SE Influence Beyond Sales

SE Influence Beyond Sales

Posted by Sachin Wadhawan On Sep 2nd 2017

I am proud to be an evangelist for Sales Engineering. My passion for this profession is driven by the possibilities of the positive impact we can have on an organization. Over many years and across many companies, I have experienced the footprint of Sales Engineering go much beyond the Sales team. The purpose of this article is to share ideas and possibilities of all the value an SE team could bring to a company's success.

Let me first state the obvious. Sales Engineering team's core and primary purpose are to help win prospects and to ensure they fully understand the solution being offered, they have realistic expectations, and they are setup for success as a customer. But the influence and impact that an SE team can bring to a company go way beyond this core purpose. Why? Because the expertise, knowledge, and passion that Sales Engineers bring to the table can be effectively leveraged across many departments within an organization.

I have identified and listed a few scenarios from my own experience, but I encourage all SEs to explore the scope of their influence within the company.

Product Management

  • Launch a VoP program (Voice of the Prospect) to ensure there is a consistent and insightful sharing of knowledge from the field to the product team
  • Participate and collaborate with Product Management and Engineering teams during sprint reviews and bring your understanding and knowledge of use cases and feature requirements you hear in the field
  • Represent the sales team in Go-To-Market initiatives to ensure product positioning and feature value aligns with your knowledge of what would resonate the most with the prospects and customers.

Product Marketing

  • Help define and refine the key value propositions of your product offering. Sales Engineers should consistently bring feedback to Product Marketing as they observe Sales Reps deliver the company's value proposition in front of their prospects. These insights into what's working well and what's not will help Product Marketing fine tune the messaging to be even more effective and relevant.
  • SEs should document and share any competitive knowledge they hear in the field. The (technical) objections that surface up in the sales cycle could be a perception of the feature gaps in your company’s offering as the prospects are often evaluating multiple vendors at the same time.
  • SEs should also collaborate to deliver a stream of technical white papers that address and help overcome the most common objections in the sales process. These can tremendously help speed-up the buying cycle by educating the prospects and preempting those objections.

PR/Communications

  • Sales Engineers are the trusted advisors in front of prospects. They preach and promote the values and benefits of the company's solution every day. Why not leverage that knowledge and expertise by empowering SEs to publish thought leadership articles in the company's blogs and social channels?

Sales Enablement

  • New Sales Rep onboarding is business critical because the earlier they can hit the ground running the earlier they can start contributing to the company's top-line revenue. Well, Sales Engineers get to observe their Account Executives in action and they have a great sense of what works and what doesn't in the field - all the way from product knowledge to objection handling to presentation delivery. SE team should play an important role in every new sales rep onboarding experience.
  • Especially in tech companies, keeping up with the latest feature releases, competitive intel, partner integrations and industry knowledge is an ongoing challenge. The SE team should act as a filter of all information and bring the most relevant and most important highlights to the sales team, in a format they can easily understand.

Marketing

  • SEs can have a huge impact on the top of the funnel marketing as well. By presenting demos and explaining technical concepts at the company's webinars or product tours, SEs can contribute in a meaningful way to lead generation and lead nurturing efforts.
  • SEs, by trade, are great presenters, are consultative, solution-oriented and natural thought leaders. Their presence at industry conferences and events can bring a higher level of success with booth conversations and traffic. More experienced Sales Engineers should be empowered to participate in speaking engagements and expert-panels at industry events.

Channel/Business Development

  • Similar to the internal sales team onboarding, SE resources could also be leveraged for (external) partner onboarding. Additionally, Sales Engineering knowledge and deep product expertise can help partners recommend the right platform to their prospects.
  • SE team could also launch a demo certification program to ensure all partners are trained and enabled to deliver a consistent demonstration of the company’s solutions. This would also empower the implementation and technology partners to speak more confidently and favorably of the company's offerings.

Customer Services

  • This is probably the biggest area of influence. Through better documentation and collaboration with the Services teams (Implementation, Account Management, Professional Services, Customer Support, etc), SE team can significantly enhance the sales-to-services handoff process. Sales Engineers gain an in-depth knowledge of the customer’s business, critical requirements and measures of success during the sales cycle - all very important elements for delivering excellent customer service.
  • Escalation and churn risk customers can also benefit from SE involvement. Sales Engineers are trained to manage objections, think out-of-the-box and solve complex problems. Their consultative, solution-oriented approach to problem-solving can serve as a true asset to the services team and can help turn around unhappy customers.

Training/Learning & Development

  • All new hires to a company can benefit from getting a high-level demo of the product. Every employee should know why customers select their company over others. Sales Engineers should be introduced during the employee onboarding to not only showcase the company's solutions but also provide insights into the industry, competitive landscape, common objections, and the key differentiators.
  • Many SE team teams have SMEs (Subject Matter Experts). Even when it is not formalized, there are often SEs that focus and specialize in a certain aspect of the product. An SE perspective into the training curriculum, used for new customers and partners, can also prove to be insightful.

Now I understand supporting all of these departments may not be possible due to many reasons including limited bandwidth and resources but I encourage all SE leaders and SE teams to prioritize the top 3 areas and grow the Sales Engineering influence across your company.

Sales Engineering profession has come a long way. With over 90k Sales Engineers in the US, our profession is still not fully understood and our influence still not fully realized.

The sky is the limit.

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