As with so many people currently working in IT, the thought of ‘presenting’ or ‘demonstrating’ anything used to fill me with dread! Funny enough, as a Sales Engineer (SE), I now give demos and presentations on an almost daily basis.
I originally started my career path in public relations and business-to-business marketing. This turned out to be very useful as I was often confronted by clients that had very complex technical solutions and products. In many cases, the clients themselves were engineers who were extremely proud of what they had built or developed but were often convinced that the very ‘cleverness’ of their products would sell themselves. This is the mistake that many technology companies make and overcoming this challenge was and still is one of the many fun challenges I enjoy.
Sales Engineers are Curious
Unknowingly this was where my path towards being a sales engineer started, with the constant requirement for me to understand why a particular piece of technology was so clever, and more significantly how it was important for an end-user or customer – answering the question...“What’s in it for them?”
That’s probably my favorite thing about being an SE: Having to ask “Why is that important?” Because to be a good sales engineer, you have to be curious and constantly ask “Why?”
Why is an organization looking for a particular solution?
Why didn’t a previous solution to their problem deliver what they were expecting?
Why are they looking now?
You have to be willing to dig deeper and get to the root of your customer’s needs:
What is the organization trying to achieve?
What does success look like for them?
Who are their competitors?
What are their competitors doing in the same space?
Where the fun comes, and where I get great fulfillment is translating the answers to all those questions into a solution I can ‘present’ back that perhaps not only answers those questions, but potentially even provides answers to questions that hadn’t even been asked, but which are still useful, relevant, and insightful for my client or prospect.
The benefit of all of this ‘curiosity’ is that you will be a much better SE, but more significantly you will gain a much greater understanding of how organizations work and how technology can shape how businesses operate.
While this is very rewarding, as a SE you can also take huge satisfaction in the fact that through your knowledge and understanding - of your product or solution and your clients’ business – somebody has benefited from your involvement, and you have provided real business benefit to them through changing and optimizing the way they work.
Sales Engineers Do New Things Everyday
I enjoy the variety and constant challenge of staying current as an SE - with technology, market trends, and ways of working. There is always a variety of challenging questions and different approaches that clients and prospects present to you daily (even if they are working in the same industry as each other).
As a SE you will always be doing something different to assist in the sale or adoption of your product or solution. Every day is a different combination of presentations and demonstrations, requirements gathering, personal development, customer or prospect enablement, creation or completion of proposals, and tender documentation. I have undoubtedly left out some of the many daily tasks, but I find the challenge of multi-tasking and balancing a series of often-competing requirements very fulfilling.
Given the fear I used to feel when anybody asked me to stand up in front of people to talk about anything, it is a surprise, even to myself that what I really enjoy now as an SE is presenting, educating, and enabling.
They say that if you want to understand anything, the best thing to do is to try and teach it to somebody else. As a result, I have significantly learned as an SE by choosing to also be involved in customer and partner enablement, as well as volunteering to speak at industry events and conferences. It forces you to think “at a tangent” to the product or solution that you are representing and allows you to place it much more in the context of the end users and the markets in which they work. Your curiosity will also be rewarded, and you will be armed with significantly more information that will ultimately make you a much better Sales Engineer.
In summary, I love being a Sales Engineer. It allows me to be continually curious about the world and technology around me whilst hopefully enabling my clients and prospects to enhance and optimize their careers, their knowledge, and their contribution to the goals and aims of the organizations for which they work. And no two days are the same, and in many cases even if a day appears to be starting similarly to the previous day, you can guarantee that the end will probably be very different!
It is the ability to ask ‘Why’ all the time and being able to challenge people’s thinking and preconceptions about what is possible through technology that I find hugely rewarding on a daily basis. I am so glad that rather than actively seeking out the role, perhaps the role found me!
With a background in Public Relations and Marketing Peter Rowe “fell” into IT via web development all the way back in 1996 when you used to have to explain to people what the Internet was! Peter's formal PreSales career started in 1999 and since then he's worked for several different vendors and consultancies across Quality Assurance, SAP Implementation and Asset Management, as both an individual contributor and PreSales team leader / manager. Now at ServiceNow, Peter is passionate about helping organizations develop and realize the benefits of IT.