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Mastering Technical Sales The Sales Engineer's Handbook Repost 3

Sales engineering is a hybrid of sales and engineering that exists in industrial and commercial markets. An engineering degree is not mandatory for a sales engineer, as long as they have sales knowledge and sufficient technical knowledge of the service or product they are called sales engineer. Buying decisions in these markets are made differently than those in many consumer contexts, being based more on technical information and rational analysis and less on style, fashion, or impulse. Therefore, selling in these markets cannot depend on consumer-type sales methods alone, and instead it relies heavily on technical information and problem-solving to convince buyers that they should spend money on the seller's products or services, in order to meet a business need (that is, to satisfy a business case). A sales engineer is thus both "a salesperson that understands and can apply engineering" and "an engineer that understands how to sell engineered systems". They thus not only sell but also provide advice and support. They provide this service to various internal or external customers, and they may work for a manufacturer (servicing its industrial-account/business-to-business customers), for a distributor (which in turn services the industrial-account/business-to-business customers), or for a third party such as an engineering consultancy or a systems integrator.

Mastering Technical Sales The Sales Engineer's Handbook repost 3

Sales engineers are a critical sales team member in many companies and industries around the world. They are more than just technical experts in their respective industries. Highly successful sales engineers must build and maintain parallel expertise in "soft skill" disciplines such as business acumen, presentation skills, building customer relationships, developing an engagement strategy, and having a thorough understanding of the targeted industry. Many companies have difficulty finding people who possess these qualities, plus have extensive technical knowledge.

The essence of the sales engineering role can be called by various names. Which name is most apt can even depend on which industry it is used in.[1] Some common job titles that involve the essence of sales engineering include sales engineer, solutions engineer, solutions architect, systems engineer, customer engineer, pre-sales consultant, technical account manager,[1] applications engineer or field applications engineer. The term systems engineering has various shades of meaning, however, as it is often more or less synonymous with industrial engineering; but in any market economy, industrial engineers will often end up providing some sales engineering as a necessary portion of their work. Service technicians in industrial fields may also find that their work challenges them to provide some sales engineering, to whatever extent they are capable of providing it, because they interface with customers having problems with equipment (or lacking the right equipment) and seeking solutions (anywhere from diagnosis and repair, to identifying entirely different systems that could be used instead).

The sales of systems and solutions delivered by these companies are complex and usually require extensive documentation that describes what is being proposed and what the company commits to deliver. The sales engineer is in charge of preparing technical proposals, or scopes of work (SoWs), which are usually subject to technical negotiation with the customer prior to the provider being able to submit a commercial proposal. In order to prepare the commercial proposal, once the scope of the proposed solution is finalized, the sales engineer is typically also in charge of gathering all the inputs from internal stakeholders (product, R&D, delivery, services, finance, legal, etc.) so that profit and loss (P&L) can be calculated, pricing can be established and final commercial proposal can be approved and submitted to the customer.

The companies that employ sales engineers need to sell their products or services to generate income, but since engineers and scientists usually have substantially different personality traits than those required for sales work, there is a role for people with a combination of abilities. These individuals must have technical understanding of the complexities of what their company supplies together with sales skills. This combination of traits is not common.

Sales engineers and technical sales reps must perfectly understand the product or service they are selling; they should be able to explain in detail how it works, what business value it offers, and the results that customers will achieve. They also have to sell the idea of why customers need to make a change to move forward to the solution offered. Sales engineering uses a lot of discovery questions to uncover the challenges that customers have in their business or the outcomes they can't drive.[4]

I've been in technical pre-sales for about ten years, and software demos have been a part of my role since day one. I'm still working on perfecting my demos, but I do have some tips on getting the best results from the short time you have with your clients.

Technical sales / solution engineering / pre-sales is (in my humble opinion) one of the best roles you can have in tech. It combines technical skill, creativity and sales skills and is critical to the success of complex software sales.

We've only touched the surface of technical demos in this post, but hopefully there are some useful nuggets here for you. The following section lists some books that I have found particularly beneficial to improving my pre-sales skills, if you want to dig deeper! As a bit of a spoiler: all of these revolve around putting the customer first. Active listening, acknowledgement, mirroring and understanding are all key techniques to build trust. Without trust, it is unlikely that you will be successful.

There are hundreds of books on this topic. The selection below are from my library, and each adds value to technical presenting. I've roughly prioritized them by how applicable they are to technical demos, they all have something to teach which can be valuable for pre-sales engineers.

This book is a great resource for those new to technical pre-sales. It covers much more than software demos including RFPs, needs analysis and whiteboarding. There are three chapters on demonstrations, though, starting with one of my favorite quotes from pre-sales:

A technical pre-sales engineer should be a trusted advisor. This book discusses the importance of trust and how it is earned and lost. A good book for life in general, and quite applicable to software demonstrations.

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