Casting calls require you to specify whether you are auditioning for a role which calls for singers who can dance or dancers who can sing. While being a sales engineer is hardly a song-and-dance routine, many SEs wonder just what role they are supposed to play in the business development process.
- If you are a sales person with a strong technical side you may have identified, prospected, qualified and negotiated the sale. Or not.
- If you are an engineer with some strong and not-so-soft sales skills you may be taking over the sales process after a lead has been identified and qualified. Or not.
- You may find yourself inserted into the sales equation somewhere in-between, applied-as-needed, with or without having been provided context. You play a brief but critical role in the drama of the sale and are returned to your department after your role is completed. Or not.
The role of the sales engineer varies greatly within the industry. And the roles you play in one SE position may help or hinder the types of roles you can assume in a new position at a different company.
If you decide that the career path you want to pursue is that of a sales engineer, you need to prepare yourself to think on both sides of the sales-engineering continuum no matter what role you are playing in the process.
You always have a curious and unique position at the table. In a sense, you could provide that simultaneous translation between sales and engineering. Your ability to combine your technical and non-technical perspectives make you a relevant and valuable partner to both buyers and sellers.
In today’s competitive global economy, professionals who can participate in the business and revenue development processes in this cross-functional manner are going to become the rule rather than the curiosity. How are you preparing yourself to take this important seat at your company’s table?
There’s more to this role than demo-ing. And developing the discussion to get to the demo as an indicator of readiness to buy may be over rated. The key to the process is in your comfort in the customer conversation. The willingness of the customer to get to a demo may simply indicate they want to force the price discussion so they can tell you “No.” Faster. Don’t let your customers take you there.
What your customer may need is a conversation you don’t yet know how to have with them. In fact, it may be a conversation they don’t realize they should be having with you.
Whether you lead with your sales or engineering side, rushing to close the sale may prevent you from fully developing the breadth and depth of the problem. Learn how to have those types of conversations with your customers and colleagues. You may find you have a larger role to play than that of a sales engineer. You may grow your skill sets, and your career, into a strong leadership role.
Babette N. Ten Haken, Founder & President of Sales Aerobics for Engineers®, LLC, brings entrepreneurial mojo and business- and revenue-producing collaboration and communication tools to small and mid-sized businesses and startups. Download her newest White Paper at her Free Resources Page. She was named one of the Top 50 Sales & Marketing Influencers 2013. Her book, Do YOU Mean Business? focuses on technical / non-technical collaboration strategies and tools. You can download the first chapter here.