what I'll say is it is a nice segue into the interview process and prep best practices we talk about. because yeah, going through the site in a specific way, at a certain stage, because you don't need to understand all elements of necessarily the product yet. Um, and you won't obviously through the interview process, like there's gonna be just a lot of learning,but you can learn enough to, to be dangerous.

We can talk about that, but let's come back to your why. with breaking into pre-sales from, from where you're at today, you're a senior backend engineer, a lot of people who aren't working in tech would be like, wow, Len has got an amazing role right now. And, just because you wanna break into pre-sales doesn't detract from that fact.

But, why for you, is the role appealing? And I'll just leave it at that and, you can go wherever you want with it.

[00:12:41] Leonard Aronson: Sure, sure. so over the last four years I've been working as a computer engineer at smaller startups. Uh,in the teams that I've been working on are like, Four or five people max. And because of that, I've had the opportunity to wear a bunch of different hats that are kind of engineering adjacent.

So I've worn the product manager hat, or even a sales enablement hat. And through those experiences, I've come to realize that my favorite part of my past jobs has been more client facing. And I started to look for positions that could provide, more of those opportunities for me.

And I stumbled upon pre-sales and sales engineering solutions consultants, and I really became interested in trying to obtain one of those positions.

[00:13:31] Matt Madden: That's amazing man. And what a fine to recognize a, when you're thinking about where do you go next, reflecting on the fact that you wore a bunch of different hats, which is key as a sales engineer having the ability to confidently do that because you'll still continue to, as you've probably heard, from speaking with others and learn more about the role.

especially within startup world, if you are working as a sales engineer, you're gonna be doing your best work when you are helping support lots of other teams in addition to your core focus within pre-sales. So, having the mindset that you had just when you started this journey, to reflect and think. I really enjoyed, interacting, being customer facing, that part of your job. And so, coming back to relating your background experience, that's something that I would absolutely weave into your story. not that I'm an interview expert by any means, but if I were in your shoes, based on what you just told me, that relatability of how you've served the product team, Ian worked cross-functionally is something that if I were sitting there in the interview process, would be music to my ears, just because I know how much I do that Similarly I've found that working closely with.

The teams that are most focused on a, the product. So product and then, uh, b marketing and, people that are focused on sales enablement. from that perspective, just really, very tip of the spear, top of the funnel focus. helping them as they're producing content. So being that bridge to help them understand, what are the key message points that are resonating.

What are the key questions that you're hearing? as a account, executives are bringing you in on sales meetings,likely to deliver a demo or maybe they've got some technical stakeholders that need to come in and really just Understand, vet the application, from many different angles.

If it is a, you know, let's just say a SaaS application, whatever the product may be, I mean, there usually will be that stage in the journey and so on. So just being prepared to a, put on the right hat for the different meeting. But b, comfortably switch gears like that. It sounds like you've got, experience on the engineering side, doing that already, working with other teams.

So definitely would encourage you to think about how you refine,your story around that and just weave it into, a response that would likely come if somebody, wants to speak to that element of it or understand. Have you had experience, working with other teams, as they're trying to vet?

would Len be comfortable in front of clients or in front of product and so on? whatever it may be.

[00:16:09] Leonard Aronson: Yeah. And, and that's really what, my last, couple of months of trying to find these positions has really been, I've, I've interacted with so many people who are working as, pre-sales professionals now and listening to what they do and thinking back and saying, oh, I can totally relate something that I've done to an experience that you're saying that you've had in your role.

in, in kind of connecting those two worlds has been really a cool experience for me and has given me, it's been encouraging.

[00:16:41] Matt Madden: That's incredible. And it should be because, you know, one of the questions you had for me was, how can individuals who are lacking experience, in sales skills, prepare themselves for a pre-sales role. which obviously as you call out in your message to me, you know, it does require a blend of technical skills and those soft skills around selling and communications.

And so that relatability, in those instances of how do you apply that story, and do it concisely, in a way that, is in a narrative that connects is key. And so, I would give yourself credit. You're, in a good spot with where it sounds like, your head is at from a, you know, let me now get into the interview process.

So it's really probably a good time we can talk about that. Um, when we think about, applying and preparing for. Well let's just, let's just start with the application and interview prep at this stage. Just curious for you, we don't have to talk about obviously, anywhere that you may have applied thus far, but, I'm wondering are there specific areas that, you're particularly focused in on that we could talk about?

just in terms of like from a strategy perspective, like you mentioned AI and then we talked about tools or services that might, really be designed to sell into the backend engineering teams within, an organization. so I'm assuming those are two buckets.

Are there any others that you're looking at right now? Like, are you actively looking at job role descriptions and so on?

[00:18:10] Leonard Aronson: Yeah, I, I think that you kind of hit the nail on the head. it's really, backend technology is tooling, that world and then also the world of, specifically AI observability, I think is super cool and has a lot of parallels to some of the technologies that I think that I could, relate to and, and I think that I could add value in those spaces.

So those are the two that I'm mainly working towards and talking about application strategy, I've really tried to hone in on those types of companies. I've really tried to create a short list of, companies that I think that are in those spaces that I could add value to as a sales engineer.

And I've used that list to kind of focus myself and help me build out applications for those specific companies in those specific industries.

[00:19:02] Matt Madden: Awesome. Well, th that's certainly a great way to start. It sounds like just from your approach and path and focus. So now that you've got that, I mean, one key point at this stage is oftentimes just reflecting on the structure of how you're telling your story and what we know is the necessary evil for, uh, a lot of just, formalities within applying for the role is your resume.

so I think before we talk about other elements let's just start with the resume. are you at a stage now where you feel confident about what you've put together or are are resources that, you've found so far you're curious about, um, that you'd love perspective on?

Even if I don't have that, we can hopefully have people in the community listeners out there that can hear this follow up and just say, Hey, you know what, you guys didn't talk about this, but Len should know about this. You know, what's been your experience and where are you at with that

[00:19:53] Leonard Aronson: yeah. My resume has gone through quite a transformation over the last couple of months. so a great piece of advice that was given to me, was that if you're trying to move vertically in your career path, the standard template of a resume where you're wasting your work experiences in chronological order based off of where you performed that task, what job you performed that task, um, makes sense.

However, if you're trying to switch. Career paths a little bit or kind of move horizontally rather than wis those items chronologically, you could bucket those items into a type of, like a category of what skill that experience, promotes. So on my resume now I have a bucket for technology and I have a bucket for sales enablement and I have a bucket for data optimization.

And so somebody who looks at my resume is able to easily scan and say, oh, when has these skills? And that is really valuable. That could be really valuable to us, as a, a pre-sales professional working at our company. and so that I think was a really wonderful piece of advice. it's, it's made our resume a lot better.

[00:21:16] Matt Madden: yeah. No, I love that. you mentioned Scanability, obviously, you know, if you've been in the position of receiving multiple candidates at that early stage, we know. I mean, it's a reality. There's not a lot of time spent there. Scanability is everything.

We also need to make sure, unfortunately, even still today, there are the systems that are automatically scanning these systems. And if certain words aren't there, then you're, you're not in the running. But I think, you know, for you, thankfully, you've got a lot of opportunity to optimize your chances of getting warm referrals into opportunities as they open up.

when, which brings us to kind of other elements of just. Beyond seeing a role that's gone up as open and putting your name in the ring by submitting your application through the formal process. Thinking about ways that you can, through networking, which sounds like you have, uh, natural strength at as well.

I mean, you know, you reached out to me, I know you've been connecting with others in the role. You're doing a lot of all the right things when it comes to educating yourself and along the way, connecting with others who are already working in the field, but doing so in a authentic way that, people will want to continue to help you on this path.

And I'm just excited for you there. And so, you know, in thinking about that, I was curious, could you speak to me about, in the listeners about. Any communities that have been helpful so far, what resources have been most useful for you on this journey? I'm honored that you said the podcast has been helpful.

I know it's fairly new and hasn't been around that long, but there are folks that have been doing this a long time, so I'd love for you to, give them a shameless plug and just speak towhat helped, and then we can talk about maybe where are some of the areas where I couldn't find as much information?

Cause I know we want to talk about some of that too, and I wanna be sure to link to a lot of those resources in the show notes.

[00:23:10] Leonard Aronson: Yeah, definitely. so yeah, first off, this podcast has been super helpful. I've really enjoyed listening to it, so, I was super excited to be able to come on and, contribute, but, um, yeah, yeah. but other than that, uh, huge shout out to the pre-sales collective and the community there. it's been just a really wonderful experience connecting with folks, from the pre-sales collective.

Everyone's been super warm and welcoming and willing to help, and it's been great to connect with people. I feel like there's, a lot of people who are kind of in my corner now, not necessarily that they're putting in job referrals for me or anything, but people who I could reach out to and ask a question or, or get some help on, on an application or get an interview tip from everyone who I've talked to has been just so, so welcoming, and it's been really great.

[00:23:59] Matt Madden: Gosh, I'm so glad to hear that. Yeah. Presales Collective, their name comes up regularly on our show. Just such an amazing community that I'm part of as well. And I'm just pumped about all of the great things they're doing, from, their events throughout the year.

I know they just had the, diversity summit and just so much great things you can be doing. It sounds like you're plugged in there and connecting with others, so that's been amazing. what else has been, helpful as well? Any, books, uh, blogs. I mean, anything that people can go out or that I can easily link to is also helpful.

[00:24:31] Leonard Aronson: Definitely, definitely. so. One of the first topics I was recommended to look up was the Samware Selling System, which, I feel like that, that has been a name that's been dropped to me a couple of times.

So reading the book about the 49 Selling rules, from the Sandler system has been super helpful, especially as somebody who's coming from a tech background. It's a really quick read. It gives you a lot of concrete steps that you can take to put yourself into a salesman's mind. and I found that to be super helpful.

and I've been given a couple of other, recommendations like Great demo by Peter Cohen, demonstrating to Win by Robert Reall. I can never get his name right. but those are two books that I are on my list and I'm looking forward to reading.

[00:25:18] Matt Madden: Awesome. Yeah, no, definitely. I, I need to read, demonstrating to Win as well. So on my list too, great demo is one, I'm actually,reading the latest version of now. So I'm excited it hasn't come out yet, but to be able to share some feedback with Peter Cohen who's gonna be on the show soon.

I'm really excited about that. Yeah. And, we had Paul Pierce, you know, who's like the principal trainer and, leading a lot over at Great Demo today, as well as, doing Discovery. So another good book to put on the list, also by, Peter Cohen. But those are great resources, and one question you had to me was, are there any courses or certificates, other resources that would be worth investing time, and or money into?

so, you know, I'm not here to sell other people's stuff, but I will speak to some of the things that I've been exposed to that could be helpful and I'll link to those two, in addition to all the resources we've talked about so far, but. Something that, I've found pretty helpful too.

just when it comes to methodology, thinking about, um, connecting Value is some of the content that's been put out by, p club.io as well. So Chris Orla, he used to lead sales at Gong and helped grow that function a lot. So, you know, one thing I've noticed as I start to look at a lot of different content, you're, you're gonna pick up things that are working well, exist across multiple different methodologies.

So that's something you've probably, maybe started to see as you're starting to read some of these methodologies, like are, is the focus around, getting to understanding pain, really getting clear about what's important to who we're talking about from a sales process, versus just showing them everything we got and hoping something resonates.

just these, these things that should be. They seem if you've been selling or in sales for a while, like common sense. But the reality is a lot of times we do a lot more pitching than we do listening, um, in, in sales, even people that have been doing sales for a while. So Len, hopefully that can be encouraging for you.

I'm sure as you're diving into, great demo as you're driving into other resources that are out there, I think you'll pick up on threads. At least that's been my experience of these are commonalities, this, of, consistent messaging from people who know what's working and what's a best practice that, I'm starting to see the patterns and like as somebody who, has a back in engineering background, software engineering background, and you think about just architectures with what's working, what's not.

I think just kind of thinking about, the sales methodologies you're gonna hear because there are a lot of different ones out there. I would encourage you to be open to learning What you're being taught by your sales leadership or what they rally around and really understanding why when you do get in as a pre-sales, professional, you know, land your first role as a sales engineer and so on.

because for me, there have been, messages, different approaches that I've been exposed to, just in that way. And even before pre-sales. I actually came from more of a sales background before and, and learned my technical skillsets kinda leading up to making that transition out of pure sales roles like inside sales or like an outside field rep, which is effectively an account executive in, software, hardware.

But yeah, I mean, so I saw a lot of different methods, that I learned back in, in those days before working in pre-sales. But like even today, one that was recently put on my radar called, command of the Message, which, I believe is by a company called Force Management. But it's one, that we're. Rallying around alongside, medic, in medic You, you mentioned, I believe, you'd heard Med Pick as a methodology, like a variation of Medic. And so for those who are out here that are like, what the hell is medic? Uh, you know, what are, what are these things? I'll include links as well, but Medic is one in complex software sales that comes up a lot and it's been around for a while, and in an effective way of really getting all the right information that you would want to have, to help ensure and optimize that that opportunity that you're pursuing is going to have the best chances of leading to, a deal.

One that is of great value for both parties involved. Like obviously that's, that's what we want at the end of the day for sales. we don't just wanna sell something to get the sale done and then the customer's not happy. And so I'm not here to preach like I'm a sales goo or either, I'm just trying to speak from, my experience there, but, Yeah, so get off my soapbox on, on different resources that are out there.

more will come up as we go, but yeah, I think, certainly within the pre-sales community, there's some exciting, things that are happening from vendors in the space too that are coming up that I think would be worth mentioning for you to check out if you're not planning to already, like, have you heard of Demo Fest?

[00:30:00] Leonard Aronson: Oh yeah, I already signed up.

[00:30:02] Matt Madden: yeah. Awesome. Very cool.

[00:30:05] Leonard Aronson: Yeah. And, and I think that one thing that you touched on, which is, is super important and something that I struggled with is, yeah, there's a ton of resources out there, but, something you said, kind of finding tropes and finding similarities between all of these different selling systems.

One thing that I've noticed is kind of this idea of like, value-based selling instead of kind of just showing, and kind of like promoting that, you understand the value that your product brings and showing that to a potential client is something that is different from what I do in a technical, role right now where I'm just so focused on functionality and showing what the product does and transitioning to what value does the product bring.

that's like one key tenant that I think that I've picked up. And I, I also wanna add that. one of the best things that I've found, as a resource is really just talking to other people. You pick up so much from talking and warning from their experiences. and you can read all of these books, but, I've really found the most helpful thing for me has been connecting and networking and talking to other folks who have gotten a deep experience as a presale professional.

where you can learn from them. that's I think, been one of the best tools that I've found.

[00:31:19] Matt Madden: Absolutely. Yeah. I mean, you're gonna hear it from the trenches, and so for everybody out there that's listening, Get involved with pre-sales collective, get active on LinkedIn. reach out to people that are maybe working at the company that you'd like to work for in a sales engineering capacity solutions consultant capacity.

And just see if they'll give you 30 minutes, just give you a lay of the land, what's their experience been like there, be transparent with them about, what your interests are, but you're not there to sell them if they take the meeting on why you should be on their team.

And Len, I think it sounds like you, you know, you've got a really good sense of that. Like just how to get a, authentic conversation going that, for you is gonna be helpful with where you're at and, and people want to help. and I'm just, yeah, I'm excited for other folks to, to follow up on that.

One last thing I'll say about resources and we talked about consensus and how they have. their upcoming, virtual event around, demo Fest. And I know they have Demo Fest actually in person, I believe, at other locations. But there are, when we think about skills and things that you could dive into or educate yourself on today, one trend that I see happening a lot in terms of within the market, and Consensus talks about this a lot, obviously in their, their space that they're in, as does others that are in the demo automation, kind of self-service demo space.

so companies like Demo Stack or Reprise or Nevada, um, we're Nevada. there's a handful of others, story lane. Um, quite a few. And these tools, I don't know, to what extent have you dug into any of those, Len or kind of looked into those, because you've probably seen like these guys sponsor different things that pre-sales collective and so on.

But I'm not sure, uh, if you'd like gotten on their sites and really test, drove any of that.

[00:33:11] Leonard Aronson: The only one that I've really taken the time to look into is gong, but I definitely look forward to looking into some of those tools, in the links for this podcast.

[00:33:20] Matt Madden: Awesome. No, yeah, I'll send 'em over to you and we'll link to 'em in the show notes as well. We're gonna have some serious show notes at the end of this episode, so, so, uh, yeah, bear with me. I'll try to make 'em really easy to dive into for everyone. But yeah, one, the reason I bring it up, not just to plug those other companies, it's really because we're using a tool like that today, in my role as something I advocated for, and it's been really helpful so far.

and it's just because the nature of today's buyer is being a very educated buyer out of the gate. to, you know, take the, the phrase of a great book that's also on my list that I, I recently heard a great presentation by, but the book's called Sell the Way You Buy, um, David Premier.

He wrote the book and I've got it sitting on a shelf next to me. It's in the queue. thankfully I was able to get a free copy after going to that presentation, but, it just, the concept of what often is referred to as buyer enablement, which is, with consensus you can go and kind of choose your own adventure from actual videos that an organization has recorded and they have that experience in consensus.

but there are also more, when you think about product tours, you've probably experienced that, like seeing that, going through just something from like a intercom based product tour. Now that I'm registered as a user, I have eight steps that I need to go through to give me an overview of some of the key features.

Is that familiar in your world, Len?

[00:34:42] Leonard Aronson: Yeah, definitely. Product demos is something that I'm super familiar with.

[00:34:46] Matt Madden: Yeah. And so with that, I would just say go to those, when you go to check out some of those demo automation platforms, go to their customer's tab on their website and they'll link out to a lot of 'em, a handful of customers that have live demos on their site today that they've embedded.

Cause that's a common use case. Um, and so with that, I think it'll give you a good sense of messaging when you think about what would a high level initial demo potentially look like if I were delivering it for a company that you wanna go work for as a sales engineer. Because from what I've seen, some companies do a lot better job than others of really focusing on that value-based messaging like you were talking about and how they structure it.

So it can give you a framework to kind of think about and say, okay, I saw company, a and b. Did a really nice job of setting up the value, speaking to the pain at this point in the demo, and really not focusing on feature function, but telling a story throughout and what does a good story look like throughout a demo that's really sales focus versus just a product demo.

that might be more common on the pure engineering side, where it's like, you know, we've developed this. Here's where we're at. We've got a release. Let me take you through and show how this works. which is, more, this is how it works and end to end. It was built on around these requirements and so on, versus like somebody has a business problem or a pain initiative they really need to solve, and what do the stories look like?

so, Yeah, a bit of a tangent, but I think that could be really helpful if, you were wondering when I'm gonna do a demo, where are some ways I can, see a demo, potentially from maybe that organization if they have something like that before I get into that stage of the interview process.

[00:36:34] Leonard Aronson: That's great advice and, uh, it's definitely something I've been wondering about as I've moved forward with the process. I know that mock demos are something that, I'm probably going to have to have to do in an interview. and so where do I get a, a demonstration on how to do a demonstration? and so that's, that's great advice.

[00:36:55] Matt Madden: Yeah. And that, that was one of the things that you'd raised. And I, you asked about Demo Fest recordings. I think those would be great to go through. I mean, even ones from years prior, cuz I mean, so much of this knowledge can be evergreen while technology is evolving all the time, obviously, and especially you mentioned interest in moving into the AI space.

I would reckon that there are a lot of demos, some, all across the spectrum of quality we'll say, um, on YouTube from people that are giving an overview from companies like even, I don't know if there's an open AI demo, but just to say if chat GPTs in a large language models is a space you're interested in, there's maybe free videos.

And if there's not just going to wherever their content hub is on the site, and even if it's gated, give them your email. I mean, you're gonna get an understanding of how their marketing team, their tip of the spear sales efforts, what does that messaging look like? And I think that are things that you can also recycle.

I've found that. my day-to-day, even when it comes to understanding messaging from other companies that are in our space, it can be really helpful just to stay on the pulse of like, where are things heading? Can I pick up or infer trends, based on the types of webinars that, um, are starting to really crop up.

Like, you know, all these other companies have their ear to the ground, on what are people talking about when we're having these conversations with potential prospects? And they're gonna want to obviously develop content around that's gonna get them into the funnel and, and hopefully turn into a good opportunity for them to, to serve them through their product or service.

And so, I would encourage you to, find the newsletters, or subscribe to the email list of any of those companies that you're interested in. And if they follow up with you and you know, it could be an opportunity even to connect , obviously you don't wanna lead somebody on like they think maybe you're a good client, but if you're signing up with your personal email and you don't get blocked with that, or just something you could download, then, then I would say go for it.

think about something like a Twilio where you could go and create your, your dev profile on their site today and start getting hands on with their APIs, like a lot of that content you're gonna be able to get in and educate yourself on and in their interview process, I, I would think they would, they would hope that you've done that.

You know, so

[00:39:09] Leonard Aronson: Yep. And yeah, I've definitely gotten a bunch of those emails from, sales reps asking me if, if me or my company was interested in the particular product, and I've had to respond saying, oh, well, you know, I'm kind of just looking, from, the perspective of somebody who's potentially looking to work as a pre-sales professional there.

[00:39:26] Matt Madden: Sure. Well, hopefully this might help you feel less bad, but a lot of those emails are totally automated, so

[00:39:32] Leonard Aronson: Yeah, yeah.

[00:39:34] Matt Madden: I mean, you probably pick up on that, but,

[00:39:35] Leonard Aronson: yeah, I did, I have gotten some responses though, so, you know.

[00:39:39] Matt Madden: That's good.

[00:39:40] Leonard Aronson: Yeah,

[00:39:41] Matt Madden: Yeah, no, I mean, I just, if there's the feeling of like, oh God, this person took the time to personalize this email to me, and I mean, some people definitely do on that initial outreach, so don't want to knock that, but, but yeah, that makes sense.

That's just part of it. Um, so, well, great. One of the things that I'd like to shift to, we've talked about. The application process, interview prep, best practices. And I know there's a lot of ground we could cover, within just kind of the two pillars we've touched on so far. You know, finding the right position that's aligned with your goals being the first pillar.

Second pillar being what we just mentioned, application and interview prep, best practices. Um, and so the next area that I just wanna close with some questions around is that what to expect during the interview process. and it kind of dovetails from what you and I were discussing around when you're on a website of a company that you might wanna go work for, you're educating yourself, you're learning it.

To what extent should you learn the business problems that they're looking to solve and really kind of go deep there. And then shift gears to learning elements of the, technical aspects of their product to the extent that they make that information available. Um, if it is, let's just say, you know, API-centric product, that their documentation is available, that's an area I would assume you're very comfortable.

That's like you diving in Len and kind of wrapping your head around. But how deep do you go, even if you're comfortable, that being the case.

[00:41:09] Leonard Aronson: Yeah.

[00:41:10] Matt Madden: yeah, I mean, I would love to just open it up to you. Um, you know, when you get one, one comment I was gonna make is I think that it can be helpful to take it in phases, which it sounds like what you were aligning for, because the interview process is gonna kind of mirror that.

Where initially you're probably gonna have higher level conversation with a recruiter, or somebody operating in that capacity. It's gonna be very kind of business centric, alignment centric. And then, That's where that understanding the company at a high level, why it's a fit for you.

Those types of conversations is that front end prep. But then you're gonna get to a stage where you know, if it's a good company, they're gonna give you a very clear picture of what does this whole process look like and how much time do you have to prepare? And so that's when you can make the judgment call of when do I need to maybe dive into the documentation, but not doing that right out of the gate unless you're just really curious and have the time.

[00:42:02] Leonard Aronson: Gotcha. Gotcha. That's great advice. And the real reason that question came up for me is that, as an engineer, you kind of get trained to just dive as deep as you can and really understand the technology, so you're able to use it in the most effective way. And this is coming at it from a totally new perspective, and it's been something that I've been curious about.

[00:42:24] Matt Madden: Yeah, certainly. Um, one thing that I've seen as a consistent trend for any application process I've been involved with, as a sales engineer, has been the stage of the journey where there will be a hands-on or, you know, mock demo element to it, right? or it could be a project, it could be a demo.

oftentimes can be both. like they can be different phases and so, that's probably something you've heard or learned about thus far, from others. but you know, with that, I think that's probably a stage where you think about, oftentimes I see it framed up as. here's the business case, here's the scenario.

Something that you could expect to be information that would be learned by an account executive during their initial conversation, as well as their kind of discovery conversation. If they, if they do decent discovery on the front end, going into a potential opportunity. And so, you know, it could be that, um, I've also seen where it's just like a totally random project, which is really just a vet, like, do you have the technical chops to get hands on with our product?

Know it has nothing to do with the use cases that we aim to solve. So that could happen too. Um, but, you know, that's why it's hard to say. Like, you wanna be prepared to speak to their product. but if they give you a pet project, you know, that's like unrelated, like learning what you need to know or, or if you have to learn anything or just, you know, diving in.

I think that's one of the strengths that obviously you have today as an engineer. You're used to going deep and that's not gonna come natural. Like for people that don't have that background until they start like building that muscle,

effective Googling, um, and just diving in, finding the information you need, knowing how to. Go to things like Stack Overflow even today. I mean, like, let's just set chat GPTs and the large language models aside as like, a knowledge bank and, go to something that's been such a tried and true source of information.

for engineers when you have a specific problem, um, one thing I've noticed is the more senior an engineer, the much better they are at getting just a shit ton of value, a part of my language out of Stack overflow quickly. And like from an answer, having the knowledge and context to say, okay, this example was set up here, but I know that I applied in this capacity.

in a certain way they just can connect the dots so much more quickly. for a lot of people out there, You know, if they haven't experienced Stack Overflow yet, like they're coming from a non-tech background, wanting to transfer into a sales engineering role, certainly that's something as you start building, engineering skills that you'll stumble upon or you should go check out right now when, when you hear this.

But, um,

[00:45:00] Leonard Aronson: I can throw out a shout out to the people who I've been working with for the last eight years, the tech community's also extremely welcoming. And there are so many people who are willing to, to help you out and give you time and walk you through things and post a bunch of examples on the internet.

So, Google and the internet is definitely your friend, in that regard.

[00:45:22] Matt Madden: Absolutely. Yeah. And that's one of the things for me, I. Wanted to become a front end engineer, as a starting point. And then I got really through doing different projects, fell in love with working with data and projects around that. And so just got very interested in, okay, let me build my analytical chops and data science and so on.

And just learning about resources. Like, everything from free Code Camp to data camp now to, you know, there's just so, so many Code Academy, I mean, when it comes to just building those skill sets. And so I'm curious, do you have a favorite, I know we're getting on a bit of a learning resource tangent around, technical skills, but, like a go-to that you would recommend to somebody if they're just like, they're wanting to become a, front end or backend or full stack engineer.

[00:46:05] Leonard Aronson: As far as a resource goes,

[00:46:07] Matt Madden: Just in terms of what's available on the web today, courses or so on.

[00:46:11] Leonard Aronson: Yeah. I think for like picking things up quickly, fire Ship on YouTube is a super fun channel. they put out like three or four minute videos, pertaining to the cool hip tech things of the day. Uh, but then, coding Blocks is a great podcast that I listen to. Um, and then it's been a while since I've done like an online coding bootcamp, but I remember a while ago when I was in college trying to learn some front end technologies that I wasn't learning in any of my courses.

I used something called Treehouse that was around. It was really great and useful, and it got me up and running in coding a mobile app for my iPhone.

[00:46:52] Matt Madden: Yeah. That's awesome. Yeah, I have actually used Treehouse a lot, a few years back, um, as well, kind of earlier in my journey. so That's cool. Yeah. There's, there's so many good ones out there, so we'll, we'll link to Treehouse and a few others, as well. But, yeah,

YouTube is just such a great resource for free learning too, so you don't have to spend an arm and a, leg to, to go and educate yourself on, on the technical side as, as you well know. So I, I hope others are, are encouraged by that even though the extra structure and so on can be really helpful for, for certain folks.

If you do wanna do something like a bootcamp that costs a little more,

[00:47:23] Leonard Aronson: definitely. Yeah. YouTube is, is huge. I think that if you're interested in like college courses, they have those posted up there and there are so many people who post, coding tutorials really in-depth ones up on YouTube. So it, it's, it's a great call out. It's a great resource.

[00:47:40] Matt Madden: absolutely. Great. Well, Man, I think we could go on for, for quite a while here. I love, I love where we're at. I mean, we've been kinda wrapping up talking about the interview process and we've gone down a couple rabbit holes around resources, but I think it's gonna be ultimately helpful for listeners and, just wanna. Touch on one question you had that I'll certainly expand on in some of the follow on episodes, uh, which I think it's a good time to mention. This is feeding into a series around just kinda deep dives in these areas. So we'll go deeper on some of the key call outs that we've had throughout our conversation.

It'll be, informational kind of bite size episodes, if you will, that I'm gonna do kind of the learning spotlight similar to the one that I did on chat G p t a few episodes back. And I'm gonna just speak to these three pillars we've talked about. So I think one that we'll really round out is gonna be what to expect during the interview process.

There are some good resources out there. I actually, in the first episode of the podcast, had a good conversation, at that time where we dove deep into what did he feel like was a good. Process around an interview versus what feels maybe bloated or convoluted, like too many stages, steps that were a little confusing and so on.

Um, I've had experiences on both ends of the spectrum, and so I kind of raised the question in that interview with him, but just one thing to say, there can be, it's not like, uh, as you might imagine for any company, if you line up five companies, they might have five different interview processes.

Right? But there has been, I feel like within presales, a. Good process. I've seen, and I, I don't have a ton of data points. I'd be really curious to hear from folks in the community if they hear this, and want to just help share their journey or experience. Like what, what they really, like about, a well-structured interview motion versus maybe one that might be a little overkill and like, how can companies learn from that to make it a better experience for the candidate?

there are a lot of great people, obviously in the presales community and presales leadership that I think will have stronger opinions than I on what is the right process or an ideal process there.

But for me, I like, I like the opportunity to connect with others. And so if, if you don't have that as part of the interview process, like one of your peers, I would encourage you to ask for it. I mean, it's likely that it will be, they'll either be brought in on your demo if you have to deliver a mock demo, which is really common after that technical, just gotta check the box stage of the interview to make sure you know what you're talking about, which is gonna be, one of your, your strengths.

I feel very confident there in the demo piece, in that mock prep piece. That's where, I'm curious to know what other folks are doing in the community who are actively searching if they're just reaching out to others like you suggested networking to say, Hey, like, I'm in the interview process and I'm preparing, I've got this interview, mock demo next Tuesday.

Can we sit down for 30 minutes? Just let me bounce it off the wall and you gimme feedback. cuz I would absolutely be happy to do that for you Len, if you need that. And I, I just would love to know if there are resources out there to do that. If not, happy to help people in that capacity.

Cuz I, I've seen other sales engineers that have just been very generous with their time in a similar way. just throwing that out there and so yeah, just wanted to get your thoughts. Have you heard anything, or add any suggestions when it comes to the mock interview? Um, and, people you could bounce that off of?

[00:51:03] Leonard Aronson: well first off, thank you. I really appreciate that and I'll definitely hit you up on it. But, um, yeah, there have been a lot of people who have also been willing, to, meet with me, say, Hey, here's a good way to do a mock demo, and if you want to present to me before you actually have your interview, I'd be happy to, to go through that process with you and give you some notes and tell you how you could potentially improve.

so yeah, that's just another way that the community has been super open and welcoming and, and willing to help. it's been really great.

[00:51:33] Matt Madden: awesome. Well, I think that's excellent for other people to hear as well, like, because that's something that. You know, I actually hadn't done in prep, preparing for any of the interviews that I've had, for sales engineering thus far in my career. pre-sales collective wasn't nearly as large of a community at that point.

I hadn't thought to reach out to others and I was kind of, you know, a little, little nervous. you got a lot on your plate and thinking about it. but I think people should be encouraged by that. Like, reach out people will help. if they have the time and if they don't like, maybe point you in the right direction or give you feedback even I would consider too recording that demo, just delivering it.

there's a lot of good resources to quickly record yourself. could be Loom, for example, loom, l o oms, a great one that's commonly used within tech companies. and you just send a quick, five minute video. But short and sweet I think is something I would definitely recommend.

Think about how you can most concisely convey the value and how you can. Question into benefits that you might be speaking to. I mean, it depends on the nature of the role play. One thing that you can expect is E every good company I've interviewed for when it comes to the mock demo, will give you clear guidance on, what they're looking for specifically, what, what are you to speak to, what do they wanna see?

and even I've had some great managers in that process give some tips on here's what's worked really well for candidates that are sales engineers today. And here are maybe areas to avoid. And so, If you get that, level, of detail, that's, that's extremely helpful.

Not always gonna happen, but just so you know, it could, so definitely have your notepad ready when you're speaking with the hiring manager. Cuz in those scenarios they offered to do a pre mock demo prep call. So just know that, I mean, you might not be necessarily be thrown to the wolfs, by a good pre-sales manager.

They'll, they want to see you if they feel good about, what they've learned about you thus far and that you're a really potentially strong fit for the role they want you to do well. Um, so, and, and so does everybody obviously that said, Hey, I'll, I'll help you in that process, even if they're not involved with the hiring team.

[00:53:39] Leonard Aronson: Yeah. Yeah, definitely. and actually something that I've been curious about, which you may have insight on, is, is it okay to ask questions? If you're given kind of a mock demo scenario, is it okay to ask for them to elaborate in certain scenarios or ask, any questions that you may have about the product when you're in that situation?

[00:54:01] Matt Madden: Absolutely. I mean, I obviously can't speak for everybody, but I would assume most answer to that would be yes. I would ask questions especially if it's an opportunity to, show that I'm understanding the problem space on a level that would, if I'm on the hiring team, would we think, okay, he gets what we're going for here and maybe is, reading the tea leafs a little bit on what could be some of the areas we might go with our questioning as you're delivering the demo.

so definitely, I mean, it's a two way street in on the question front, even when you're delivering the demo. if somebody asks you a question, and I found, at least in my experience, People typically won't, throw curve balls at you the whole time. They, you know, are respectful and mindful about that.

Unless you really start going down a rabbit hole as like danger zone, why would you do that? Like, and they, they have to call your BS or something like that, but you know, that's not a path that, situation you'll get yourself in. But just to say that, feel confident to be able to ask them questions

to dig into the question behind their question, so to speak.Because when we're live, actually having that conversation with customers as sales engineers, that's part of continuing the discovery process that, Great sales engineers and solutions consultants that I've seen on the field, really do an awesome job at, is helping continue to build that trust and understanding of the need of the client or potential client at that stage through questions we can ask because, we're delivering value by helping educate them and the demo, but it also gives us the opportunity to educate ourselves a little more on where they're coming from and just build that dialogue.

[00:55:37] Leonard Aronson: Cool. Cool.

[00:55:39] Matt Madden: yep. Awesome. Well, Len, speaking of, being generous with time, you have been extremely generous with yours on this and, we've been recording for, over an hour now, so I, I can't thank you enough for coming on the show. I, just have one last question for you. is there anything we didn't talk about, yet today on this episode that you'd like to share or, that you'd just like to reflect on or, questions that we should follow up on in this upcoming series?

[00:56:05] Leonard Aronson: First off, it's just been an absolute pleasure. I really want to thank you for having me. it's been great. things that we haven't touched on, I, I think the, the number one thing, or number one piece of advice that I've been given is just to kind of put yourself out there. Don't be afraid to send a message to somebody.

Don't be afraid to send a message to a direct contact for an application you're trying to, send out for a job. just be open and willing to kind of throw your name into the community, because you'll probably get a response.

[00:56:36] Matt Madden: definitely. And that's amazing advice to pass on to others. So thanks for sharing that, Len. I would second that a hundred percent thousand percent. Don't be afraid. I can be so intimidating, but from what I've seen, especially for folks that are out there who are trying to help educate, bring people into the field.

Myself being a prime example, when you sent me that email and I was through the roof, just to hear that like, Hey, here's somebody that I can potentially help, by answering specific questions. And I know there are just so many others out there, that, might not even be actively producing content like I am right now to try to help others, but they're more than willing in the same exact capacity to help if they can.

You know? And if they can, hopefully they'd be respectful and let you know, or maybe even point you in the right direction to somebody that, that they know could be of better help. so definitely go for that.

[00:57:27] Leonard Aronson: totally.

[00:57:29] Matt Madden: Awesome. Well, Len, thanks again. we'll be in touch in, to everybody listening. Like I said, we'll have a series of, three follow on deep Dive Learning Spotlight episodes to expand upon what Len and I have talked on, throughout today's episode when it comes to the hiring process that you'll go through on your path to pre-sales.

Like Len's on now. And Len, I just wish you the best of luck in your journey, and I, look forward to stay in touch moving forward

[00:57:54] Leonard Aronson: Definitely same here, and thank you.


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