Book Review: Six Habits of Highly Effective Sales Engineers


Today I’m taking a look at the 6 Habits of Highly Effective Sales Engineers by Chris White.  Would I recommend it?   Well in a veritable desert of books aimed at helping sales engineers perfect their craft, The Six Habits is a welcome addition to the sales engineer toolkit. My opinion, every sales engineer and SE manager should learn the  Six Habits which are SPOILER ALERT  Partner, Probe, Prepare, Practice, Perform, and Perfect.

Summary of Book:

The book is analogous to the “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”, in that in has a prescriptive process for each of the habits,  with the Plot Twist that it is highly focused around sales engineers (and apparently 1 more habit efficient),, Chris uses some anecdotes to  share with the readers his experiences that led him to the six habits, and ultimately the tips and tricks of each habit.  Chris also uses  conversations with other authors in this rather small space to reinforce many of the lessons he has written about. 

 Book Details: Plot

I won’t go into depth on every habit, but I want to highlight the things that jumped out at me and will convince  you that it’s worth diving deeper into the chapters.

Partner – Demonstrates how you work with and build relationships with your account executives. Partner not only sets guidelines and rules on how to work AE’s but  It also makes you responsible for the technical win within the account which I thought was really adds weight to the SE’s role in an account.

Probe – Probe describes a methodology in which the sales Engineer spends  time  with their Account Executive and the customers to define what the customer really wants to see within a demo.  To get to the technical win there’s a lot of discovery done ahead of time and Probe gives good examples about why this is necessary and how this actually flips the conversation to make you more successful in the demo that you give.

Prepare –  Prepare really resonated with me when it comes time to step up and perform, Prepare is about building a great story, and it’s the story that actually moves not only the people involved, but the sales process forward.  Your focus should not be on the features and the widgets, but on the story that you’re able to build that makes an emotional connection.  Not all technical people are great storytellers, some of them just want to spray features, but a quick review of this habit will help right that ship. 

Practice – Practicing seems like a no-brainer to me,  but I think Chris wanted to dive into this to be more prescriptive about practice,  it’s about practicing every single click in your demonstration.  He gives him great anecdotes about failures and  about some great successes, and what to do when things don’t go the way you want them to.  As I like to say, hope is not a plan so go practice practice practice.

Perform – Perform had just a lot of really great nuggets in it and I want to share 3 with you. 

  • First is Know the players, research them, know the decision-makers, the technical influencers, the users and the uninvited guests.  If you don’t do this, there is a risk of looking bad.  
  • The next nugget is begin with the end,  hit your audience  up front with what the great thing is and grab their attention out of the gates.   
  • Lastly, a great demo is like a magic trick,  there’s this big reveal followed by ooo’s and aahhh’s, but unlike a magician, you’re actually going to tell them how you got there. 

Perfect –  Like Stephen Covey,  Chris White wants you to sharpen the saw,  in the book there is a reference to Sales being a team sport and “Perfect” is the Habit where  you get with your account executive,  you sit down and “watch game film” and you the find that thing that you can improve next time.  Differently from Stephen Covey, Chris was able to get there in 6 habits, but the point is you can’t rest on thinking you were great, you always have to perfect your craft.

Evaluation and Conclusion

Once upon a time I would have referred to this book as a medium length business trip book (you can read it on your 2 flights and your hotel stay).  With the Pandemic it maybe is a car ride and beach read.   It reads quickly and you don’t have to invest a lot of time reading the book and learning what the habits are to decide if they are worth putting into practice.  

I think if you are a seasoned experienced sales engineer the book might be a little remedial for you, but judging from Chris White’s experience, having put these into practice he was able to go to presidents Club every year so, the worst that can happen is you spend a few hours reading the book to see if there’s anything that you can improve yourself on, and who knows, you may end up at presidents Club yourself. 

So that’s the 6 Habits of Highly Effective Sales and Engineers, a definite read recommendation. 


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