How Sales Engineers Have Become The Sales World's Secret Weapon

July 16, 2020

Sara Howshar

This week, Jim Benton was joined by Matt Finch, Vice President of Global Solutions Consulting at Mavenlink, to discuss a secret weapon hiding in your sales organization: Sales Engineers. A secret weapon, superheroes, whatever you want to call them - SEs are a powerful resource that can make the difference between a scripted demo meeting and an engaged soon-to-be customer.

Before diving into the data, Matt shared that his team is 15 SEs strong at the moment. “We map to our sales organization,” he said. “We are really supporting our clients throughout the entire client journey.”

Mavenlink, a powerhouse collaborative platform for services, has never been more relevant than in a new, remote work normal. “If you run a services organization,” Matt said, “you should be running in on Mavenlink.”

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Percentage of deals progressing with Sales Engineers

What was discussed #

The data covered this week put the spotlight on the way that the sales process is changing, how demos have adapted to match that change, and how SEs make all the difference.

A Changing Sales Process for the New Normal #

Overall, productivity is down only about 8% since January. This is remarkable considering where the market is.

“Q3 is getting to a slower start with the holiday and the summer softness,” said Jim.

When asked how this plays on the Mavenlink field, Matt said that they were surprised by the productivity they’ve seen.

“We’ve found working from home dramatically increased the amount of productivity we’ve been doing,” he said.

“We’ve certainly found on our lead development side that it’s easier to get a hold of people,” said Matt. “In theory, we’re having more first and second calls.” Though they have been navigating some stark differences since Q1.

“Our enterprise team was on planes every week. How do we replace that? The first few weeks were trying to understand our new sales motion. It was a really interesting transition to working from home.” Still, they immediately invested in making each team member’s workspace compatible with the work they were expected to perform, including green screens and consults with the IT team. “The amount of productivity went way up after that.”

In terms of enterprise deals, however, Matt said that they’re continuing to run smoothly.

“The motion is relatively similar - we run a well-oiled process. You don’t get the hallway conversations, the coffees, or maybe the cocktails at the end of the day. So how do you build the same quality of relationships? You’ve got to get straight on Zoom, and straight to the point,” he said.

“[Building relationships] was so unconscious before. Now it’s very conscious,” he added. “You have to actively go and do that.”

We’re seeing more of these demo-discoveries. Where typically you’d separate these two processes, they’re really coming together now. In the enterprise motion, this is new.

Demos are Earlier, Faster, and More Focused #

Sales Cycles in some segments are shortening. And we are seeing that demos are getting more focused as they start earlier in the call and take up less time.

As a result, the line between demo and discovery becomes a little more blurred.

“We’re seeing more of these demo-discoveries,” said Matt. “Where typically you’d separate these two processes, they’re really coming together now. In the enterprise motion, this is new.”

Matt’s perspective on the demo to disco overlap? Cautiously optimistic.

If you jump from discovery to demo too quickly, you often get caught trying to solve a problem you don’t know about yet.

“It’s good if you set the context. It’s a fine line,” he said. “Using it to inspire further conversation is great, but turning it into a 45-minute demo instead of a 45 discovery call isn’t.”

The value of extremely well run discovery is more important now that teams are trying to show value sooner and get into the product more quickly. “If you’ve done great discovery, you’ve uncovered challenges they’re facing. And when you're in a demo, it’s really important for you to connect back to that first call.”

Demos are Starting Earlier #

Before, demos would start about 12 minutes in. But now we’re seeing them start at about 10 minutes, which is when they started pre-COVID. This is likely due to both sides of the call checking in to ask how they’re doing, build rapport, and genuinely ask about welfare.

“When we first got into this situation,” Matt added, “We spent a lot of time asking if the other person was okay because we’re all in this situation together.

As we move through that process, we kind of got used to our new normal...I don’t think we need to apologize for getting along with business now. When you’re on your third, fourth, or fifth call with someone, you’ve moved away from asking if people are okay.”

Demos are Laser Focused #

Demos are 15% shorter than they used to be.

“This is an element of becoming more polished in this environment,” said Matt. I’ve seen a real uptick in the quality of our activity. We’re more focused on getting to the point. Getting to the value a lot quicker.”

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Impact Sales Engineers have on deals

A great demo is not a monologue. A great demo is an engaged conversation. A great SE is someone who engages in conversation.

The Role of an SE in a Demo #

Sales Engineers add a tremendous amount of expertise and customization to the demo experience. With an enhanced discovery and an engaged SE, the demo is more powerful and your product’s value is more clear.

“ A great demo is not a monologue. A great demo is an engaged conversation,” said Matt. “A great SE is someone who engages in conversation. You might have this elaborate story that ends in a great point at the end. But then talk. Engage in the conversation and find out more.”

The well-kept secret of SEs to make the difference on a call is now out. Sales Engineers participated in 25% more calls in June compared to January. There’s a seasonal - end of quarter - jump to about 10% more participation, but this spike is new.

By average contract value (ACV), we see this spike in participation lean heavily on Enterprise deals. SEs participate 50% more on Enterprise deals than they in the next highest ACV, Mid Market.

“This should be by design,” said Matt. “What you want your SEs to do is to be reactive to deep technical things on much larger deals. But also, you need to be helping on the smaller ones as well, but in a much more targeted fashion. This is great data that we see on our end as well, and it’s by design.”

Sales Engineers Get the Deal to the Next Stage #

In our data, we saw that 20% more deals progress when an SE is involved in the meeting. This is indicative of the system working by design, as well as the true value of bringing an extra resource onto your call.

“My bias is: ‘Well, of course, that’s the case!’ But we know that if you put your SEs on the deals with the highest likelihood of closing, it will. You want to put your SEs on the best-qualified deals with a high likelihood of closing. You need a really great deal qualification.

Looking Ahead to Q3 2020 #

Matt’s take on the next quarter and half of the year? Very bright.

“It continues to be very bright,” he said. “And, logically, we were able to be very agile from the start. For us, commercial has been a tough performer all the way through.

But we are very optimistic about the second half of the year. We help people work from home, so we see ourselves as a real enabler of this world. It’s more important than ever to look at solutions like ours, like Chorus like Zoom to help you enable the work-from-home world.”

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