Sales Engineers are a hard nut to figure out. If they’re too technical, they usually don’t have the polish they need to speak to prospects in the context of selling. If they’re too polished, they struggle to succeed in organizations that value technical skills. Soft skills are hard to quantify, so they’re hard to screen for, and even harder to cultivate. Probably why most of the really polished SE’s go onto become highly successful sales guys. Commissions are a great way to quantify results.
I had dinner with one of the best SE’s I know last Thursday. He’s a guy that takes no prisoners. His customers love him. In fact, one of his current customers called the president of his company to tell them on no uncertain terms was my friend to be removed from their account.
We were chatting about our jobs, and he said “I don’t use slides.”
“You don’t use slides?!?!”
“Nope, I walk in and ask one question…
What am I doing here?
That gets the prospect talking, and enables me to build a relationship based on my subject matter expertise.”
Brilliant, yet simple.
I think it’s so simple, people don’t trust it as a strategy. Probably because so many SE’s are like the guy I worked with this morning, only comfortable when talking about the bits-and-bytes of the product. And thoroughly out of their league when talking about the customer’s solutions.
And, by the way, if “What am I doing here?” isn’t enough of a conversation starter… followup with “What keeps you up at night?” That’s sure to get any technologist talking.