To be an effective Sales Engineer or Pre-Sales Engineer, you need to master a number of key “soft skills” to compliment your engineering skills. If you are able to learn these critical skills you will be much more valuable to your company and sales team.
Here’s a typical list of “soft skills”:
- Public Speaking and Presentation Skills
- Demonstration Skills
- Q&A Skills
- Technical Discovery Skills
- Competitive Analysis Skills
- People Skills
- Sales Skills
Let’s take each in turn and describe why they are important to your success.
Public Speaking and Presentation Skills
As a Sales Engineer you will need to make compelling sales presentations for your product and services.
You will often be required to present at Trade shows and Seminars as well as in Web and on-site sales calls. In the end, your ability to understand your prospects needs and to articulate the value of your solution is what makes the difference between winning the sale or losing.
Like presentations, product demos are a regular part of pre-sales activity. If the product is complex and expensive, demonstrations are mandatory.
A demo is basically a specialized presentation where you attempt to show your prospect the aspects of your product that can help them with their work.
Demos also require a degree of facility with your product and an understanding of related engineering processes to be effective. If you just show features without explaining their value, you will not persuade your prospect to buy.
Q and A Skills
Asking and answering questions are the cornerstone of good selling. Asking informed questions will help you understand the technical needs of your prospect.
Once you fully understand their needs, focus on helping them with the things they care about, avoid the things they don’t care about and most importantly–help them to see the issues they should care about but don’t.
Answering questions is an often neglected, yet vital skill. Prospects may ask difficult questions, competitive questions, or even hostile questions and you need to be able to answer them well or you could lose the sale.
Technical Discovery Skills
Discovery skills help you to fully understand what is happening with your prospect so that you can craft a value message that shows why your solution is the best fit. To do discovery well you need to understand what the current situation is, how things are happening today and how it is affecting your prospects world. You learn these things by asking a series of questions and working with your sales person. For Sales Engineers, being able to understand the technical issues and to tie them to critical business issues is key!
Competitive Analysis Skills
Competitive technical sales situations require a unique set of skills to prevail. If you only understand your product, you are partially blind to attacks from the competition. If you don’t have a solid understanding of the business and market issues faced by your prospect, you can never hope to present your offering in the best light.
Finally, if you don’t know the specifics of your prospects situation, any attempt to be competitive is highly risky.
People skills are perhaps the number one skill that you will need as a Sales Engineer. On every phone call or face-to-face encounter you will need to put prospects at ease and to lead the sales conversation. In the end, people respect knowledge and appreciate good follow up, but all things being equal they will always buy from the person they like the best.
A good understanding of the sales process is essential to succeeding as a Sales Engineer. Sales Engineers are also expected to be able to qualify the viability of a sales opportunity from a technical perspective.