Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Age of the Sales Engineer!!

Age of the Sales Engineer!!

The world and the role of a Sales Engineer have come of age. When I first started off as a sales engineer in 2000, the responsibilities were not clearly defined and the he or she was often abused with unclear responsibilities. Off late, businesses are beginning to understand with the ever growing complexity of technology, the importance of an SE and what role they could play in increasing the bottom line. But the question is, do all the necessary parties understand what is a Sales Engineer? In the past 8 years I have worked with companies that had processes defined and had a clear understanding of what a sales engineer must do (although they were never called an SE) and in companies where no one had a clue as to who is an SE, except for the SE manager. I think it is vital for the SE manager to clearly state the responsibilities and set the expectations, to the Sales executives. This actually sets expectations about the sales folks and creates an atmosphere for a winning team. What I noticed when the boundaries are not clearly defined, the expectations and work load varies depending on who you work with from the sales team.

By no means do I intend to create a rift between the sales engineer and the sales executives. Every SE joining any company must understand the processes and the responsibilities. How can you do that? Besides talking to an SE manager, make sure you have conversations with the sales team that you would be working with and what expectations do they have! Try to streamline the processes (if they don’t already exist) so that you are doing the same kind of work irrespective of the sales executive you are working with(who said business processes are just for technology…use it to for the SE world too)…..do that…everyone’s happy and the work will be more fun and will win you more deals…..

Finally, What does it take to be successful as a Sales Engineer. I have mentioned a few of them below which I think are absolutely essential:

1. Establish if you are going to be in a Service Oriented Industry or Product Oriented Industry and stick to it!
2. Know your product or technology…..very well…Comprehend it well.
3. Develop the skill to relate with people.
4. Know what your prospect or customer wants…..What are the pain points.
5. Put yourself in the customer’s shoes to develop a solution – irrespective of service oriented or product oriented. Always remember, our job is to provide the best to the customer to relieve pain points…..
6. Learn to match technology/Services to business problems or as I call it pain points…
7. Always….Always work out an ROI for the customer (the best selling point ever from a technical stand point).
8. Learn to work amicably with the sales team --- Absolutely Important!!!!
9. Do not hesitate to involve Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) to answer any product related questions or design the best solution.

In Parting, a reminder of a Sales Engineer’s roots:

A salesman was demonstrating unbreakable combs in a department store. He was impressing the people who stopped by to look by putting the comb through all sorts of torture and stress. Finally to impress even the skeptics in the crowd, he bent the comb completely in half, and it snapped with a loud crack. Without missing a beat, he bravely held up both halves of the 'unbreakable' comb for everyone to see and said, "And this, ladies and gentlemen, is what an unbreakable comb looks like on the inside." :-)

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Responding to an RFP!

RFP Process:
What is an RFP?
RFP aka Request For Proposal is a document that an enterprise sends to a vendor inviting the vendor to submit a bid for hardware, software (product), services or any combination of the three. An organization typically issues the RFP in order to assess competing bids.
Responding to an RFP is extremely critical within a given time frame. ( I will cover this in detail later).
Prior to Responding to an RFP, the sales engineer along with the sales team has to consider if it is something that they are going to pursue because it could win you business or end up wasting a lot of time. Also be careful when completing a response to an RFP because many of the responses will eventually become a part of the contract when awarded.

The following must be considered prior to responding to an RFP:

1. Involvement in the RFP design and construction
2. Product fit
3. Competition (includes internal)
4. Time frame
5. Budget and approval process
6. Partner / System Integrator involvement
7. Resource constraints
8. Executive pressure

All people involved in responding to an RFP must consider the possibility of an internal competition. This is something which is quite often over looked. Majority of the times, an RFP is released due to legal reasons but invariably the project would go to an internal competition ala presumption (they would expect to support their own business).
Also if the RFP has been released by a third party on behalf on a business unit, it is extremely essential that the Sales team including the sales engineer learn and figure out a way to work with the third party.

It is extremely essential to figure out the responsibilities of responding to an RFP within an organization. It would be wise to check with your manager. Having said that, I would like to add irrespective of your responsibility in responding to an RFP, make sure you are involved in the technical aspects along with the other resources when designing the solution. Why? Very simple. When it comes time to present this solution to the customer, you will be the one who would be called in, in all likelyhood.

As a Sales Engineer, you must realize that you will need to other involve personnel from various other departments such as marketing, product engineering or a subject matter expert (SME). Contact the necessary individuals and the explain the opportunity and timeline and emphasize that they are being asked to help on some aspects of the RFP response.

Some more Dos in a response to an RFP:

1. Make the responses as easy and painless as possible.
2. Present the answers in a clear legible form.
3. Provide a list of features and functions in a tabular or bulleted form.
4. Include diagrams why your product or service (solution) meets the specified requirements.
5. Include competitive advantages.
6. Do not refer to the competitor’s weakness directly. An indirect reference is alright.
7. Include a good executive summary that highlights your product’s or service’s value proposition.

Structure of an RFP Response:

Title of Solution

1. Customer requirements
2. Vendor solution
Hardware Services:
1. New equipment
2. Existing equipment
3. Installation services
Network Services:
1. Details
Software Services:
1. Quantity – Manufacturer, Product (Attach Third Party Software details if required.)
System Diagram
1. Insert diagram here
Network Diagram
1. Insert diagram here
Statement of Work Exceptions:
1. Details as appropriate
1. Hardware – List Details
2. Software – List Details
3. Maintenance – List Details
4. Network – List details
5. People – List details
6. Media and Supplies – List details
7. Transition – List details
8. Third Party Services – List details
9. Facility – List details
10. Training – List Details
11. Other – List details

I will be posting more information with regards to an RFP Response example.... Any comments or additions is invited as always :-)!!!

Thursday, January 1, 2009


Having worked as a sales engineer for close to 9 years, i was always looking for resources on the information super highway. It pains to see that there are not enough resources for the Sales Engineers out there....i believe one of the toughest jobs out there. Having said that, i must be very thankful to the publishers of the 2 sites that i have extensively used in the past and continue to use



I will add content, suggestions, reviews, templates and my experiences on a regular basis on this blog and am open to all comments and suggestions.
Since this is my first attempt at creating a site for the sake of SEs for that matter a site in general, i hope and pray that readers would be patient as this site gets better with time.....