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Hi John,

I'm one of the more senior SE's within my company and
have been an SE for over fifteen years so I agree with you
that it is one of the best jobs in the world! However - I want
to get even better at my job and am having a really hard
time getting feedback from either my boss or the
salespeople that I work with.  
Comments like "that was
great" or "I really liked your demo" are not very helpful!

Any suggestions how to get this process started?

ill - Central US
Hello Bill,

Thanks for the question. Sometimes when you are a senior
player it’s hard to get any feedback as people may consider
you the “best of the best”. However – I’d also have to say
that you need to take a long hard look at any feedback that
you did get from people in the past. Did you listen and
acknowledge it and did you put any of it into action? If that
is the case they might feel that you are resistant or even
hostile to feedback and that is why they won’t say anything
because they don’t want to cause conflict or upset you.

But let’s move on and assume that is not the case.

The short answer is “
you need to beg for it”. The longer
answer is really in two parts!

Firstly I’d use the old Management Consulting trick of T3-
B3-N3. That means:


It really is a great way to get more specific feedback and
you also get it categorized. Make sure that you accept the
feedback and understand why the comments are being
made. This doesn’t mean that you totally agree with it, but
you need to show that you are willing to listen. I always
think that feedback is a precious gift.

The second source of feedback, that you didn’t mention, is
your customer. Try one of these approaches, if appropriate,
to solicit feedback from a customer. With each of these
approaches they should be positioned as a personal
request, rather than a request from your company or even
your marketing department – it is far less threatening to a
customer. I’ve also had far more success doing this in a
one-on-one format rather than with a group.

1.        During a break in the sales call, or in some follow-up
call, ask for feedback. Position it as “
I’m responsible for
making some changes to the way we present/ demo /
whiteboard our solution and I’d love to get some totally
unbiased, independent customer feedback – can you help me
” Then ask what the customer really remembers from
the previous session and why they remember it. Also ask
for confusing areas, boring parts of the pitch and if there
was one thing they really really liked – what was it? Keep
your question minimal and open-ended if possible.

2.        Same situation, except state “
I’m up for a promotion in
a month or so, and my boss will be coming out to watch me
give a few of these demos. Any feedback on what worked and
what didn’t?
”  Almost everyone wants to get promoted at
some point.

3.        Once the customer is talking, then probe about the
competition. “
Without giving away any secrets, how did we
compare to <competitor> in terms of ….?”
. Don’t ask about
sales-ey items such as product capabilities or pricing,
instead ask about impact, delivery, memorability etc.

These ideas should get you started. I have always found
that as long as you are not directly forcing the customer to
compare product-to-product and that you inject the
personal point of view, most customers are willing and able
to help you out. You just have to ask.

Good luck with the feedback requests. And make sure you
give me some feedback in three months about how well the
T3-B3-N3 worked!

Tell me 3 things I did/said that you really liked
that I should just keep doing. Most reps, peers
and even your boss will give this kind of
These are the Top 3.
Tell me 3 things I did/said that you think I
should not do again.
These are the Bottom 3.
Tell me 3 things that I (or we) didn’t do on this
call that we should think about doing next time.

These are the
Next 3 items.