Be the Best: Sales Engineer’s Best Practices and Habits
A sales engineer is a professional who specializes in selling complex, technologically advanced products or services. They use their technical knowledge and sales engineer skills to explain the benefits of their products or services to potential customers and to show how they can help customers solve their problems. Companies who want their reps to learn how to be good sales engineers should implement the following best practices.
Usually, we like to start at the beginning. So, before we outline the sales engineer's best practices and tell you what habits sales engineers should adopt, we want first to define the job description of a sales engineer.
What is a sales engineer?
A sales engineer is a professional who specializes in selling complex, technologically advanced products or services. They use their technical knowledge and sales engineer skills to explain the benefits of their products or services to potential customers and to show how they can help customers solve their problems.
Sales engineers typically work in business-to-business (B2B) settings and often have a background in engineering, computer science, or another technical field.
Responsibilities of a sales engineer
The responsibilities of a sales engineer can vary, depending on the specific company and industry, but they typically include:
- Identifying and qualifying potential customers. Sales engineers are responsible for understanding the customer's needs and requirements. They do this by asking probing technical questions and collaborating with the account executive.
- Developing and presenting technical proposals. Sales engineers collaborate with the account executive and marketing to put together a formal proposal.
- Planning or architecting solutions. Sales engineers work with the account executive and other internal technical experts to design a solution that meets the customer's needs and requirements. This may involve pulling in external vendors, distributors, and fulfillment partners.
- Answering customer questions about products or services and providing post-sale support. Sales engineers may also be responsible for providing support to prospects and customers. This may involve answering technical questions, providing consulting calls, or creating FAQ documents.
- Presenting product demos. Sales engineers are responsible for giving product demos to customers. They should be able to answer any technical questions the customer may have and demonstrate how the product can meet their needs.
- Running proof of concepts and sales pilots. Sales engineers may also be involved in proof of concepts (POCs) and sales pilots. POCs are a way to validate a solution for the buyer and to pave the road from ideation to implementation. Sales pilots are a way to test a solution in a real-world environment.
- Providing technical sales enablement. Sales engineers may also be responsible for maintaining various other processes and tools to help the sales team sell. This may include creating proof of concept templates, updating demo accounts, or creating FAQ documents.
Qualities of a good sales engineer
In addition to technical knowledge and skills, good sales engineers have strong communication, interpersonal, and problem-solving skills.
They are able to build relationships with customers, understand their needs and tailor their solutions accordingly. They can also think critically and creatively to come up with solutions that meet customer needs and exceed expectations.
There are a few qualities that good sales engineers need to have.
- A lifelong learner. The technology industry is constantly changing, so it's important to stay up to date on the latest trends.
- A good communicator. Sales engineers need to be able to communicate effectively with customers, technical teams, and other stakeholders.
- A problem solver. Sales engineers are often called upon to solve complex technical problems.
- A team player. Sales engineers usually work with other teams within a company, such as sales, marketing, and product development.
Sales engineers and account executives - how do they work together?
Sales engineers and account executives are two essential members of the sales team. Sales engineers have the technical expertise to answer customer questions and demonstrate how a product or service can meet their needs. Account executives are responsible for building relationships with customers, qualifying leads, and closing deals.
The two roles work closely together to ensure that customers have a positive experience and that the company makes a sale.
The typical sales process begins with an account executive qualifying a lead. Once the account executive has determined that the lead is a good fit for the product or service, they will bring in a sales engineer to provide technical support.
The sales engineer will work with the account executive to understand the customer's needs and develop a solution that meets those needs. The sales engineer will then demo the solution to the customer and answer any questions.
If the customer is satisfied with the solution, the account executive will close the deal. The account executive will then work with the customer to implement the solution and provide ongoing support, although, in some companies, this falls under the responsibility of the sales engineer.
A successful sales team is one in which the sales engineer and account executive work together seamlessly. The sales engineer provides the technical expertise, and the account executive provides the salesmanship. When these two roles work together effectively, they can close more deals and provide a better customer experience.
Here are some tips for sales engineers and account executives to work together effectively:
- Communicate regularly. The sales engineer and account executive should communicate regularly throughout the sales process. This will help ensure everyone is on the same page and that nothing falls through the cracks.
- Respect each other's roles. The sales engineer and account executive have different roles, but they are both essential to the sales process. The sales engineer should respect the account executive's sales experience, and the account executive should respect the sales engineer's technical expertise.
- Be willing to collaborate. The sales engineer and account executive should be willing to collaborate and work together to find the best solution for the customer. They should not be afraid to ask for help from each other.
- Build a strong relationship. The sales engineer and account executive should build a strong relationship with each other. This will help to ensure that they are able to work together effectively and close more deals.
When the two work together effectively, they can be a powerful force. They can close more deals, provide a better customer experience and help their company grow.
9 sales engineering best practices
Companies who want their reps to learn how to be good sales engineers should implement the following best practices.
1. Understand the customer's needs. Have a deep understanding of the customer's needs in order to be able to sell the product or service effectively. This includes understanding the customer's pain points, goals, and their budget.
To do this, sales engineers need to ask probing questions and listen carefully to the customer's answers. They should also be able to research the customer's industry and understand the challenges that they are facing.
If you feel we’re stating the obvious, you should know that according to a study by CSO Insights, only 34.4% of sales reps were rated as ‘effective’ or ‘very effective’ in understanding their prospects' needs. This means that the majority of sales reps may not fully understand their prospects' needs, which can lead to unsuccessful sales efforts.
Once the sales engineer has a good understanding of the customer's needs, they can then start to develop a solution that meets those needs.
2. Be technical. Have a strong technical background in order to be able to answer customer questions and demonstrate how the product or service can meet their needs. This includes being able to understand the product's features and benefits, as well as its technical specifications.
Sales engineers should also be able to troubleshoot problems and provide technical support to customers.
A study by the Sales Management Association found that sales reps who received training on professionalism (including communication skills, product knowledge, and business etiquette) saw an increase in their sales performance compared to those who did not receive the training.
3. Be a good communicator. Sales engineers need to be able to communicate effectively with both technical and non-technical audiences. This includes being able to explain complex technical concepts in a clear and concise way.
Sales engineers should also be able to build rapport with customers and prospects and answer their questions in a way that is both informative and persuasive.
Research by the Corporate Executive Board found that customers are more likely to buy from sales reps who provide clear and simple explanations of technical details rather than those who use technical jargon. In fact, customers who received simplified explanations were 86% more likely to make a purchase.
4. Be organized. Sales engineers need to be able to stay organized and manage their time effectively. This is especially important when they are working on multiple deals at the same time.
Sales engineers should have a system for tracking their leads, managing their time, and keeping track of their progress on deals.
5. Be proactive. Sales engineers need to reach out to customers and prospects. They should also be prepared to answer questions and address concerns as soon as they arise.
They should also be proactive in identifying and pursuing new opportunities.
6. Be a team player. Sales engineers need to be able to work effectively with other members of the sales team, such as account executives and product managers.
They should be willing to share information and collaborate with other team members in order to close deals.
7. Be adaptable. The technology industry is constantly changing, so sales engineers need to be able to adapt to new technologies and trends.
Sales engineers should stay up to date on the latest industry news and trends, and they should be willing to learn new things.
8. Use sales engineering enablement tools. Sales engineering enablement tools help sales engineers to streamline and manage their processes, organize content, deliver demos, and track the deals they are working on.
There are a variety of sales engineering enablement tools available, and the best tool for you will depend on your specific needs. However, it’s advised that your sales engineering enablement platform will include:
- Content management systems (CMSs)
- Demo automation tools
- Real-time sales guidance
- AI sales assistant (with advanced features such as voice-triggered battle cards and speaker insight reports)
- Deal tracking tools
Using sales engineering enablement tools can help you save time, improve your efficiency and close more deals.
9. Constantly measure your work. By tracking the following metrics, sales engineers can identify areas where they can improve their performance and ultimately close more deals.
- Deals closed
- Pipeline size
- Average deal size
- Sales cycle length
- Customer satisfaction
- Net promoter score
- Churn rate
- Customer lifetime value
- Return on investment
Demo Tips That Improve Sales Engineers’ Performance
Tell a story
Adding a story to the presentation can help sales engineers connect with their audience emotionally, making their message more memorable.
According to research referenced by Jennifer Aaker in her article on Stanford University's website, stories are 22 times more memorable than facts alone.
“When people think of advocating for their ideas, they think of convincing arguments based on data, facts, and figures. However, studies show that if you share a story, people are often more likely to be persuaded,” writes Aaker.
You can use stories to showcase how your product or service has helped other customers achieve success or to illustrate the pain points your audience is experiencing.
Keep demos short
Product demos can be a powerful tool in a sales engineer's arsenal, but they can also be overwhelming for your audience if they are too long.
Keep your demo to 20 minutes or less, focusing on the key features and benefits of the product.
Spice all that technical knowledge with with social proof
As a sales engineer, it's important to not only understand the technical aspects of your product or service, but also to be able to effectively communicate its value to potential customers. One powerful technique for doing so is to combine social proof with the technical sales techniques in your presentations.
Social proof refers to the idea that people are influenced by the actions and opinions of others. When you can provide evidence that other customers have successfully used your product or service to solve similar problems, it can build credibility and trust with your prospects.
At the same time, it's important to remember that you're still a sales engineer, and your primary goal is to sell your product or service. To effectively do so, you should also use your technical expertise to demonstrate how your product or service can solve specific problems or address specific needs of your prospects.
Leave time for questions
Make sure you leave time for questions and answers at the end of your presentation.
This is your opportunity to address any concerns your audience may have and to showcase your expertise. Be prepared to answer questions on the spot or follow up with more information if necessary. Remember that a good sales enablement platform can help you with that.
Focus on the value proposition
Remember that the focus of your presentation should be on the value your product or service provides, not on you or your company.
Make sure you highlight how your solution can solve the specific pain points your audience is experiencing, and how it compares to other products on the market.
Understand the competition
To effectively sell your product or service, you need to understand the competition.
Research other products in the market and understand their strengths and weaknesses. This will help you position your product effectively and showcase its unique selling points.
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