Thursday, February 14, 2019

Valentine's Message

Thursday, February 7, 2019

How to develop your career as a Sales Engineer

How do you plan you career?

Are you taking things one step at a time, or do you have a good idea of what you want to do as part of your career?

I've often discussed with other sales engineers about their career or heard feedback that the career plan for an SE is not easy, or limited. There are times I have felt this way myself, what are we really doing when we say this? Is someone else limiting our options or are we doing it to ourselves?

Sales engineering is an exciting role in its own right.  Most companies have several levels or tiers in the individual contributor role, which allows an SE to develop from an entry level role, and progress upwards throughout their career into Senior, Principal and higher titles within the sales engineer pathway.  Each step up should come with additional responsibility, rewards and reflect the increasing influence of the individual with customers and internally inside the business.  This pathway should be possible without having to take on managerial responsibility, which isn't what everyone wants, and often does mean you take a more technology or sales leadership role.  By leadership here, I mean more of a decision maker in how things are done, but not who has to do them. They might decide strategy for deals, presentation expertise, advise on product direction and could be seen as a industry figure who has influence well beyond the company's direct influence.

For those who do want to progress into management, it becomes more about how you can enable and support your team, and less about your individual performance. If you come from the team, though it is also good to show you maintain a strong understanding of the solutions and how they are sold.  Just don't fall into the trap of doing your team's job for them. The role of the manager is to help everyone achieve their best and improve as they go, and help the business scale up to the next level. If you take the management track, it might open up other management roles as well outside of sales engineering, as long as you demonstrate the ability to make your team successful, and help other parts of the organization succeed.

If you are ambitious, then sales engineering can be a track to take you into other important parts of the business.  Depending on where you see your skills, you could leverage your technical ability, your commercial savviness, or your strategic mind and industry knowledge to a variety of roles. Some of the most successful SEs I've known have progressed into Product Management, Strategy, Sales and Marketing roles, and keep progressing once they get there.  

The key thing to achieving your career goals is to have a plan. A plan is how you map out the journey to where you want to go, and making the incremental steps or changes needed to get you there. If you want to become a manager, you need to start working on helping other people achieve their potential, by mentoring, coaching and showing how you can put them first. To progress directly as an SE, work out the gaps in what your organization sees as necessary skills for Senior & Principal SEs. It should be more than just doing your job for a requisite amount of time, but should show how you deliver more value and demonstrate leadership in your field.
To progress in other areas, you should work closely with them in your available time.  Find those projects that mean you get to advise other departments or work with them closely. Demonstrate to a sales manager that your commercial awareness and ability to win customers is a strength, and find an open role that you are willing to take a risk on.

Ultimately, sales engineering is a field that combines many skills, technical and commercial.  These skills are extremely valuable, and if you find people who want you for those skills in other roles or in a higher capacity, then you will push your career forward.
Find yourself a mentor, have a good chat about your goals, and what the immediate steps you could take and have fun progressing your career.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Sales Engineering Podcast!

I joined the @WeTheSEs Podcast to discuss Sales Engineering in the current customer success driven world.  A good podcast to sign up to and learn from many other SEs.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

How does Presales work in a Customer Success world?

How does your company measure success?  Are subscription & renewal value seen as the most important revenue sources?  Over time these compound and outweigh the net new business from new customers. As a consequence, long term value starts to trump initial deal value.
Successful businesses with customers on renewal find that the initial sale value is less of a proportion of lifetime expected value.  Customers that renewal are also more likely to buy more products and expand the scope of their deployments.  Also new customers are less likely to buy subscriptions on products until they know they will use them. 
This means keeping happy customers is as important or more than winning new business.  As such, many companies start looking at customer success as an area to invest in directly, seeing the rise of a new organization, or that other parts of the company need to come together and support the way of ensuring customer success.
It also means we need to focus on setting realistic expectations of value, rather than getting business stakeholders over committed on what they should achieve

This means for a change of role for presales in customer success world
Obviously, we are still very much focused on winning new business, but we may have a secondary role in ensuring renewals, and helping cross-selling and upselling.  We may even want to start measuring the performance of presales in these activities.
Presales team members may be able to take part in realized value activities after the initial sale, including workshops, customer days, health checks and other regular or incremental interactions.  The catchphrase we are always in presales” becomes a reality - there is always the next sale with our customers to consider.
The initial sales team also need to avoid over-selling aspects of the solution.  Agree on gaps, areas of future improvement and correct false assumptions if they will impact customer success. In some companies, the customer success team may even have the right to reject or cancel new purchases if it will have a negative impact on customer success, due to the impossibility or difficulty in achieving the customer vision.

The rise of customer success also provides potential new opportunities and challenges.
First of all, customer success roles may have similar skills that many SEs have.  The chance to work closely over a long period of time with the same customers might be attractive to some SEs.  Seeing through the value realization with customers may also be an appealing option.
As such, a dedicated customer success division can offer career opportunities to SEs outside of the presales organization
Even without leaving presales though, SEs might have a bigger role than just supporting the new business sales team. They will have an ability to deliver value to more parts of the business, by working with other parts of the business on a planned or ad hoc basis.  This can increase the importance of the SE skill set in the success of the business itself.  

A customer success orientated world sees the long term value as more important than the initial win value of a customer opportunity.  Both are vital to a growing and successful business, but just winning new business cannot overcome a business with customer success and churn issues.  Ultimately the best business in a segment will be the one that can offer repeatable and loyal customers continual value.  The role for presales in a customer success orientated world is to ensure initial and continual value over the lifetime as a customer.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

How can Sales Engineers make effective use of Social Media?

We get it! Social media helps you connect to many more people than email, meetings, conferences and other forms of contact.  Why does it sometimes seem that you are just shouting out into the storm though?  How can you get more effective use of social media, to support your role as a Sales Engineer?
Finally - how do you measure the value of your social media work?