sales engineers pros and cons

Companies with complex products or services often use sales engineers to beef up their sales process. While sales reps handle the overall relationship and general needs, like discovery calls, demoing, identifying pain points, pricing, and timelines, sales engineers can be brought in to handle the technical details and requests.

Sales engineers are able to discuss how the suggested solution will interact with whatever systems the customer already has or walk through very specific prospect needs.

But what does it mean to prospects when their sales rep includes a sales engineer on a call or demo? Could the prospect think your product is too difficult to use and implementation too complex, or will they appreciate the extra level of service to ensure all of their questions or concerns are being addressed? Is it best for the sales rep to have an offline discussion with sales engineers and follow up with prospects?

There’s no right or wrong answer to these questions and ultimately, sales leaders have to decide the best route for their team and product. To help, we’ve identified the most common pros and cons when including sales engineers in discussions with prospects.

Pros

Specialized Level of Expertise

Bringing in an expert helps increase credibility and build trust with prospects. While sales reps can answer all general questions, sales engineers are a great backup to provide highly specific information regarding the potential implementation. Having this resource at hand will make your prospect feel more comfortable.

Saves Developer Resources

Developers should never be distracted from actually developing. Without dedicated sales engineer resources, developers may get pulled into sales calls, distracting them from their own initiatives. Utilizing sales engineers to meet sales rep needs keeps developer resources intact while still providing a technical support to sales.

Customized Demos

Once there’s a qualified prospect, sales reps can work with sales engineers to create a custom demo that speaks to their exact business problems and technical solutions. A custom demo is much more effective than a general one, and goes a long way impressing your potential clients. Sales engineers are a great resource for sales reps to up their demo game, and ultimately close more deals.

Increased Incentivization

Sales engineers are often on objective-based incentivization plans, similar to sales reps. Having an additional person working off of incentives helps increase the level of effort put into closing each deal, and improves chances of boosting sales revenue.

Creative Solutions

Because sales engineers are equipped to handle the technical side of a deal, they understand the reality of possibilities. A sales rep may only be able to present standardized options and handle common challenges, but sales engineers can often come up with workarounds or creative solutions to overcome unique customer challenges and requirements.

Cons

Increased Confusion

If there is overlap in client interaction, there is a greater possibility that sales reps and sales engineers may share wrong or conflicting information with clients. Since both roles work closely with each other, they have just enough information to be dangerous. When potential clients get wrong, or completely different, answers from your reps they are likely to lose trust and be more wary of doing a deal.

Lack of Resources

Companies that use sales engineers have sales rep to engineers ratios ranging anywhere from 5:1 to 1:1. When ratios are spread too thin, sales reps can’t get to sales engineers when they need them. This can greatly affect their ability to schedule meetings, respond to communications, and close deals.

Unfair Distribution

Just like any role, some sales engineers are favored over others. When these situations happen certain reps end up doing the majority of the work, while others are completely underutilized. It’s important to monitor sales usage trends and ensure all engineers are trained appropriately to get an ideal distribution of your resources.

Over Generalization

Sales engineers used to be incredibly specialized in specific products or services. However, with a push for more product knowledge, engineers have been forced to generalize their level of expertise ultimately making them less effective. Companies with many large complex products or services should dedicate sales engineers to only one or two products so they can remain specialized and provide the knowledge potential clients need.

Misuse of Resources

Sales reps are often tempted to throw a sales engineer on a call even when they haven’t qualified the lead. It feels comfortable to have an extra resource, “just in case.” But sales engineers are best utilized when they fully understand a problem and can offer detailed information and solutions. Sales reps using an engineer on every client interaction is a waste of time, and resources.

There’s no right or wrong decision when deciding whether to use sales engineers in your sales process. When considering how this additional resource will affect client interactions, consider the pros and cons listed above, and how they will play out in your specific organization.

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