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 What Would Joe Do?
Peggy Aycinena
Peggy Aycinena
Peggy Aycinena is a freelance journalist and Editor of EDA Confidential at She can be reached at peggy at aycinena dot com.

EDA Sales: Debunking the narrative

April 10th, 2014 by Peggy Aycinena

As a journalist, you often talk to product managers of EDA companies. Sometimes, you talk to VPs, SVPs, or even EVPs. On the rare occasion, you might event speak with a CEO. This last, being more likely if it’s the CEO of a small EDA company. Of course, these days small companies in the industry are harder and harder to come by, consolidation being the current national pastime across the width and breadth of the EDA Nation.

As a journalist, however, the kind of person you rarely talk to is someone in sales. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

On the rare occasion when a journalist talks to an EDA sales person, it’s usually at big vendor-sponsored dinners associated with large conferences, evening events set aside to entertain press, analysts, and customers where there’s some sort of company rep assigned to sit at each table. It’s on those rare occasions that a journalist might accidentally end up sitting next to, and talking to, someone from EDA Sales – all the way through the salad, the main course, the dessert, and even through the after-dinner entertainment.

And it’s during those rare encounters at big dinners that many journalists realize that the EDA industry they thought they knew, is a completely different kettle of fish, a completely different entity, from the one where EDA sales people live and work.

EDA Sales occupies a completely different EDA Nation from the one journalists hear about from EDA product managers, executives, or marcom specialists who busily spin narratives about the company specifically for the benefit of the press and the endearing little stories they write.

So, how would I characterize the folks from Sales that I have very occasionally encountered over dinner at conferences?

First of all, they’re a tough breed of animal. They’re hard-bitten and cynical from years of going mano a mano with people on the other side of the customer’s firewall, those people who have the dollars that EDA Sales is attempting to secure in exchange for some buggy CAD tools – the CAD managers, the budget people who harass the CAD managers, and the executives who harass the budget people, the CAD managers, the IT managers, the Engineering managers, and even some of the engineers themselves laboring away in the bowels of the organization.

It’s into this very large bucket of disgruntlement that flinty-eyed EDA Sales people wade in order to extract a fistful of dollars, and then a few dollars more, so as to fund the entire EDA Nation that has sent them into battle. No wonder EDA Sales folks are hard-bitten, tough, and cynical.

But there’s more. EDA Sales people seem to know everyone, all of the executives within EDA, all of the other EDA Sales people in the industry, and all of the customers without exception. And they know all of these people, because EDA Sales people are constantly involved in a churning, roiling game of musical chairs.

If they don’t meet their numbers at a particular EDA company, they’re out. So they go shop themselves around until they land a gig at a different EDA company, go to battle with that company’s set of vicious, stingy customers, and after a while – when they can no longer make their numbers – they’re out, again. So then they shop themselves around, again, until they land yet another gig at yet another EDA company, go to battle with that company’s customers, and succeed until they fail and then they’re out. Again. And again. And on. And on. And on. And on.

In between all of this, they have to attend the occasional conference dinner where sometimes they have to make nice with press and analysts who they don’t know and couldn’t care less about, grinding through insipid conversation over salad, main course, and dessert – and sometimes even through the after-dinner entertainment.

At such times, EDA Sales people look tired and act bored, clearly wishing they could be bonding at the next table over with some Customer Company Exec, but instead are stuck with people who do not have fistfuls of dollars, or any real influence on what is or is not purchased on the other side of the firewall from where the tired, over-worked, under-appreciated Sales guy is laboring away.

What a vicious circle of misery it all seems, but here’s the problem: EDA can’t live without sales. And sales don’t happen without Sales. And Sales is full of cynical, hard-bitten, tough guys who know everyone and have seen everything and, hence, trust no one and believe nothing. And why should they?

After all, they’re far too worldly to buy into the narrative that’s being spun out by their employers, far too hard-bitten to believe the web of illusion [oftentimes, even deceit] being embroidered around the company they’re selling for.

Sales doesn’t care about the friggin’ narrative.

They only care about yesterday’s angry push-back from some irritated customer, what that’s going to do to the Sales guy’s quarterly numbers tomorrow, where the Sales guy is going to land after this gig bottoms out because of the domino effect of multiple push-backs from multiple angry customers, and how the Sales guy is going to hit the pavement, hat in hand, and start all over again.

Pounding on doors across the EDA Nation, so they can serve as the rubber that meets the road, and the glue that, in truth, holds the entire $400+ billion semiconductor industry together.

Overall, it’s not a pretty picture, but in some odd, counter-intuitive sort of way, it’s the most honest one. An EDA company can spin all the narratives in the world, but if Sales can’t tell a good story, who’s going to pay for dinner at DAC?


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6 Responses to “EDA Sales: Debunking the narrative”

  1. amit says:

    Brilliant! So glad to see a little print given to our hard toiling Sales folks. It’s a tough game for sure. I have been in the trenches with many of them and given the revolving door expect to work with many more.

  2. Bill says:


    One item that you missed was the impact M&As have on Sales/AEs. Most M&As will keep the Development team but Field personnel are dramatically reduced, some M&A let all Field personnel go.

    The acquirer relies on their current Field personnel and customer relationships to sell the newly acquired tool.


  3. Rick says:

    One thing that is interesting about the Sales people in EDA versus those in other industries is the amount of investment the EDA Sales people have in the success of their customers. They know the teams, the projects, the dates and the pressures of their customers. Although they may not like to admit it, they have a sense of ownership and pride to champion the needs of their customers. EDA Sales people have a high degree of “Account Management” responsibility. In other industries, once the sales people get the deal, you don’t hear from them. You are then the responsibility of services and support. In EDA, the relationships are deep between the trusted sales teams and their customers. It’s taken for granted.

    • Rick, Your portrayal of EDA Sales people is a far happier one than I laid out in my blog. That these folks take pride in the success of their customers is good for the EDA industry, and great for the industries they serve. Thank you, Peggy

  4. Hal Barbour says:

    Selling in mature industries (like EDA) is often described as “maintenance selling” whereas embryonic and growth industry selling (like IP today) is more akin to “developmental selling”. At the extremes, these markets present quite different challenges for the sales person. Seldom do we find a “super salesperson” that excels in both extremes. Successful developmental sales people are pioneers that are motivated by new ideas and are often true believers in company “narratives” whereas maintenance people are relationship people, motivated by their personal investment in their customers. I suspect a similar discussion at an EDA dinner held 25 years ago would have been quite different.

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