In a previous blog post, I've written about my vision of Sales Engineering (SE) role within companies. SEs work closely with Account Managers/Sales reps in the sales team to create value for their organization as well as for their customers. In this post, I'd like to share some guidelines the sales rep can follow in order to bring out the best of synergies with his SE. I am building on my personal experience as an SE who worked in several companies, and with many sales having different working styles, in order to give the recipe of those whose approaches were the most successful ones with me and with my colleagues.
SE is rare company ressource which is very valuable in sales workflow. Yet, the most common error I've seen sales doing, is considering their SE as a mere resource, not a partner in the sales team. Indeed, sales must somehow act like a cross function project manager with his SE in order to motivate him, empower him, and align him to his targets. These are clearly leadership skills that are also needed with other key roles in the organization, such as service delivery, service management..
For every new project, sales must explain the project's context, what it means before making any request to his SE. It's about selling the project internally to him! What is the meaning/importance of the project? new industry, new product, new large revenues, important customer, important deal to close this month... Then explain the context of the project: key people, expectations, constraints, threats, opportunities... I can't but think of Saint-Exupéry's words: "If you want to build a ship, don't drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea".
During the project, sales must show necessary engagement as it will be somehow a reference for the engagement of SE. In other words, from SE perspective, if sales just disappears after making his request, or doesn't have the necessary time to discuss it, it means that the project is not that important finally, and wouldn't spend much time on it.
In sales-SE partnership, sharing knowledge mutually is a true competitive advantage! The worst sales were those who systematically hid information in order to keep control in their hands! also add those who didn't care about the SE point of view. It's not that difficult to know that the more data you have, the better decisions you take. Here are some exemples:
- Sales provides all customer's history to SE before a meeting: existing architecture designs , past problems..
- Sales asks SE for his opinion on the adopted project strategy, maybe he has information that the sales didn't see!
- Sales asks SE to mentor him technically on a product
- Sales train SE in in certain domains, for example on a specific industry vertical.
In terms of customer relationship, SE is the right hand of sales. He helps diversifying contacts at different levels within the customer organization, thus producing a better quality of information about customers needs and context. Sales must create the right communication channels between SE and the customer, coach him if needed and trust him. We all knew the customer-relation-nazi type of sales with his everything-must-go-through-me motto.
Each project is a great opportunity for learning and improving. Those who know it, understand the value of continuous feedback. For exemple, after a customer meeting, Sales tells his SE: on subject A your explantation was great and easy to understand, but on subject B, your speech was more focusing on our weaknesses rather than on our strengths. In his turn, SE tells the sales: on subject C, your information wasn't accurate, but on subject D your pitch was very convincing, I saw it on the customer's face.
Finally, sales and SE must act as one team. When a deal is won, it's important that sales gives credit to his SE as a recognition to his engagement and a motivation vehicle for next projects. On the opposite, when a project faces challenges, it's very important not to blame the SE and take the responsibility as a whole team. Otherwise, SE will protect himself in future by avoiding risk taking and hiding behind processes, which can be disastrous for business.