Any business that sells highly technical products or services in a B2B setting likely uses Presales, but you may not recognize the name. While Presales is the name of the department, the practitioners are often called Solution Consultants (SC) or Sales Engineers (SE), which is what we'll call them in this article.
Sales Engineers enrich the sales process by providing deep expertise and evaluation services to prospect. The presales stage is increasingly important for providers of solutions as competitive advantages result from companies that best leverage relationship building opportunities.
Do Sales Engineers add value to the sales process in today's informed and connected environment, or are they simply an expected part of the process? How can a Sales Engineer be most effective? Some people worry that automation, the increased use of artificial intelligence in business, and a shift to self-service may change sales roles shortly. Will Sales Engineers be affected by changes in technology?
The Sales Engineer role
It would be an oversimplification to say that SEs provide support for the overall sales process. When a company sells complex solutions and products to B2B customers, it likely is not simply selling something off the shelf. Sales Engineers provide expert analysis of complex systems to best prepare an organization to craft solutions that provide the most value to customers. This early stage of the sales process often involves orientation with the company's systems to determine problems and needs.
SEs are crucial to a large portion of the sales cycle. Usually, they provide the first actual product demo the prospect sees. They onboard to a sales opportunity early and remain fairly active up until the point when a sales proposal is delivered to a prospect, and sometimes even into Customer Success. If an organization waits and involves SEs too late in the process, the engineers' value is limited.
It's important, therefore, for companies to develop a good feel for when to engage Sales Engineers. For example, determining not only when but also how SEs get involved is crucial to maintaining an efficient sales process. Who calls upon the Sales Engineer? How qualified do prospects need to be before the time, talent and expense of a Sales Engineer are expended? With proper training and tools, both sales reps and SEs can better work together to ensure more efficient sales.
Will technology erode Sales Engineer utility?
Technology is evolving the role of the SE. While we still may be far away from a day when automation replaces all the components of a sales process, there are inefficiencies in the traditional SE role that can cause undue delays. Technology can help supplement the sales engineer role by enhancing self-service options.
Instead of letting prospects rely on their self-diagnosis of problems, you can use a self-directed interactive demo and still leverage the motivation that customers have for informing themselves.
Today's B2B customers are better informed. Sometimes their internet searches steer them in the wrong direction, but often customers already know what they want before sellers begin their pitches. So, while devoting time, attention and resources to the presales stage is important, it may be that your Sales Engineers will be less hands-on in the future.
The job outlook for Sales Engineers is good, with a predicted growth of 7 percent over the next eight years. This growth is in line with national average job growth. Companies continue to innovate, creating new technologies in their solutions, so why isn't more aggressive growth predicted for SEs?
Part of the reasons for moderate job growth is the self-service preferences of B2B buyers. More importantly, it also may be due to new technologies that empower Presales teams to support larger and larger Sales teams with fewer SEs. These innovations include interactive product and service demos that provide a "choose-your-own adventure" environment for B2B sales.
Making Presales and Sales Engineering more self-service
With interactive Presales demos, sellers can get presentations in front of prospects more quickly, and buyers can take their time going through a demo to self-discover the best ways a solution can address problems and needs. Engagement with an interactive demo can also qualify a prospect for a more expensive live demo.
At Consensus, we help businesses create engaging, immersive and instructive sales demos. We believe the key to moving today's buying decision-makers to agreement is earlier, more relevant engagement. Our solutions clear this common sales-killing hurdle by walking each decision-maker to your solution. Driven by a combination of question-based selling and digital transformation, Consensus creates insightful integrated solutions that empower SEs to do more.
Contact Consensus today to see how self-directed customers can translate to more valuable information and better solutions.