REVIEW: The 6 Habits of Highly Effective Sales Engineers (Chris White)
Recently I was asked to read and review a 2019 book written by presales consultant Chris White, regarding the best habits of effective sales engineers. The book is geared more towards the software industry. However, roughly 85% of the material and suggestions within the book can be used in other fields of sales engineering.
Overall, White’s book has many practical points and insights, which I believe is the key factor in any business publication. My favorite pieces of advice he suggests include the following:
- A sales engineer IS IN SALES!
- At a presentation/meeting the SE needs to do the same thing that a typical salesperson needs to do: establish trust and build confidence with the audience, build relationships and develop rapport, offer insights and suggestions, and maybe most importantly- LISTEN.
- SE’s often focus too much on the thing/product, and not the story/message.
- Presales is not consulting. We are trying to make a sale; we have not been hired- yet.
- Some SE’s rely too much on the information from the sales counterpart, instead of doing their own thorough technical discovery call.
- SE’s might not ask or know who will be in the room during a planned meeting.
- Technical Sales Reps can either underprepare for a meeting, or can waste valuable time and resources by overpreparing. The trick is staying in that middle ground.
- SE’s may not run thru every click/step during a demo or presentation prior to the actual client meeting. This is a big mistake and can cause embarrassing and sometimes deal-killing problems in front of the client.
- Confused prospects/buyers always say No.
- In your demo/presentation, make sure there are 3-5 “ah-ha” moments which should impress your audience. On the same note, know why you are showing each step or slide/page. Basically, you need to ask yourself, “So what?” to each step or slide.
One aspect of the book would not be entirely correct for “some” sales engineers out there. The premise of the book is that the SE is always working alongside a sales rep or Account Executive. While this may be generally the case, especially in enterprise software, it oftentimes is not the case in the non-software end of sales engineering. I was formerly the national sales engineer for a building product manufacturer, and there was nobody else doing anything sales related in my territory. I did all of my own prospecting as well as every other aspect of sales and business development or account management. Many other non-software SE’s are in the same boat.
That said, White’s chapter on partnering with your AE is excellent and is critical for having a successful career where you are in fact working with a sales counterpart. If that relationship is problematic, there is very little chance of ongoing sales prowess. The book goes over several aspects making sure you have a solid working relationship, and much of this has to do with communication, and expectations.
In my opinion, Chris White’s book does a good job of what it sets out to do, and is full of valuable lessons for the new SE but also for a professional that has been in the industry or role for several years. And though it does focus on software professionals, SE’s from other fields should also find it relevant and helpful.