3 Keys to Engaging Your Sales Engineer
Product demos may make or break your sales cycle. As a Sales Rep, its your opportunity to show your solution in action and demonstrate the VALUE that your solution can provide. In most software sales environments, great product demos are a result of a finely tuned and tightly aligned collaboration between the Sales Rep, who is responsible for the overall sale and the Sales Engineer, who is executing the demo and ultimately, is responsible for the 'technical' side of the sale.
I started out my sales career as a Sales Engineer before moving over to Sales and Sales Management. So, I've seen plenty of great relationships between sales reps and sales engineers and unfortunately, I've seen ones that were incredibly strained as well. The difference is notable and will impact Sales Rep performance if left unresolved.
There are a few consistent themes I've noticed that allows for the building of solid, long term relationships with your technical sales counterpart, the Sales Engineer:
1. Understand your respective roles
As a Sales Rep, you own the overall relationship with the prospect. From qualification all the way through to close, you are responsible for shepherding the prospect through your sales motion.
From a Sales Reps perspective, I've found the quickest way to lose the trust of your Sales Engineer is to ask him or her to do a demo to a totally unqualified prospect. Plenty of times I've heard Sales Reps ask Sales Engineers to 'just hop on the phone and show the product' with a prospect the Sales Rep has never even talked to. If you haven't done your qualification homework upfront, its not a fair position to put your Sales Engineer in. And, ultimately, it won't be your Sales Engineers fault if they miss the mark during the demo. Your Sales Engineer is there to help you translate your product and features into a business value the prospect will understand. They can't do that without understanding the business problem the prospect is looking to solve and where they are in their evaluation process. Putting them into a situation where they aren't delivering the best demo for the prospect makes them (and you) look like amateurs.
So please, do your homework upfront and try your best to fully qualify the prospect before engaging your Sales Engineer for a demo.
2. Involve them in planning
The best demos are focused on the business value your solution can deliver, rather than your product features. Great articles such as this one (Your Product Demos Suck Because They're Focused On Your Product) have written plenty on this topic.
Demos start, though, with collaborative planning between you (Sales Rep) and your Sales Engineer. Your Sales Engineer will look to you for information about the business pains the prospect is experiencing, which should translate to the business value (and underlying product features) you want to showcase in the demo.
In my experience, I've found that prospects who asked our sales team to provide a 'generic' demo were our least successful demos, often leading to us to try and translate our product features to the business problem they were looking to solve on the fly.
We quickly adjusted though to a model that worked well. To make sure we hit the mark on our demos, we did our best to have a quick pre-call with the Sales Rep, Sales Engineer and prospect to talk through the demo requirements and flow. Absent a call, the Sales Rep and Sales Engineer would talk through the account, the business problems and strategize on the demo flow to focus on the right areas of the solution. In many cases, we were trying to customize the demo to show specific business values the prospect was interested in and this prep time allowed us to ensure our efforts weren't wasted. It was extra time for the Sales Engineer upfront to help prepare and plan, but incredibly valuable knowing that our demos were exactly what the prospect was looking for.
Remember, your Sales Engineer's primary focus is on the 'technical' sale, the demos/trials/pilots in your sales cycle. They should be uniquely suited to talk about the technical features of your solution and articulate them as business values that your prospect will understand. They also know how to match areas of product strength and weakness against your prospects needs. So, always include and listen to your Sales Engineers during planning. They likely have viewpoints, based on past experiences, on the best way to craft a customized demo flow for a prospect.
3. Build a relationship/communicate
As a Sales Rep, its easy to think you need to 'control' every detail of the prospect engagement. Depending on your solution and sales motion, you might just be able to. But if your solution requires Sales Engineer involvement for Trials/Demos/Pilots, I strongly encourage you, as a Sales Rep, to spend time building out relationships with the Sales Engineers on your team. Remember, Sales Engineers are often responsible for the 'technical sale' with a prospect. Depending on how complex your sales motion is, this could happen in parallel with the rest of your sale (especially in the case of Trials or Pilots). It's imperative that you and your Sales Engineer communicate regularly so you are both on the same page. And most importantly, that you TRUST your Sales Engineer when they are engaging their technical counterparts at your prospect. I've seen deals derailed because of poor (or no) communication between Sales Rep and Sales Engineer.
Your Sales Engineer should be one of your most trusted resources you will leverage in a sales cycle. Technical questions/issues will arise during your sales motion; whether that is a Demo, Trial or Pilot and in order to maximize your win rate you'll need to work seamlessly with your Sales Engineer. So, treat them like the partner they are in every sales cycle!