Wednesday, August 13, 2014

A Day in the Life of a Sales Engineer

You  get up early and drive to airport.  Today you are flying to Rome for a quick face to face customer meeting.

Face to face meetings are valuable as the level of interaction is so much higher.  Seeing the faces, hearing the questions, and understanding looks between different people.  However they do cost a lot more time than a web meeting, so they need to be planned well, at the right part of the sales cycle, and with the right audience.  Sometimes, you are bringing together different teams at the prospect, who rarely meet properly to discuss things.

After landing, you join a technical briefing call from engineering to update the field on a new release.  It’s good to hear this information straight from the developers, and you ask a few pointed questions about whether some customer desired features are making the cut into the next version.  Developers have a harder time getting to know customer needs first hand, so these calls have value for both sides.

You take a taxi to the customer site, with the sales rep, who flew in from another city.  Together, you quickly go over the notes you have for the call, checking on the purpose of the meeting, where you are in the sales cycle, and what you both hope to achieve today.  It is more rushed than you would hope, but this adds greatly to your readiness for the meeting. 

The meeting is early in the sales cycle, however the customer is desperate for information.  They found it difficult differentiating between the vendors they were talking to, as the marketing material worked very hard to show the same set of features.

You begin by revisiting the customer needs, telling them what you know from the discussions on the phone with different team members, but gradually sharing the problem as you understood it, relating it back to them, using as much of the customer terminology as you can. 

Carefully, once you have this understanding and agreement on the problem, you suggest some insights or unexpected but related issues, which were confirmed. Once you have established these points of additional value, you start to discuss your solution and benefits it would offer which meet their particular needs.  You use the whiteboard, go through a few brief slides to highlight parts of the solution, the architecture and then give a quick demonstration of your technology to highlight the vision of the solution. 

In less than 2 hours, you and the sales rep leave, giving a good impression, having set some actions for follow up and a firm path forward to closing some business. 

Over a quick lunch with the sales rep, together you decide who has to perform the various tasks.  Some are purely commercial and others require technical knowledge or simply knowing where to look.  One of your regional resellers arrives later to the lunch to check in with the sales rep on some other activities in the week, and checks some product capabilities with you.  You enjoy working with partners, and some of them have very skilled technical teams, who are able to offer excellent support if you enable them with the right capabilities.  It certainly helps extend the reach of your team, having local people on the ground.  The reseller tells you both that several large orders are nearing completion, and they just signed the largest order to date.  Customers in the region are really talking about your company.

After lunch, you head back to the airport, and catch a flight to the next destination, Barcelona, where the marketing team is setting up your stand at a major vendor’s annual European trade show.  On the flight you catch up on some emails, reset your demo system, and spend a little time relaxing.

At the hotel you meet up with a team member from another office, and debrief on some of the joint activities you have going on.  One of them is a Proof of Concept, coming up with a major prospect, which appears to be justified, but will take a big amount of time for both of you in the coming month. 

You get a chance to catch up which is not possible that often, with busy schedules and a tight travel budget.  You really should spend more time, sharing knowledge, tips and tricks with the products and how you work with customers.  Since trade shows can be very tiring with long hours and you have a full program the next day, you get an early night and are ready to face the challenges of a new day.

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