The Best Sales Engineers on Television

Quick… think of one resource you would recommend to an aspiring sales engineer to learn the finer points of giving great demos. A book? A blog? A class?

I recommend watching TV.

Couple Watching Movie In Living Room

Watch TV, Become a better Sales Engineer

So, which TV show is all about sales engineering?… None of them. Sales engineers are almost completely nonexistent in the television universe.  We don’t even exist in the otherwise perfect mirror image of Silicon Valley represented by the show of the same name. One character in the show Halt and Catch Fire is sales engineer and while it’s a fine show, it’s not the one I would recommend to teach someone about this job.

What TV show do I recommend for all aspiring sales engineers? Next Food Network Star on the Food Channel.

For those of you not familiar, Next Food Network Star is a show where contestants compete in weekly tests of their food knowledge and skill, combined with their ability to entertain while dealing with complex and changing requirements. Replace food with software and you have a show about people attending several weeks of Sales Engineer training camp.

Don’t see it yet? Think about this…

A great food network star contestant must:

  • Be an authority on food (when a cilantro plant flowers, it is then known as coriander)
  • Possess critical technical skills (clean a fish, dice an onion, cook a steak)
  • Have a specific point of view (everything is better when it’s cooked on a grill)
  • Present to a camera or a live audience, while both cooking and talking
  • Entertain the audience by telling a story
  • Deal with unexpected problems that happen during live food demos
  • Make people want to tune to future episodes

In comparison, a great sales engineer must

  • Be an authority on their products
  • Possess critical technical skills
  • Present complex software to a live audience
  • Have a specific point of view (my solution is the best in the market)
  • Support their point of view by telling customer stories
  • Deal with unexpected problems that happen during live software demos
  • Achieve the technical close to help win the deal

As it happens, both jobs place a lot of emphasis on developing the ability to deliver an excellent demo, either a food demo or a software demo.

If you are already a veteran sales engineer (ie, you are past the “aspiring” stage) then watching Next Food Network Star will remind you of a few critical points regarding demos:

  • Have a message and stick to it
  • Connect your message to both your demo and a story
  • Never tell the audience about what has gone wrong behind the scenes
  • Never lose your cool, even when things go off the rails
  • Your demo delivery should not be overly scripted, but you also can’t just wing it and hope for the best; there is a fine balance somewhere in the middle

So, tune into to Next Food Network Star and get some ideas on how to up your game. Along the way you might learn how to filet a fish, cook a steak or open a bottle of wine without a wine opener.

Hmmm… on second though, Next Food Network Star never ventures too far into the topic of wine, so I will show you my favorite video demonstrating how to open a bottle of wine without a wine opener…


Now, open a bottle of wine and then go watch some television.


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