Seven Attributes of a Great Sales Engineer
What are Sales Engineers?
Sales Engineers drive the technical portion of the sale. Sales Engineers typically work in concert with a Sales Person who is responsible for the overall sales success in a group of accounts.
Job Titles for the Sales Engineering Role?
A diverse list of titles are ascribed to the Sales Engineer function depending on: the organization, the product type, the market, and the focus of the sales team. Some examples include:
- Sales Engineer (SE) – can also be an abbreviation for: System Engineer and Support Engineer.
- Applications Engineer (AE)
- Field Applications Engineer (FAE)
- Consulting Engineer (CE) – typically more focused on delivering Engineering Services, but may also responsible for SE role.
Why are Sales Engineers Valuable?
Top Sales Engineers are highly-valued for their sales savvy, technical acumen and facility with the products they sell.
What are the Duties of a Sales Engineer?
Duties of a Sales Engineer may include:
Talking with prospects and customers
Handling Technical Product Q and A
Supporting Product Evaluations
Doing Competitive Analysis
Creating and Delivering Technical Sales Messages
Working in a Companies Trade Show Booth
Presenting at Conferences and Seminars
Creating Articles, White Papers and Web Content
The Seven Key Attributes of Great Sales Engineers
The seven attributes that make a Sales Engineer stand out from the crowd are:
1) Sales Engineers Fill Gaps
A sales engineer interacts with many disparate groups and helps create a fit between the product and the customer. Sales Engineers can act as:
A Bridge Between Customer Groups
Sales Engineers help to craft sales messages to their prospects’ management, technical end users and executives. To appeal to this broad audience requires an understanding of sales techniques, technology, and the problems faced by their customers and prospects.
The Voice of the Customer
Sales Engineers act as the eyes and ears of their companies’ technical marketing and engineering departments. Daily contact with customers allow Sales Engineers to become the “Voice of the Customer” This feedback helps their company to better understand the unique needs of their clients.
An Extension of Engineering
Many highly technical products and services must be adapted to a prospects particular needs and environment. Often, Sales Engineers can modify and extend hardware and software to provide customers with as close to an ideal solution as possible.
2) Sales Engineers Understand Relevant Technology
To succeed, Sales Engineers need to understand the impact and importance of technology to their customers. The following types of technology background are essential to the Sales Engineer.
The core technology behind your product is the key to how you differentiate it from the competition. If you understand the benefits of your products core technology, you can easily position it as a solution to your customer.
Supporting technology can be anything from products used with your as part of a process to tools to help your customers be more efficient or effective with your product. By understanding these products, you can help your customer solve “big picture’ problems that involve your product as well as others.
Product Implementation Detail
Understanding the way a product is implemented, allows you to always understand your products at a deeper level that your customer. This deeper understanding allows you to extrapolate the capability of your product in specific situation and to make judgments about what is and is not possible with the underlying architecture.
Understanding the technology behind your competitors’ products and how your competitors products are implemented allow you to exploit weaknesses in their solution. You can creatively compare and contrast your solution against theirs and relate “what if” scenarios that show how your product is superior.
In-house Alternative Technology
In addition to understanding the technology behind your product and its’ competitors, it is also key to understand how your customer might build an in-house solution to the problems solved by your product. Armed with this knowledge you can paint an accurate picture of the real costs of “make versus buy”.
3) Sales Engineers Understand the Customers’ Business
Great Sales Engineers understand the problems faced by their customers and the goals they want to achieve. Business knowledge positions you as a resource and allows you to gain trust through competence and the value of the information you provide. You are not seen as just selling products, but as a trusted adviser who understands the real needs of the customer.
4) Sales Engineers Work Well with All Types of People
To succeed, Sales Engineers must learn to deal with different personalty types. Understanding what is important to a prospect and how they “see” the world allows you to relate to them in a way that they understand.
5) Sales Engineers Can Present and Demo Succinctly and Effectively
Sales Engineers are called upon to perform technical demonstrations and presentations. One harmful side-effect of knowing your product well is that you may find it difficult to relate it to prospects with little or no experience with your type of product. This may cause you to lose your prospect in a sea of detail. Many Sales Engineers treat a Demo or Presentation like a training session, which can make your product seam more complex than it should be. The right balance of detail is key to a successful demo or presentation.
6) Sales Engineers Can Communicate on a Technical and Personal Plane
Relationships matter. If a prospect likes you, all things being equal, they will chose you and your product over the competition. Communication is the cornerstone of a good relationship. To help build a relationship with your prospect, you need to spend some time on both technical topics and on general topics. A good Sales Engineer is comfortable at both.
7) Sales Engineers Understand the Sales Process
The sales process helps you gauge how well a sale is progressing. Good Sales Engineers understand where they are in the sales process and can identify the next steps required to move the sales forward.