Effective Collaboration Between Sales Engineers and Sales RepsMay 29, 2023
In the world of technical sales, having a strong team is essential to success. Sales representatives need to understand the product and a customer’s problems to bridge the gap and persuade them to buy a product or service. Technical products that have multiple complex components often require a more technical demonstration from sales engineers in order to close a sale. In order to be effective, however, it is important for sales representatives and sales engineers to collaborate. Unfortunately, miscommunication can often occur between these two groups leading to confusion, resentment, and lost sales.
To avoid this outcome, companies should strive to understand the individual strengths of each group and where they can help boost each other’s success. Using the collaboration best practices outlined in this article, is the start to building stronger teamwork between sales engineers and sales reps. Read on to learn our best techniques for effective collaboration.
What Sales Engineers Do
Let’s start with the question, what exactly is a sales engineer and why do companies need them? Sales engineers are responsible for selling complex technological and/or scientific products and services. They perform technical demonstrations of the product showcasing the technical aspects of how the product solves specific customer problems.
To use sales engineers effectively, sales reps should bring them into an ongoing sale later in the process in order to highlight the technical benefits of a product or service. The lead perceives them as an expert opinion on the technical components, and the SE works together with the sales rep to close the deal.
What skills should a SE possess? Expert technical skills in their field, the ability to turn complex information into easily understandable material, problem-solving skills, and at least some experience with sales for sure. Great SEs should also have interpersonal and teamwork skills in order to get the most benefits out of working with both customers and sales reps.
What Sales Representatives Do
Sales representatives are not the same as sales engineers and have their own distinct role. Companies that lump the two groups together as having the same purpose are mismanaging their teams leading to poor results. Another mistake companies can make is treating sales reps as lesser than SEs and undervaluing the important skills they bring to the table. This will only cause resentment between the two groups and ruin any chance at collaboration. Companies must recognize that sales reps perform a separate but equally important function within the team.
Let’s talk about what sales representatives do and why their role is equally important as SEs. Sales reps are the first point of contact between a potential customer and the company. They are responsible for making a good first impression that will hopefully turn a lead into a closed sale. They act as a brand representative and manage the customer relationship throughout the entire customer journey from initial outreach, to making a purchase.
What skills do sales reps possess? Excellent customer service; communication and active listening skills; rapport-building skills; discovery, prospecting, negotiation, and closing skills; product knowledge; self-confidence; time management and organization skills. Great sales reps should also have teamwork skills so they can effectively work with SEs to close a deal.
Collaboration Best Practices
Respect Between Teams
We listed respect first on this list because teamwork built on a foundation without mutual respect is a house of cards waiting to collapse. Respect is essential for collaboration since without respect for one another, nothing would get accomplished. Here are some reasons why there might be a lack of respect between sales reps and SEs and how to fix the problem.
Sales reps might feel, in some instances, that an SE’s product demonstration shows them up and makes them feel stupid by comparison. This can cause resentment which leads to a lack of respect for the SE. This is not true however, just because an SE has more technical knowledge about the product, doesn’t mean the sales rep is unintelligent, it means they have a different type of knowledge. To remedy this, both management and SEs should point out a sales rep’s strengths and make them feel valued. This is a great way to make sales reps feel respected.
In another instance, SEs might get called on by management to perform other tasks not in their job description, or called too often by sales reps to demonstrate a product when it is not really necessary. This can make an SE feel as though their time and skills are not respected. To combat this, sales reps and management should ask SEs where they feel their skills could be put to the best use and ask for their opinions on technical aspects of the product rather than demanding full presentations. This lets an SE feel respected since their time and skills are valued by others on the sales team.
As employees, it is common to get caught up in our own interests, or the interests of our own team and lose focus on who matters most: the customer. To that end, sales reps and SEs should each share a focus on the customer’s problems and how to use their product or service to fix them. When the focus is on the customer, it unites SEs and sales reps in a common goal that they can both strive towards. Customer focused companies often perform better because it builds loyalty when customers feel seen and heard. Focusing on the customer above all else is a great way to unite sales reps and SEs and encourage collaboration.
Set Goals and Objectives
Similar to above, setting clear, unified goals and objectives for both sales reps and SEs is a great way to improve collaboration. While we’ve emphasized the difference between the two roles, they still need to work together. Think of it as playing offense or defense on a single team rather than one playing soccer and the other playing basketball. Same playing field, same team, different roles. The objective is still to score a goal, and sales rep and SE need to work together to accomplish the objective of the game: to make a sale.
If “there is no i in team”, then teams need to talk to one another to get stuff done. Miscommunication occurs more frequently and is harder to resolve without conversations between SEs and sales reps. This can look different for every company. It could involve weekly or monthly meetings depending on the size of the teams, team building exercises, or social meet ups. Or it might simply mean an open office space that allows intermingling and casual conversations between sales reps and SEs. Whatever method works best for your company to encourage conversations will inevitably boost collaboration.
If your company wants to optimize tech sales, collaboration between sales reps and SEs is essential. Each role is distinct with their own unique skills and responsibilities but they must work together to improve overall tech sales. Employing these collaboration best practices like respect, customer focus, setting goals, and encouraging conversations will help develop effective collaboration between sales reps and sales engineers