What should every B2B company know about sales engineers?
Understanding the role of a sales engineer
Availability is key, presentation volume drives need
How to scale sales engineers for maximum value
Using automation tools so customers can self-identify needs
In addition to salespeople, organizations need sales engineers. However, it can be challenging to determine exactly how many sales engineers you actually need. As useful as sales enablement tools are, you will always need the people with the right talent and skills for all your projects. How many of them you need is not really known. It is common to wonder whether there is an optimal ratio between sales representatives and sales engineers.
When it comes to determining the ideal staffing regarding sales engineers, consider the following aspects to optimize your sales results:
Understanding the Role of a Sales Engineer
Sales engineers are a valuable part of any sales team as they are in charge of the complex technology and scientific aspects of the product. Essentially, sales engineers are experts who can use their technical knowledge to resolve the specific problem of a given customer.
Sales engineers are prominently involved in technical presentations and product demonstrations. They also provide knowledge of B2B sales tools and support to sales representatives, ensuring that those reps are aware of the most important technical aspects of the product or service.
They step in to provide more information when necessary.
Availability is Key: Presentation Volume Drives Need
Most organizations would try to have one sales engineer for every one or two salespeople. However, this simply is not practical due to costs. Instead, it is common to have a ratio closer to one sales engineer for every five reps.
The problem with this is that at times, a sales rep may not have access to a sales engineer to provide the support they need. Or there may not be a sales engineer available to meet with a key client. As such, every company must find its own unique balance.
The key to discovering this balance is availability. You need to come up with a solution that ensures a sales engineer is available when one is needed. At the same time, you do not want to waste money on having a highly skilled team member like the sales engineers who are not used to the best of their abilities.
In other words, you want to find a balance between availability and the sales engineers having to spend time on unrelated tasks.
How to Scale Sales Engineers for Maximum Value
Many companies find that the best solution is to deploy sales engineers as a central resource instead of assigning them to specific clients or sales reps. This allows for the availability of sales engineers when they are needed, ensuring sufficient support and increasing ROI.
In the experience of many companies, this allows you to easily scale the number of sales engineers up or down, depending on the changing needs of your company. Keep in mind that even if a sales engineer works with five different salespeople, they will likely have some downtime during their day.
Other times, however, they will not have enough hours in the day to complete everything that needs to be done. By pooling the talents of all sales engineers, you can overcome this problem and lets sales engineers serve more customers.
This way, the sales engineers can work where they are most needed. This may help top salespeople or partners with bigger deals. Or it may be leading teams that need to answer questions from prospective clients but are too technical for most sales reps to answer.
If you explore data related to the average sizes of sales teams, you will notice a few key trends. Each company finds a way to maximize the value of their sales engineers and other sales team members, but the trends remain.
Larger companies, for example, tend to have a smaller percentage of their overall team dedicated to sales. Sales teams also tend to start out large for new companies, shrinking slowly over time. Overall, younger companies that are still small will likely have larger sales teams based on percentages of staff.
Using Automation Tools So Customers Can Self-Identify Needs
When used wisely, automation and sales enablement tools can also help find the balance between salespeople and sales engineers. Automation tools can help your customers identify their needs themselves, reducing the workload on each salesperson, at least to some extent.
Ideally, this would allow you to slightly reduce the number of salespeople so you can increase the number of sales engineers.
Remember that every company is different and has unique needs. Your company may need a higher (or lower) ratio of sales engineers than the competition, depending on your product and team. Most companies try to keep the ratio as small as they can while sticking to their budget.
You can, however, increase the ratio without any sacrifices if you are able to maintain the availability of the sales engineers. To do so, think outside the box and use the engineers as internal resources for the benefit of all.
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