If you asked me 2 years ago if I’d be working in Sales at a high tech startup, I’d say you were nuts! Fast forward to today and that’s exactly what I’m doing. Today I’m a Sales Engineer at an advanced analytic startup.
What exactly is a Sales Engineer? Wikipedia defines it as a hybrid between Sales and Engineering, an interesting combination indeed. I live in a Goldilocks world of solving problems and selling the solution. This suits me just fine. Coming from the engineering world, solving problems is in my blood. Couple this with learned public speaking skills (i.e. Toastmasters), making presentations in a Sales environment makes me happy. I’m in my sweet spot.
What’s my typical day like? Hectic! Unpredictable! Cool! Most of the day I’m on discovery calls with customers discussing how our platform can help them. Next, I could be making a presentation with an Account Representative to a board room. After that, I could be on a WebEx with a customer helping them troubleshoot a process. This could, and has, happened all in one day.
What does it take to be a Sales Engineer? It takes a lot of skills and creative ability. I’m not just saying that to make myself sound awesome, it’s a tough job and can be stressful at times. Despite that, Sales Engineering is a rewarding career. As I said above, I’m in the Goldilocks zone! Sounds great, right? Ready to sign up at your local startup as a Sales Engineer? Not so fast, there are a few things you need to know to be successful at it. Let me share with you 6 key thoughts I’ve learned if you’re considering becoming a Sales Engineer.
Tips on being a Sales Engineer
Know thy product – Yes, you need to know you’re product inside out. You need to know what it can do and what it can’t. You need to know how to set it up in a customer’s environment or be able to find the right resource to help in your company.
Be creative – If you have a flexible product, you will need to be able to use it in creative ways. Likewise, you need to misuse it too. Sometimes the customer has strange requirements and you need to figure out how to get it done!
Stamina – You’re going to be busy. Prepare to take calls after hours, before hours, on a train, in an airport, etc. I joke that my life would end if I lost my mobile phone.
Attitude – You must have an open and engaging attitude. This I can not stress enough. Learn from peers, learn from competitors, learn for everyone in your company. Have a “can-do” attitude and never shy away from hard problems.
Persevere – Sometimes after a great proof of value (POV), a customer will go “dark.” You thought this was a sure win and then everything becomes anticlimactic. Like a pregnant pause, you need to help your sales team push through this and reengage your customer.
Understand what Value means – Perhaps the most important item is the magical term “value.” Boy, do I hear this term tossed around like a bowling bowl in a rowboat. I will dedicate a separate post to this topic but what you think is valuable may not be valuable to your customer.