Let’s face it. Sales Engineers are expensive.
(I manage a Sales Engineering team, so I can say that)
But, as an organization’s products and services become more complicated and technical, so does the necessity of a Sales Engineer’s role in the purchasing process.
At a recent Sales Engineer (SE) manager meetup, we went around the group and discussed everyone’s biggest challenges. Sales Engineers are an expensive resource, and predictably, the conversation turned to the productivity and utilization of the team.
People.ai gives Sales Engineers a platform that specifically addresses several of their most difficult business challenges, including productivity and utilization.
Finding the solution to this challenge was one of the reasons I decided to join the People.ai team.
In this article, I wanted to explore just a few examples of how organizations can leverage the power of the People.ai platform to help SE teams run more efficiently.
Eliminate Laborious Manual Data Entry
If you’ve ever looked at your SE team’s calendar, you’ve most likely seen blocks of time dedicated to updating activities in Salesforce.
As someone who has managed several SE teams, I can attest to seeing this “meeting” on most everyone’s calendar.
There is a natural conflict between getting your data into Salesforce and being productive. As an SE manager, you need to justify the resources that are being spent on opportunities regularly. I have seen teams that have been flat out busy, ten demos a day, hundreds of emails flying back and forth, dozens of internal meetings and projects. The problem is the data entered in the CRM doesn’t reflect reality. The team is busy, but the data suggests you’re overstaffed.
Why is this the case?
When an SE gets busy, she switches context constantly throughout the day, jumping from back-to-back meetings. Sending one-off customer communications to multiple customers while on break. Logging this data into Salesforce is a time consuming and manual activity, hence the dreaded “calendar block” to catch up.
This is where People.ai comes in.
With People.ai, every customer communication and activity is automatically matched into Salesforce against the correct opportunity, which can free up hours a week for SEs to focus on the myriad of tasks at hand. And more importantly, the management team has complete visibility into every activity the team is performing and the time spent with each customer.
Spending Too Much Time on The Wrong Opportunities
Most SE managers spend their 1:1’s recapping what happened over the last few days. You can open the calendar or run a report in Salesforce to try to get a picture on where activities are being logged. But, activities and calendars only give you part of the picture. The question you really need to ask is, “Where is time being spent?”
Time spent has always been impossible to pin down. Unless the SE diligently logs every customer interaction manually in Salesforce, the data is incomplete and can’t be used to make decisions on how to run the business.
When you factor in time and opportunity value you may find evidence that your team is spending their precious hours on deals that don’t matter. This completely changes the conversation with sales leaders when you look at where resources are being dedicated.
The image above tells the whole story. An SE has spent most of his time last month working on one of the smallest deals in the pipeline, Allied Tech. Is he getting coerced by an AE to spend time in the wrong place? Does he not know how to say “no”? Is the RVP or sales management not prioritizing deal effort? Either way, it raises good conversations about how deals are prioritized.
Reporting for Canceled Meetings – The Data You Didn’t Know You Needed
There is one thing I can count on from every SE team I have managed: at one point during a 1:1, an SE on my team will complain about meetings getting canceled. Having a customer cancel a meeting is not a big deal, but when you amplify canceled meetings across the organization it can have a huge impact. A canceled meeting doesn’t just waste the salesperson’s time, it wastes the time of everyone they need to engage in the call: i.e., RVPs, SEs, Product, BDRs. The cost to the organization will mount up.
When a customer cancels a meeting this usually indicates that setup steps were not followed prior to the event. Before a good meeting, the AE will confirm attendees, conduct discovery with the relevant stakeholders, get the customer to confirm the agenda and outline the internal resources they will engage for the meeting. If you follow these steps, the customer won’t cancel (unless there is a real emergency). When AEs get lazy and just throw something on the calendar there is a chance the customer won’t show up.
Now, back to the SE complaining about canceled meetings.
How do you collect meeting cancellation data? Add another picklist in SFDC and train the whole SE team to diligently fill it out? Create a spreadsheet where they mark meetings as canceled? Have them ring a gong every time a customer doesn’t show up?
There are no good options to collect data like how many meetings are canceled.
That is, before People.ai.
Here is a dashboard component that I created with Salesforce data coming from People.ai. By categorizing if a meeting is scheduled, completed, rescheduled, or canceled you can see better behavioral information about AEs and the meetings they schedule. Is it any surprise that David Daters is struggling? His customers show up to meetings at a much lower percentage than Max Hall — the top sales rep.
Armed with this data, the conversation with sales leadership changes. If we are bringing valuable SE resources to a meeting, there should be the right conditions set with the customer to avoid a high percentage of meetings being canceled.
Are Sales Engineers Swimming Outside Their Pre-Sales Swimlanes?
Sales Engineers are usually very popular with their customers.
They’re a technical resource that solves business problems, not someone who sells you more software. Because of this trusted relationship, guess who a customer calls when they have a question or problem after the contract is signed? You guessed right!
Why is this a challenge? After a customer is signed they should be transitioning to the post-sales team and working with success and implementation. If an SE is spending time with a customer post-sales this data slips through the cracks from a reporting perspective. No data means that the business is not making hiring and alignment decisions based on reality.
People.ai worked with a customer to solve this exact challenge.
With automatic activity data being associated with closed/won opportunities, this customer was able to determine that 25 percent of their SE time was being spent post sales.
Armed with this data, they were able to firm up the Rules of Engagement and push more post-sales work to the right teams. They were also able to justify hiring more resources to handle the transition phase from pre-post sales. Without People.ai, this data would not have existed and all of the evidence of this behavior would be anecdotal, meaning the business could not make the right decisions. This ultimately impacts revenue goals as SEs are not spending their time in the right place.
These are just a few of the hundreds of challenges People.ai can help solve for your SE team.
Ready to start leveraging the power of artificial intelligence to close more deals?
Find out how People.ai helps not only your SE team, but rather your entire go-to-market teams gain visibility, increase productivity, and reduce operational expenses across the entire revenue team.