The next big opportunity for sales enablement – sales engineers
If you’re looking for a quick win in your enablement programs then look no further than your sales engineering team. One of the most overlooked roles in sales enablement is that of the sales engineer, also known as technical sales, pre-sales or sales consultant. While 94.3% of businesses focus their sales enablement initiatives on frontline salespeople and account managers, only 45.9% shine light on their sales engineers, yet they play a crucial role in the sales process.
Sales engineers often require more enablement than reps by virtue of the highly technical nature of their role. They not only need to know everything about their product, competitors, verticals and industry, but sales engineers must also understand how to apply this information to different use cases and differentiate your product from that of your competitors. Sales engineers touch almost every part of the sales process and play a significant role in proving the success of your product to potential customers.
The sales engineer is the resident product expert in a sales call – a situation that can be highly stressful even for the most competent professional. They bring together the knowledge of how existing customers use your product, usually learned from the customer success team, with the sales teams understanding of the customer, their pain points and needs. Essentially, sales engineers need to have the knowledge that both sales and customer success teams have, along with the detailed specifications of your product. As a consultant, they provide the deep knowledge that helps customers see why they should choose your product and be able to demonstrate it.
Their role covers not only initial sales conversations but also customised demonstrations and proof of concepts. It’s the sales engineer who sets up sandboxes and pilots so that customers can trial your product and see their specific use cases in action. This process of proof of concept can take a sales engineer anywhere from one week to six months to complete.
Some businesses have acknowledged the key role that sales engineers play. Symantec designed and implemented a comprehensive enablement program targeted specifically to the sales engineers and they believe well-enabled sales engineers make their pipeline bulletproof. This is the exception rather than the rule and speaks to the value Symantec have placed on the role of the sales engineer in their focus on customer success. Many companies simply arm sales engineers with the same information that they give their sales reps or customer success teams. While this is a start, it rarely provides them with all the information they need, nor the depth of knowledge required, to complete their role effectively.
Some areas that sales engineers need to be enabled include:
- Detailed product knowledge that incorporates technical specifications
- Customer use cases
- The product roadmap and future releases
- The RFP process and what security documents are required for different verticals and industries
- Up to date information on competitor products and industry updates
- The ability to dive deeper into specific pain points and requirements
- How to conduct a technical demonstration and manage trials and proof of concepts
- Each aspect of the sales process including who is involved and understanding when they are required
Given how critical sales engineers are in turning an opportunity into a customer, it’s surprising that more businesses have not focused on enabling their knowledge and needs. Businesses that do this now can achieve a competitive advantage that is almost guaranteed to help them close more deals faster.
How have you enabled your sales engineers?