AEs and SEs… Are You Playing Singles Tennis or Doubles?

There’s no “I” in team.

It’s a cliché we all know and love (or, possibly hate). Regardless, it does have merit. 

Working as a team is one of the most important yet overlooked transitions that account executives and sales engineers make, especially when first stepping into technical sales. Because the truth is, success in team selling is ultimately determined by the relationship between account executive and sales engineer.

How can we, as sales engineers, engage and interact with our sales counterparts to build a solid partnership? 

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To unpack this subject, I asked Carlos Ortiz, Head of Customer Engineering with Google Cloud, to share some of the most valuable lessons he has learned throughout his journey as a sales engineer.

Carlos used a compelling analogy which I thought illustrated the importance of working together as a team particularly well:

Forming a relationship with your sales counterpart and learning to sell as a team is a lot like playing doubles in tennis.

When playing “tennis doubles” with your AE, neither person is in command or in a position of superiority over the other player. The situation, the “match,” is in control – and depending on that situation both players pivot, move, and play accordingly. You communicate, make adjustments, and learn to capitalize on your partner’s strengths. 

That’s why forming a solid relationship with your sales counterpart is so critical. It’s important to understand one another’s abilities, thought patterns, and “playing style” so that you can ultimately anticipate their moves and play off each other. 

Of course both individuals bring different strengths and skills to the “court”.  The AE is primarily responsible for creating a compelling business case, navigating the organization.  SEs are primarily responsible for solutioning, presenting and demonstrating the solution.  But we all need to be able to engage with customers, present, answer questions, build rapport, etc. There are times when one of us may need to “rush the net” or back pedal to get a lob.

Just like playing tennis doubles, both parties, account executive and sales engineer, must work in tandem to secure the technical win and close the deal.

Sales engineers, focus on forming and solidifying the partnership with your AE – it will pay off. And with time and practice, your dynamic will become so natural that it’s almost like it was choreographed. 

Check out my full interview with Carlos Ortiz here. And if you’re interested in more advice on team selling, check out this podcast interview on technical selling from SALES with ASLAN, featuring myself and sales engineer Ramzi Marjaba.