Do you find that you are often so busy running from prospect to prospect that you have little time in between to sit down and think about how you approach customers in general?
We treat our sales strategy like a tree. We operate as the trunk - the core part of the system which makes the product, and handle only the biggest deals, and the biggest partners as the main distribution network. If your sales team is tackling most end customers directly, then the activity that will fill your time most is the full end to end sales story. Getting leads, going to early initial meetings, establishing credibility, proving product capability, proving the business case and then trying to close the deal. In this case your sales team is like the whole tree, and to handle more customers you need to have more sales teams (Reps and SEs).
However in building up an effective channel strategy, it means that more and more of your time is about enabling others to go and get those customers. So instead of chasing that big lead directly, sending it along to a partner who is already trusted by that prospect and has a proven track record there. That way you greatly increase your reach, and lower the amount of time you need to spend on each deal. You can also then go to all the other customers of that partner and resell to them.
As an SE, if what you are selling is a product, you basically become the demo show pony and just turn up to give that killer demo, and answer all the big questions that the partner can't. We find that we have to give less Proof of Concepts away, have much more consumer confidence already going into the meeting, and our partners gain some additional revenue from customers they have already put the hard effort into as well.
However I don't think that this diminishes the role of SEs or Sales Reps from the Publisher, as training partners, supporting their activities and ensuring that your leads are going to the channel best suited to winning it are key roles that secure the revenue stream. Although I read an interesting article on Outsourcing Sales Engineers, I believe that new products and new companies will always need their own internal resources to take products to market. More mature products may well lower their cost of sale comparatively to the size of the revenue stream, but effective SEs are always in high demand and even the largest companies in the world with the most established products need SEs to keep spreading the good news. However all of these companies have a channel sales focus as well.
The SE role in the Channel sales approach is to keep partner education levels up with new product capabilities, act with the partner in their dealings with customers, fight off competitors from using the same Sales Channel, and even go into end customer meetings wearing the badge of the partner as well to show how well they know your products.