For roughly 15 years of my career, my role was that of a project manager and purchaser. Each week I would be primarily responsible for purchasing many different types of products and services. The price tag on these purchases would range anywhere from $40 up to $1.0 million, with an average of around $80,000.
Through this lens I’d like to share with the SE audience who I would buy from, and why, and when. Looking at things from the other side of B2B is critical to bettering our success in sales. Most of what I list below matches up to my experience from the Seller/ Sales Engineering side of the equation as well.
In no specific order, this was how and why I made business purchases:
If it was not a mandatory and urgent purchase need, the default of not buying anything was always a clear leader. Non-action is often the easiest thing to do (or not do).
Pricing and savings: I would never consider an alternate product unless it was at least a 15% discount off my current product/brand. This assumes that the 2 products were otherwise equivalent. Often times a new vendor would come in and say they could save me 10%, but generally that was not quite enough for it to be worth the hassle and the unknown.
To switch vendors or products, the alternate would have to clearly be better, or save me significant time, or save me at least 15% in price.
Business is difficult; making sufficient profit is often difficult. I didn’t want my dealings with vendors to also be difficult. Whomever made it easier to do business with- they got my attention. Less steps, less paperwork, less legal, etc.
I bought on my timeline, not on the vendor’s timeline. The only reason why I would ever consider buying “now” instead of in 2-3 weeks like I was intending to is if there was a significant discount for me in doing so (at least 10%).
The devil you know is better than the devil you don’t know. Of course even your regular vendors are not perfect, and there would be something that you would prefer could be changed or improved. But generally speaking, I didn’t chase unknown and unproven options.
I gave a lot of credence to who else in a similar line of work was using their product/ solution. That was key. This of course made it difficult for new products to get very far. I would ask- who and where has this been used around here, and in what fashion? If their answer was nobody- I would essentially end it right there. But sometimes they would show me that it had been used within or for their own company, or as part of a beta test to some other company that did not have to pay for it. I never gave a lot of consideration with those 2 scenarios- as it was not a true market-tested application.
More often than not, I did do business with people that I liked. It didn’t work out all the time, but typically I would choose to buy from someone I got along well with over some other person. Personalities and attitudes DO matter.
The preceding points may not be “textbook”, but they seemed to work out for me for many years. As a seller, I do always recall what it was like to be the purchaser in a pending transaction. I believe this has helped in my career in sales engineering and technical sales.
NAASE is pleased to broadcast the following job postings from a Member firm, IBM. If you are interested further in any of these positions, please follow the link and instructions therein. Please do not send resumes or cover letters (etc) to NAASE directly. Thank you, and Good luck!
Sustainability Data Exchange Technical Sales Specialist – MidAtlantic
(By Inna Hüessmanns, MBA) In recent years, academic studies have focused on the concept of market orientation with the aim of understanding the effect of market orientation on organizational performance. Empirical evidence indicates that market orientation is positively associated with superior performance.
Organizations that better respond to market requirements and changing market conditions enjoy sustainable competitive advantage and superior profitability. Market orientation represents superior capabilities in understanding and satisfying customers. Its key components are:
A customer oriented corporate culture.
Systematic generation, dissemination, and utilization of market intelligence.
Interfunctional utilization of market intelligence.
Market-oriented organizations have superior market intelligence capabilities, such as market sensing, customer analysis and customer linking, competitive intelligence, and channel management capabilities. These capabilities deliver superior market insights that guide spanning capabilities.
In contrast, the capabilities of internally oriented organizations are poorly guided by market considerations.
Every organization develops capabilities to produce and deliver its products or services. Some capabilities must be superior if the business is to outperform the competition. These are the distinctive capabilities that support a valuable market position that is difficult to match and permit organizations to deliver superior value to customers in a cost-effective way.
Spanning capabilities are exercised through processes used to satisfy customers’ needs identified by the market intelligence capabilities. Market intelligence dissemination, sales processes, and new product development processes are examples of these processes. Managing these processes so they cannot be readily matched by competitors is very different from managing vertical functions in a traditional hierarchical organization. Many internal boundaries must be crossed, and market intelligence should be readily available to all departments.
Market Intelligence as a Distinctive Capability
Market orientation emphasizes the ability of organizations to continuously learn about their customers, competitors, channel partners, and industry trends in order to act on trends in present and target markets. In market-oriented organizations the processes for generating, interpreting, and utilizing market intelligence are more systematic, thoughtful, and anticipatory than in internally focused organizations.
Three components of a market-oriented organization can be distinguished: customer orientation, competitor orientation, and interfunctional coordination.
The Figure below explains the key components of a market-oriented organization.
Market-oriented organizations have the capabilities to anticipate industry trends and changes of customers’ strategies ahead of their competitors.
Market intelligence represents a know-what advantage that enables organizations to be both more effective and efficient.
Customer Orientation and Analysis
Customer orientation places the highest priority on continuously analysing customers’ needs and finding ways to provide superior customer value. Customer oriented organizations innovate throughout their entire business system, as opposed to solely in products or services.
Competitor Orientation and Customer Analysis
Competitor orientation and analysis entail gathering intelligence on the following and other questions and facilitate innovations: (1) What is the basis for your organization`s competitive advantage? (2) Who are the competitors? (3) What technologies do they offer? and (4) Do they represent an attractive alternative from the perspective of the target customers? (5) What does your organization need to survive competition?
Interfunctional coordination is one of the core components of market orientation.
Empirical evidence indicates that coordinated dissemination of market intelligence among various functions was instrumental in the organization’s responsiveness to customer needs.
Innovation and Performance
A market-oriented culture facilitates organizational innovativeness, and this relationship appears even stronger in turbulent environmental settings. In turbulent environmental settings, organizations with superior market intelligence exhibit superior responsiveness, typically through organizational innovativeness, in dealing with the turbulences in the environment.
In summary, a market-oriented corporate culture and a proper execution of market orientation are significant factors in achieving superior corporate performance.
Many organizations have tried to become market oriented but have failed to sustain this orientation.
The challenge is to understand how market orientation can be achieved and sustained. The most distinctive features of market-oriented organizations are their mastery of the market intelligence generating capabilities.
We help you to understand your customers’ needs, analyze your company’s performance against competition, understand your long-term growth opportunities, train your salesforce in market intelligence, and develop a market-oriented organization.
For market intelligence and change program consulting and implementation enquiries please contact:
Learning about the blind spots in your #salesfunnel can provide significant benefits to your sales teams. In these two images, you can see that one level of the sales funnel is struggling but the level below is performing quite well.
Do your sales funnel have areas where you have higher conversion rates? Why is this?
Symptoms of the blind spot: ignoring new leads.
At a Fortune 500 company, I started up a demand generation marketing team to provide better leads to our sales teams. This included setting up a call center, online PPC and SEO marketing, microsites, promotions, events, trade shows, content creation … the works. In that year my team generated nearly $20 million in marketing qualified leads (MQLs).
But, for one division, #Salesforce reporting showed the ROI on the activities was terrible. In fact, most leads were never addressed. What the heck?
To research the problem I had my telemarketers conduct a quick customer satisfaction survey and I learned that 75% of the leads were never contacted, or if they did, the sales team did not know the products well.
When I collaborated with sales management we looked at the problem, conducted some research and talked with our reps. What is up? …
We learned that because our process to request special pricing for large projects depended on HQs response time. In many cases the approval for special pricing took days, and in the worst cases could take a month or longer. Well, that’s a problem!
This result was shocking. If the sales team was spending too long on the final stages of the selling process then the result was that upstream sales and marketing efforts were being wasted. Clearly, the processes were broken and we had limited options in our region.
Thus, to make marketing more useful for this division I considered many options. Try to set up special pricing exception rules for the local GEO – nope. Not allowed. We tried getting better at forecasting and promoting what we have – yet large custom projects often required specialized capabilities only available in high-end, high-cost products with problematic forecasting and very high cost of inventory.
Finally, one option we ended up using was to change the marketing messages on special orders so they knew these items would be specially built at the factory and shipped based on their order. And this would take 3-6 months. Then, marketing focused on high run-rate products that were forecasted and were available in most channels.
Sales Enablement = Communication
The sales teams were much happier because customers were not abandoned and the volume of leads was directed to channel partners, not to the internal sales team. And, when the channel partners had opportunities and the large clients were properly prepared with a 3-6 month delivery time expectation, the process ran more smoothly.
Thus, through analysis of the sales funnel we learned why there was a conversion problem. Now, this is an unusual situation for an unusual company. Many software companies would lose their mind if this type of delay in the purchase process existed. Similarly, channel partners and distributors will communicate manufacturer offers but they will focus on what they know will sell and that is available – but clever business leaders will now focus on product quality because it impacts their customer loyalty.
In short, every business is different and has different problem areas … opportunity areas. And, each opportunity has a myriad of options that could address the situation. Approaching the problem from a “help make selling easier” is one role of a great product manager who knows the business environment and can find useful solutions. This approach helped identify that this division could not handle more business opportunities so I used the same methodology to help another division and targeted channel partner sales increased by 400% based on YoY analysis.
(This article is the 5th in a multi-part series by the author. To reach Michael, please visit https://forensicmarketing.com/ )
(By Vishal Samuel Kashyap) It’s a known fact now that Covid-19 has disrupted our lives – personal and professional – globally. Currently, no one is spared as irrespective of age, gender and job status, everyone has experienced the blows of the Pandemic.
The world of work is shifting. This change is driven primarily by technology disruption causing new trends in the workforce. It’s also altering the meaning of work in the recruiting equation. Technology is unsettling the recruitment industry like never before in history.
We believe that Recruitment must work for Candidates and Employers. Employers are looking for Candidates- and vice versa obsolete.
VH is here with SOLUTIONS to remake the hiring process: Sourcing the Right Candidate.
VH for Employers
Successful Recruitment depends on discovering the right candidates. It starts with sourcing the right ones.
It isn’t an easy task.
Recruiters spend considerable money and time going through incomplete, outdated social media profiles and outsourcing their candidate search. They get inundated with unfit applicants for their advertised job vacancies.
“VH exists to save them time and money.”
Today, remote working culture is challenging the company culture in binding the company on a human-based company culture.
Key Hiring Needs
As business evolves, so is technology.
Recruiters need to embrace digital tools and platforms to help engage, nurture, and convert their talent pools. As recruiters aim to compete for top talent, leaning on technology to aid in sourcing will assist recruiters to create a more robust talent network and thereby work more efficiently.
Increase Recruiter Efficiency
Sourcing through applications is time-consuming.
To get out of this repetitive rut of flipping through passive and redundant applications, recruiters should invest in engaging with vetted talent. The support of software capable of automating tasks, giving them time to instead focus on human-centric initiatives is the solution.
Eliminate Manual Processes and Silos
Manual processes keep the door for human error ajar.
Embracing recruitment digitalisation and end-to-end recruiting strategies ensures no room for error-prone hiring activities. By standardising and implementing digital platforms, recruiters store and archive records enabling them to update their candidates’ database for later recruitment.
Transform Your Hiring Process
An overflow of job opportunities coupled with a lean, available talent pool equates with today’s job seeker holding all the cards. Recruiters have to create an attractive, engaging, and positive candidate experience to elevate their brand and attract the best talent.
Meet Candidates Where They Are
Most people apply for jobs online, and with dozens of career sites on the market, finding the right setting to engage with candidates is crucial. Nowadays, recruiters have to approach candidates to find the right fit. Using the right tools and resources enable finding the right candidates.
Defy the Talent Shortage
Don’t skimp on your candidate experience.
Poor candidate experience is a lead to miss out on top talents and irritate your employer brand. Your candidate experience makes a difference in whether an applicant accepts your offer. A brand-centric and resourceful candidate experience sustains the competitive edge for talent search.
Invest NOW in THE solution to build a reliable and effective candidate pipeline.
To engage and convert job seekers on career sites and social platforms is tedious and time-consuming. And converting applicants from goal-oriented chats is equally taxing.
VH offers recruiters the plausibility and accessibility to decide on a shorter time-to-interview mode, thereby enhancing the candidate-recruiter experience.
Recruitment Process Automation
The recruiting pipeline can be lengthy.
At VH, automated sourcing-communication-conversion process shortens the lifecycle and creates a better streamlined experience for the candidate and recruiter respectively.
VH ensures the instant engagement with candidate- skills match criteria, candidate’s cover video screening to shortlist best-fit applicants and automate/quicken the interview scheduling process.
The most pressing, yet unresolved challenge for the Recruiters is to find the right candidates. Our solution will help you find them right here- and right now. Visit https://veedohire.com/ for more information.
You closed the deal and popped the champagne, and your next commission check is on it’s way. It’s nice to have money, but what are you supposed to do with it? It’s always great to have extra cash, and while you may be tempted to spend it, I’ve compiled a list of things to do before you treat yourself.
Build an Emergency Fund
Building an emergency fund of savings is one of the smartest things you can do. Looking back at 2020, remember that the entire economy shut down in two weeks and layoffs followed quickly after. It can happen any time and for any reason. I recommend building an emergency savings account with 6 months of expenses. To estimate this, add up your monthly rent/mortgage payment, car payment, insurance payment, student loan payment, and living expenses and multiply that monthly amount by 6. This buffer should give you plenty of time to find a new job and get back on your feet. Savings accounts like www.marcus.com give some of the best rates in the market.
Pay Down Debt
Debt comes in many different forms and can be confusing. Low rate debts, like your car payment or mortgage payment (generally less than 5%) are healthy and shouldn’t be rushed to pay down. However, credit card debt and personal loans with high rates (often 20% or higher) should be paid down immediately, as you can be spending hundreds of dollars a month… essentially making a donation to your bank.
Fund your Retirement
Once you’ve saved enough money for your emergency fund and paid down your high interest debt, saving for retirement should be your top priority. Experts recommend saving at least 10% of your income toward retirement, but if you want to maintain your current lifestyle you should start as soon as you can and aim to save 15% of your income. Always take advantage of your company’s 401k match… if you don’t, you’re leaving free money on the table. If you’re nearing retirement and aren’t comfortable with your retirement account balances, you’re allowed to make extra “catch up” contributions after you’re 50. While the investment options can be confusing, you can always use a target date fund that manages the portfolio risk for you. Consulting a financial advisor can be a great move! Save now so you can enjoy vacations and a nice lifestyle later!
Save for short term goals
Once you’ve completed steps 1-3, focus on things you want to do. Whether it’s remodelling your kitchen, going on vacation, or buying your first home, you’re going to need cash. Setting aside extra money every month adds up quickly! Keep any money that you’ll need to use in the next two years in a savings account or CD, not an investment account. You don’t want the market to crash the year you need the money!
Invest for the long term
Setting up a brokerage account is easy and puts your money to work for you. Most experts recommend investing for long term goals if you don’t need the cash for at least two years. Historically, the S&P 500 has averaged 10% returns annually, which is 20 times more than what top savings accounts are currently earning. Putting money into the stock market lets it grow over time and helps you save for things like college for your kids, or the lake house you always wanted. Almost all major platforms allow for free trading and have no monthly fees, and we recommend investing to anyone who has the extra cash! Fidelity, ETrade, and Robinhood all offer great platforms to investors looking for an entry point into the investing market.
Automate your savings. It’s easy and it takes all of the guesswork out of it. Set up direct deposit so certain percentages go to your checking, savings, retirement, and investments. If you never see the money in your paycheck, you won’t be tempted to spend it and you’re more likely to reach your financial goals. Set it and forget it!
Following these steps will enable you to become financially successful and reach your goals! While I can’t guarantee that you’ll be a millionaire or buy a mansion, I know that these steps will put you on the right path. Good luck on your financial journey!
Important to note, while I am not a financial advisor, I know that these steps are tried and true and lead many to financial success and wellness. If you have any questions, reach out to us and we can put you in touch with some great financial advisors we work with. No one paid us for this article and I really do believe in the companies I’ve listed, as they’re the ones I use myself.
Disclaimer: Matt Mahoney is not a licensed financial advisor and this should not be taken as professional financial advise. Please consult a licensed financial advisor before making any decisions with your money
(by Ramzi Marjaba) I started as a sales engineer back in 2014. I was green, and I didn’t have teammates around me. My mentor left within 2 months of my start date; some blame me for that!
I soon realized that I needed to learn about Sales Engineering from both teammates, and the best in the business outside of my company, so We The SEs Podcast was born in 2018. And now, with over 150 episodes, Ken Lambert at NAASE asked me to share what I’ve learned from them. So here are 15 Lessons Learned from over 150 interviews. Some of these lessons are based on what people said, others are based on what they did.
1- Listening is important!
This was from my first interview ever. My guest was Bill McCarel, my manager for 6 months. Active Listening is not the same as listening. According to Bill, it breaks down into 5 tenants
Be in the moment. You are here to listen, not to teach or lecture
Keep an open mind and don’t rush to judgment. Don’t immediately jump to answering questions. We know the answer, but we have to be patient
Rephrase the customer’s information. That way you can confirm that what you understood is correct.
Ask open-ended questions and clarifying questions. Use “Then what” or “what else” etc
Use Stories about similar situations.
2- Sales Engineers are in Sales! (Chris White)
This is something that Chris White, the author of 6 Habits of Highly Effective Sales Engineers says over and over. Some Sales Engineers hate that, especially in the Networking/IT/SAAS world. When I first started I thought there was a line where the SE tasks are on one side, and sales tasks are on the other. They never mix. I soon noticed that if I continue to operate that way, I will not have a very successful career. We are part of sales, and whether we like it or not, we have to do salesy stuff. Whether it’s asking the customers to meet with us, checking for other leads with our customers, or even asking if the deal will close, if we can master those, we can be better Sales Engineers
3- The Sales Engineering Community is the best community ever! (Every single SE I met)
Ok, maybe not every single one. One Sales Engineer got very upset that I don’t enjoy Apple products (blasphemy!). Mostly, the Sales Engineering community is a caring and helpful community that I’m proud to be a part of.
It did not matter if I’m asking teammates for help, or chatting with a SE I’ve never met before, I can tell that they care, and want to do the best to help whoever and whatever the situation is.
4- Salespeople are people too!
I have to admit, when I became a Sales Engineer, I did not know what it meant. Then I found out that there is such a thing as Account Managers. My first encounter with them was during onboarding. Account Managers and SEs were in the same room for training, but then it was time to split us up. The SE manager stands up and says “SEs stay here, those who have a lobotomy go to the other room”
Everyone laughed, and we moved on. However, that moment has stuck with me. There was always that us vs them mentality.
As I mentioned earlier, SEs are part of sales, and after talking to many Account Managers, they seem to have the same worries that I do. They need to make money to take care of their families. Customers yell at them (sometimes), VPs of sales yell at them, SEs and other engineers make fun of them, and yet they are still standing, still doing their jobs.
5- Not everyone is called a sales engineer
Presales, Presales Engineers, Systems Engineers, Solution Consultants, Solution Engineers, Application Engineers, Field Engineers, and so many more titles for the same thing. I wrote an entire blog just about this topic.
6- Technical wins don’t mean much (John Care)
Many SEs talk about the technical win. The problem is there is no way to simply quantify it. It’s akin to being up by 12 points in the 3rd quarter of a basketball game. Unless you keep that lead, it means nothing. So the SE’s job does not end with the technical win, especially if they are quota-based and still need their commission to see that extra dough in the bank account.
7- Technical wins mean a lot (Chris White)
SEs need to put their salespeople in a position to win. Not having the technical win means that we are down 12 points in the third quarter, and we have to depend on our salesperson to pull out a win all on their own.
8- Show What, then How (Peter Cohan)
This was not from a podcast, but from a blog that Peter Cohan wrote. The worst demos I’ve seen are those where every button is clicked and we go through every page. This does not show the customer how to solve the problem, just how to use the product. The demo is used to show the customer how we will solve their problem. So we need to focus on the problem we are showing, then how we got there if needed.
9- Learn from more than one source (Jose Espinoza)
There isn’t 1 way to learn, or one source to learn from. That’s something we discussed on the podcast recently with Jose Espinoza (Show 154).
I’m in the networking world. The defacto source of learning is the Cisco Certifications. There are others like Nokia and Juniper, but Cisco, in my eyes, is the most request certification on resumes. However, if we only learn from Cisco, we only learn what they want us to know. We can look at how customers are using it, listen to podcasts where people discuss different architectures helps us get a complete view of how the products are being used.
Also, we can learn from reading books, watching videos, practicing or we can use a combination of all different methods.
10- You are never too experienced to learn more (Brian Geery)
Brain Geery of SalesNV.com is a seasoned professional. He has been in sales for a very long time. He has his methods, opinions, and beliefs and he currently teaches SEs how to demo amongst other skills.
At the start of the pandemic, I was doing a weekly coffee break on Friday where people from all over the place would join me for a casual conversation. Brian would almost always be there. You would think someone with his experience would be there to attempt to enforce his view or show how smart he is so he can land a few more customers. Instead, he spent the time on the call asking questions, being genuinely curious about other’s opinions and what he can learn from them.
I truly appreciated talking to Brian because he elevated everybody by simply being curious.
11- You have to do more than sales engineering to be successful
Gone are the days where a Sales Engineer can be only the technical guy and be able to succeed. Now Sales Engineers have to up their game. They have to be able to do sales, some marketing, some negotiation, and other tasks.
Check out Show 158 of the We The SEs podcast to hear about the 8 Ignored Skills that SEs should have.
12- Personalities Matter (Aileen McNabb)
There isn’t one size fits all. Customers are different, SEs are different and salespeople are different. As SEs, we have to interact with many people. Most SEs can tell when their jokes are not landing, or when they are being too forceful, or too nonchalant. However actually understanding personalities, starting with your own, can help you deal with people in a more scientific approach.
13- You can control the way you are treated
I don’t like being told what to do. I hate it. I can take suggestions, but being given orders is not something I can digest easily, after all, I’m not a “go-for”. That lead to some friction between myself and the Account Managers I work with. Left unchecked, this could have lead to some ugly situations.
Then I realized that I’m in control. I’m in control of the way I acted, and how I respond to “requests”. Being proactive, I tried to understand what they were giving me such commands, and once I did, I was able to achieve what they were looking for before even being asked. It went from friction to frictionless.
14- You have room to be very creative in Sales Engineering (Patrick Pissang)
Engineers in general are not known to be creative. That’s why we’re not authors or painters. However, engineering has a lot of creativity. Engineers create stuff. Yet we don’t lean on that when we’re working as Sales Engineers.
Patrick Pissang is someone who embraces creativity. When he was on the show, he discussed how he wrote a “Press Release of the Future” that he shared with the customer about what they can do together. So we don’t have to stick to demoing user interfaces or talking about speeds and feeds. We can think outside the box and partner with customers on their endeavors.
15- Anybody can be a Sales Engineer
The term engineer is usually reserved for at least someone who graduated from an engineering school. So not everybody can be an Engineer. However, Sales Engineering is more of a role, not just a title. So if you don’t have an engineering degree but are still interested in the role, well, look out for other titles like Solution Consultant, Solution Architect, Presales, Application Consultant and so many more.
NAASE wants to thank Ramzi for this great synopsis of the “Best of” lessons from his 150+ sales engineering podcasts! Some great insight and tools here for SE’s of all ages and career levels.Ramzi can be reached at https://wethesalesengineers.com/
A few years ago, I decided to take a leap of faith into what at that time looked like a very challenging and drastic career move to take on a #SalesEngineering opportunity. I knew very little about sales back then and I ventured in with plenty of questions.
What will my compensation be, and how much based on commission?
Will I need to travel more?
Will I need to give many long and technical presentations to large groups of people?
Will I maybe lose my technical/engineering “edge” and knowledge?
How much “sales” will I really be doing?
Four years in, Sales Engineering has been the most challenging yet rewarding role that I have had thus far. The ride has definitely been bumpy, full of experiences and learnings.
Are you an engineer thinking about a career in sales and wondering “Should I transition from engineering to sales ?”
Let’s first decipher the sales world nomenclatures.
Products – The totality of goods or services that your company develops and makes available for your customers to buy and use.
Account Team – The account team is a team of resources that is assigned to a particular account (customer). It is common for the same account team to support more than one account. The account team consists of the following roles who are working together to drive the success of the account.
Account Executive – has the primary day-to-day responsibility of managing the business relationship with the customer.
Sales Engineer – the technical counterpart of the account executive required to build and maintain parallel expertise in technical and soft skills. The Sales Engineer applies their engineering background and thorough understanding of the targeted industry to recommend solutions (products) to serve the customers requirements.
Inside Sales Representative – the inside counterpart of the account executive that manages the ongoing relationship with the customer, processes orders and negotiates sales terms.
Technical Sales Representative – the inside counterpart of the sales engineer that handles building the solutions as per the specs that are agreed upon by the customer.**
A Design (or) Solution is a combination of products and services that deliver the desired business outcome for the customer. The design process could involve various steps such as product demonstrations, proof-of-concepts, product trials, setup, service and on-site residency.
**NAASE note: In our experience, sometimes a “technical sales representative” is essentially a combination of an account executive and a sales engineer; they do the bulk of both positions. The bottom line is that title and terms vary from company to company.
Now that we have deciphered the high-level sales nomenclature, below are my top of mind thoughts on the Sales Engineering role to help you decide whether it is something that you should consider as a future career.
As the Sales Engineer, you can do everything right, present the best possible product and still lose an opportunity for reasons totally unrelated to the product or the price or the market. Failure is the best teacher in Sales, fail fast, learn fast and rise fast.
The Sales Engineer is the point person for the customer, from the most complicated technical issue to a missing box label, it is you, the sales engineer that the customer is relying on to solve their problem.
As the Sales Engineer, you could be pulled into a meeting without any context and yet be expected to keep an active dialogue with the customer and find nuggets of information that can result in future business opportunities.
Your CEO could walk into your presentation unannounced and yet you are expected to continue the presentation without skipping a beat. Be ready to handle any situation, have an open mind to pivot your presentation based on your audiences reaction.
Immaterial of the brand or technology or product, Sales is a people business and customers buy only from people they trust and can rely on. No matter how bad the situation is, always be open, honest and straight forward with your customer. Never take short cuts to make a quick sale.
As the Sales Engineer, you are just a facilitator for the slew of amazing resources within your company. You need to learn to leverage them skillfully and resourcefully to be able to do what is right for your customer.
As the Sales Engineer, it is not only about selling what is on the truck but more about driving decisions that influences future products that goes on the truck.
Compensation, being on commission is a totally different ball game when compared to having a set base and bonus. Your target (quota) is set based on little bit of science and a little bit of magic. Trust your team and your management to do the right thing and when there are issues, have the patience for them to figure out a way to fix it. Quota attainment is cyclical, you win some you lose some and it all levels out in the long run. Have patience, trust your team.
Learning, You can continue to be as technical and hands-on as you desire, Sales Engineering is a continuous learning environment and you get to pick and choose what your learn and how much you learn. The Technical Sales realm is constantly changing and evolving with the industry and as a Sales Engineer you should never stop learning to be able to have a sensible conversation with your customer.
Drawing this to a close, Sales Engineering continues to teach me a lot and mainly to trust my instincts. A business opportunity that looks impossible one day will turn into recurring revenue the next (and in some cases a year and a half later). Thanks to my mentors and colleagues that guided me thru this transition to sales (or the dark side as they like to call it).
Be humble, be curious, be creative, ask why not, fail fast, embrace failure, trust your instincts, trust your team, keep learning, invest in yourself and above all prioritize family and friends over work.
When we talk about selling technology, and especially when we talk about selling SaaS, we are really talking about selling disruption. No matter how easy your tool or platform is to implement, you are changing the way your customers operate (hopefully for the better). Because this disruption impacts various areas of a business, it is important to help each member of your buying group understand your value proposition and how it benefits their specific area of interest.
In other words, you need to build consensus to close the sale and gain another happy customer.
But gaining buy-in from the right people inside an organization is challenging. You set up meetings. You conduct product demons. You answer security questionnaires and procurement documents. You conduct more demos. You send customer stories in for social proof. You conduct more demos. The problem is your presales and sales teams don’t have the time or resources to put on the same demo over and over, and leaders are putting pressure on their revenue teams to accelerate pipeline and reduce time to revenue. But how do you reduce time to revenue without hiring more people?
The answer: you automate some portion of your demo process.
Demo Automation Scales Your Preales Team
Your presales team does so much more than put on demos. These highly trained, incredibly technical professionals are an essential piece of how your company drives revenue. In addition to product demos, Sales Engineers, Solutions Consultants, Solutions Architects, and other presales professionals possess certifications and qualifications that make them an invaluable resource to your customers in terms of the advice they give, the complex problems they solve, and the way they communicate how your product optimizes their business.
Automating part of your demo process empowers your presales team to focus more on the activities that will produce the greatest impact to your customers and your business as a whole. In a 2020 survey we gathered data from hundreds of participants around the world to learn more about the presales/sales relationship and how it operates. Our results showed that on average, Sales Engineers support sales teams at a ratio of four Account Executives to one SE. Our survey also found that businesses can at times experience a lag of more than a week between the time a customer requests a demo to the time they actually receive one. At Consensus, our platform empowers Sales Engineers by automating portions of their demos and packaging it in a way that customers can easily consume, engage with, and share within their organization. What sets our platform apart is that our platform allows your demo to adapt based on your customer’s needs. With every share, viewers are asked what matters most to them, allowing them to see more of what they want to see and less of what they don’t. The result is an overall better experience for customers that saves SEs on average more than 10 hours per week. Think of what your presales team can do with 10 more hours a week per employee to focus on impactful activities that go beyond product demos.
Demo Automation Gives You Insight into Your Buyers
Selling is hard. Buying is harder. In his book, Garin Hess, Consensus Founder and CEO, cites research stating that it can take a company more than 16 months to buy a technology solution. One of the main reasons for this delay is because of the many personalities and priorities that make up a buying group. The cast of characters comprising a buying group can include dynamic leaders from the C-Suite, financial analysts, sales and marketing leaders, IT and security, and many others. Each of these stakeholders has a unique opinion and perspective on what they look for in a technology solution, a perspective that must be appeased before they can reach consensus, which can be achieved through Consensus’s demo automation.
Automating your company demo allows you to enable your buyers to customize their viewing experience based on their needs. By giving them the choice to prioritize which portions of your product demonstration mean the most to them individually, they come to understand more quickly how your product fits into their ecosystem and benefits them as well as the company as a whole. Using a platform like Consensus also helps your team improve in the way they present and sell your product by giving presales and sales reps insights into the buying group. Our platform tracks interaction data including views, clicks, and shares (among other things) to show you what each member of the buying group cares about most when evaluating your company. This information helps your team better understand your customer’s needs, giving them the answers they need to prepare for subsequent calls and customers interactions.
Demo Automation Accelerates Deals through the Funnel
As companies look to grow and scale at an accelerated pace to achieve market dominance, pipeline velocity becomes essential to success. A company’s ability to move deals through the funnel quickly and efficiently is an indicator of both short and long term success. Demo automation improves the ability of both presales and sales teams to communicate your value proposition in a simple, impactful way that leaves your customers delighted, informed, and ready to take action.
Arming your presales teams with an interactive demo automation platform like Consensus helps Sales Engineers qualify customers faster by allowing them see their priorities and match their solution to the problems the customer wants to solve. This, combined with the time saved from automating the repetitive tasks of basic demos, gives your team the advantage of making their first call feel like a second call, which drastically shortens the overall sales cycle and accelerates time to revenue.
Selling and buying technology is a complicated game. Companies invest significant time and resources into hiring and training the right presales professionals to engage customers and architect solutions that convert into wins and revenue. Automating your demo process with a platform like Consensus helps companies scale their current presales team, gain essential insights into what their customers need, and increase pipeline velocity.
(by Sania Salman) With the advancement and continuous innovations in the field of science and technology, new product inventions and machines are always being developed. This augmentation of technology requires not only its accessibility but also its understanding and knowledge to make it more convenient for the usage of targeted audiences. People want machines to make their life easier and work efficient. When it comes to buying products for their businesses or work, not everyone is a tech geek and has the comprehension of technology or machines to make the right choice. That is when technical sales come into play.
What is Technical Sales?
Technical sales is the art of selling technology products by personnel having a core knowledge of scientific technicalities and specifications of the particular product. A unique blend of sales and technology ensures a much better buying experience since it provides the different aspects of a product to be known by the customer before the purchase is made. Thereby the customer is well aware of the choice he is making in terms of having an efficient solution to his business needs.
Technical sales is quite different from most regular sales jobs. Like any sales job, a person has to be persuasive to make the buyer purchase the product. In technical sales, the purchase depends on the sound knowledge, explanation, and demonstration of the product by the technical sales engineer or specialist. The consultative nature of the sales rep proves to be insightful to the consumer in fulfilling their business needs with a technology-provided solution.
“Keep on the lookout for novel ideas that others have used successfully. Your idea has to be original only in its adaptation to the problem you’re working on.”—Thomas Edison
The Future of Technical Sales
Talking about the future of technical sales, as we all know the future is technology, therefore, technical sales is only going to get stronger in the future. With many more inventions and scientific breakthroughs, the solutions provided by science and technology will be extensive. The only thing required is that sales engineers should be trained effectively and accordingly in order to fulfill the needs of the customers by providing them a resourceful guide to the product and ensuring a solution.
According to John Care,an SE expert and founder of Mastering Technical Sales, there will certainly be a growing demand for sales engineers in the future. The fact that advancements in technology will continue to rise in the future is undeniable but most importantly, people still prefer to work with people and don’t want robots to sell to them. Human factors and empathy are the attributes that cannot be duplicated by robots.
An article in the Harvard Business Review analyzed the jobs and skills which are at a high risk of being automated and technical sales was way down at the bottom of the list- which further proves that the demand for technical sales will not decline as we proceed farther into the foreseeable future.
The employment opportunity for sales engineers is projected to grow 6 percent from 2018 to 2028, about as fast as the average for all occupations. As a wider range of technologically complex products is being developed, sales engineers will be crucial to help sell such products or services.
The job growth chart provided by Data USA shows a steady rise in the field of technical sales. Strong industry growth is predicted in computer systems design and related services, which will greatly contribute to employment growth for the occupation. Based on this, the employment of sales engineers in this field is projected to grow 24 percent from 2018 to 2028.
While the field of technical sales is predicted to show growth in the future, people working in this field also need to evolve to adapt to the changing needs of the customers. Reciting products’ specifications ad features to the customers will not be enough, rather they need to understand the customers’ business problems and provide them a solution accordingly. They should not only be well-informed of the scientific notions and technicalities of the product but also consult with the customers and understand their needs properly to make it appeal more to the prospect.
“Even if you are on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.” – Will Rodgers
Anything related to the field of science and technology is on the uptick and will remain so for the near future. The good news is that people still prefer to work with people and not with robots so technical sales roles will benefit. The bottom line is that with the surge in technology, technical sales engineers or product managers will become increasingly critical for a product’s success in the market.
A guide for technical sales solution architects, sales engineers, system engineers and presales managers that increases their visibility and impact in driving top-line revenue and improving margin
Throughout my career I have been blessed to see some amazing technical sales leaders in action. And most recently in my role at Hub, I have had the honor to learn from stellar technical sales managers, at both private and public companies, on best practices that impact revenue, optimize margin and enable them to get a seat at the table with the chief revenue officer, chief financial officer, chief product officer, chief executive officer and even the board of directors.
So what is the key to gaining influence, you may ask? Interpersonal dynamics and communication skills make a difference. But the most important pillar of influence is data that technical sales leaders utilize to focus on delivering value.
Let’s first look at the six areas where technical sales leadership can add value.
Analysis. Your ability to analyze the right data that shows what is working and not working with your processes, people, products you sell and solutions you develop is a tremendous value add to your C-suite. Make sure you correlate the right data elements, double click on the integrity of your data, and provide the right confidence levels on the data integrity that you have to work with.
Insights. Measure and track insights from your analysis and then articulate them to the C-suite so they can determine ways to further fuel growth and optimize margin. For instance, your insights may indicate that winning certain types of business is not profitable to the company, given their associated cost of sale. Or you may discover that by getting technical sales involved earlier in the technical discovery sales process, you are able to reduce the noise associated with poor opportunities and increase capacity to process more high quality business opportunities.
Gaps. Identify blockers that are impeding revenue associated with net new business, expansion, upsell and cross-sell opportunities. These opportunities may require new feature enhancements but in some cases may require actions outside of development, such as compliance to mandates like FedRam certification. With data you can have more productive conversations with product management, as illustrated in this most recent post, “How to Align Technical Sales and Product Management Differences on Product and Solution Gaps.”
Forecast. Complement existing processes and tools utilized by the C-suite to further improve forecasting of meeting or exceeding upcoming quota. In both private and public companies, it is a best practice to be 100% accurate on forecast, so the C-suite will greatly appreciate your efforts to help achieve that 100%.
Investment. Help quantify with accuracy the cost and revenue generated by technical sales professionals in your organization. If you provide these metrics, you can justify where to make investments in talent, process development and tooling, which can influence growth and the attachment rate to all opportunities in the funnel. Additionally, map out the leverage your technical sales professionals have across your various go-to-market initiatives as outlined in the post “The Technical Sales Leverage Effect On Quota.”
Action. Increase your value with the C-suite not only by providing look-back metrics and visibility but also offering leading indicators and real-time corrective actions that can put opportunities on the right track to success.
Now that we covered the six areas of value, let’s ask ten questions to help you to determine your capabilities to get access to the right data that tracks and measures your team’s activities:
Where does your team’s data come from?
Is your data quality high, medium or low?
How is that data updated on a daily basis by your team members?
Do you have administrators at your disposal overseeing systems that house your data?
How quickly can you get access to your data?
Are your individual contributors supportive in giving you the data you need?
Does data input and collection hamper individual contributors’ productivity?
Do you have what you need to track your team’s daily activities?
What blocks you from getting the data you need?
What can you do to improve the quality and timeliness of your data?
With the right data on your team’s activities you can deliver value across the six areas. However, if you don’t have what you need or are inclined to improve data on your team’s activities, consider these three steps.
1. Optimize your general-purpose customer relationship management (CRM) system. Data hygiene and data input are some of the most prevalent challenges for technical sales professionals. If you have administrative and development resources at your disposal, develop initiatives to both cleanse data and develop features to minimize the burden on individual contributors entering the data you need.
2. Implement a personalized productivity technical sales platform. To greatly enrich the quality of your technical sales data, evaluate a personalized platform specifically built to help technical sales’ individual contributors with their daily work. Selecting a commercial vendor whose sole purpose is to provide a personalized platform for technical sales can very well give you additional capabilities that further enrich your data, minimize the operational costs associated with custom development of general-purpose CRM systems, and accelerate your ability to win more business and deliver value to the C-suite. Also look for systems that can securely interoperate and sync data bidirectionally with your general-purpose CRM system, so that you can preserve the integrity of your sales data in your CRM.
3. Ingest data from common productivity applications that your team uses. Whenever possible, sync data from tools used by your individual contributors into your personalized technical sales system and your source of record and/or your general-purpose CRM system.
Whether you are overseeing ten or thousands of technical sales professionals, you play a key role in the company’s success. Delivering value across these six areas — with access to timely and reliable data — will increase your influence within the C-suite.
Freddy Jose Mangum is the CEO of Hub, which provides a productivity platform to help technical sales professionals win more business. Freddy has over 25 years as an operator in businesses pre-revenue to $1B+ in revenue.
High-value B2B deals seldomly follow a linear path and often take unexpected routes to close. Account-based marketing is proving to be a successful approach to B2B sales. B2B sales happen in changing environments which, regrettably, are now regularly turbulent with the Covid-19 pandemic. ‘Winging it’ or simply ‘going over the top’ to win or keep an important account is far riskier now. There’s also less room to learn from costly mistakes which can be avoided or mitigated with sensible and relevant sales strategies. Preparation and thinking strategically can take the sales team a long way in closing a deal effectively and more quickly.
B2B sales cycles can be long, gruelling and testing – in time, it’s easy to lose perspective while being led from pillar to post. A documented sales-strategy which considers a client’s unique circumstances can be a valuable map for navigating the targeted client-organization and demonstrating value. Even in a basic form, a sales strategy is a ‘battle plan’ to gauge progress, record failed manoeuvres (in order to avoid repeating them), and a map of the possible ways forward. Collectively, your battle plans become a valuable playbook to fast-track current and future deals while aligning the sales team. Your playbook is also a repository of learning experiences, the good, the bad and the ugly, to be built upon.
So, what makes up a sales strategy for an important B2B client or prospect? Essential elements for the client strategy are the positioning statement (supported by current tactics and backup tactics); key options (to access and convince the decision makers and the consumers/users); plausible scenarios (including responses to possible blockages and objections); solutions to the client’s needs (understanding key stakeholders and their demands); dealing with competitors (being ready with counter proposals); all underpinned by sensible and relevant research and analysis (a client-needs assessment, SWOT analysis, market analysis). With the right tool you can quickly craft and share winning strategies with your sales team.
Execution and communication are vital and will bring your sales strategies to life to close those important deals and shorten client sales cycles. Basic execution-planning is essential, taking note of key steps, as is the timing and content of communications. It’s also worth taking the time to put some key-performance indicators in place to assess how the client sales strategy is doing in order to take corrective steps in good time. It’s also important to think about and prepare for the critical success factors which need to be in place for the strategy to succeed – these include things like the client having budget approval and operational approval, and being ready with measures to make these happen.
The great thing about modern technology is that it’s much easier now to craft a sales strategy for each key client account. The era of account-based marketing has dawned so let’s embrace it. We at Kamelian Tech will be working with NAASE to prepare blue-print strategies which NAASE members can adapt and use to build key-account playbooks. We also invite members of NAASE to share their experiences with us and community members. Together, with the right knowledge, strategies and tools, we can all improve our B2B sales and build lasting high-value relationships with clients.