What does a Day in the Life of a Sales Engineer look like? What do you do on an average day? Well, one of the great things about this job is there really isn’t an average day, each day has its own unique set of challenges and rewards. Often times, a day that begins with an open calendar may wind up jammed with calls and web meetings. Or you will go down the rabbit hole of some weird technical problem or question.
Let’s take a look at some of the activities a Sales Engineer finds himself engaged in on any given day.
One – Deliver a Demonstration
This is one the major responsibilities of any Sales Engineer, demonstrating your companies products to prospects, clients or partners. Sometimes it is only your products, other times you may be demonstrating other third party products as well. Companies often resell products they did not develop themselves and a Sales Engineer is expected to have a working knowledge of some or all of the products on the price list. You will probably spend parts of one or more day’s preparing for your demo, configuring the software and adding some content, making it look more familiar to your audience.
Two – Answer Technical Questions
It is not unusual for technical questions to come in from prospects you are working with, or from existing clients. These are often clarifications on software features, installation questions, or questions that come up during the initial implementation of your software for example.
Three – Respond to a Request for Proposal
This is never one of the more popular parts of the job, but it is a critical one. Proposal requests come in as Requests for Information (RFI) or Requests for Proposals (RFP), differing in content and complexity. Sometimes, in large companies, there can be a dedicated team that is responsible for creating and delivering proposal responses, but not always. In most companies this is a shared responsibility of Sales, Products and the Executive team. The Account Executive is the primary stakeholder, answering all the business related questions. The Sales Engineer will typically take on the technical questions, or product related questions. These are often in the form of a matrix or Excel spreadsheet to fill in. Sometimes they’re nice and short, other times they’re multiple tabs with a hundred or more tabs per row. You never know!
Four – Test a Client Use Case
After seeing a demonstration of your software (and your competitors), the client is now educated and informed on how your products can help solve their business problem. As a result, it is not uncommon to receive a request post-demonstration to illustrate how you could solve a specific use case the client may have in mind. It’s possible they might ask you to clarify something they saw in the demonstration and how it can apply to their current business processes. Often these are informal, simply written in an email and answered back and forth in Q&A fashion. Sometimes they become much more involved and become a step in the sales process all their own.
Five – Upgrade Your Demonstration System
When you have demonstration environments, they have to be maintained like any software or installation. Your demo system is crucial to presenting your company and your products in the best manner and you want to ensure it’s performing at a peak level. You may need to update demo scenarios to highlight new features in your products, or to address new or changing market requirements. Perception is reality when doing demos! Poor performance of your demo system, even if it’s the underlying infrastructure or operating systems fault, makes your software (and company) look bad. If the system is slow or error messages pop up, your software is perceived slow and buggy.
Even with modern, cloud-based systems maintenance has to be done. Activities you may find yourself doing can include:
- Creating or modifying your standard demonstration scenarios based on client feedback
- Backups or checkpoints of virtual machines
- Installing patches or bug fixes to your software
- Updates to the underlying infrastructure (operating systems, databases or application servers)
- Major software updates
Six – Market Research
New companies are entering the market all the time. Existing companies are updating and releasing new products continuously. That means you have to stay on top of what your competition is doing, keep an eye out for new competitors entering the market, plus keep up with updates from your partners. If you don’t, you could get surprised during a sales call with some unexpected questions or objections. It is also not unheard of for your partners to develop (or acquire) products or features that may blur the lines between partner and competitor. Don’t get blindsided!
Seven – Provide Internal Feedback
A Sales Engineer is on the front lines. You are the eyes and ears of the organization. You have meetings with clients and prospects, hearing their questions, seeing how they react to your products. The competitive objections are thrown at you. You, better than anyone, have a good feel for the strengths and weaknesses of your products. You also hear the forward looking questions prospects and partners are asking. It is important to feed this information back to your Product Marketing, Product Management and Development teams. While they have their own methods of defining market requirements and capturing ideas, hearing first hand accounts of what is happening in the field is invaluable to any product team.
Flexibility and Adaptability
While these are some of the main activities I’ve found myself engaged in on a day to day basis, there are many more. Trade shows, seminars, training activities (technical and corporate) and more fill up your day, week and month. Two of the biggest assets a Sales Engineer can possess is flexibility and adaptability.