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Cross-Functional Collaboration as a Solutions/Sales Engineer

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    David Rhodes
Sales engineers work with a variety of functions and personas

As a sales/solutions engineer in SaaS, your role is to bridge the gap between technical and non-technical teams to speed revenues and customer LTV. You are responsible for identifying and understanding customer needs, developing solutions, and presenting them to customers in a way that proves value on their terms. But to increase SaaS customer lifetime value, renewals, and retention, you must work closely with other teams, including sales, product, engineering, partnerships, marketing, and customer success. In this blog article, we will explore how sales engineers should work cross-functionally with these teams.

Partner with Sales Teams

Sales engineers must partner with assigned sellers to discover customer needs and pain points. By understanding business requirements, you can help sales teams craft solutions that meet those needs. Sales engineers can also help sellers respond to technical aspects of an RFP, and respond with sales-friendly technical answers in their messaging. To achieve this, sales engineers should:

  • Participate in sales meetings to understand customer needs and requirements
  • Provide technical support during the sales process
  • Develop product demos and presentations to help sales teams communicate the value of the product
  • Ensure that proposals are technically accurate and meet customer requirements

Partner with Partner Team

Sales engineers collaborate frequently with partnership teams to prototype client solutions your product can't accomplish alone. Sales engineers should:

  • Know all the partners, and be familiar with their platforms and APIs
  • Familiarize yourself with common partnership use cases
  • Get really good at extending your product's value using partnerships

Partner with Product Team

Sales engineers should also partner with product teams to provide roadmap visibility and input to clients and ensure the product meets customer needs. By communicating customer requirements to product teams, sales engineers can help shape the product roadmap and prioritize features that are important to customers. This collaboration can result in higher customer satisfaction, increased retention, and improved customer lifetime value. To achieve this, sales engineers should:

  • Know the Product Roadmap
  • Eliminate client risk and uncertainty by including product team members in sales and customer success calls
  • Know how the product connects with partnership ecosystem for value-building use cases
  • Provide roadmap input based on client discovery

Partner with Engineering Team

Sales engineers must also work with engineering teams to ensure that the product is built to meet customer requirements. By working closely with engineering teams, sales engineers can help resolve technical issues and ensure that the product is reliable and scalable. To achieve this, sales engineers should collaborate with engineering teams:

  • To architect custom solutions
  • Get coaching on the best way to credibly present technical differentiators
  • Test implementations, ie. technical POCs, for org, client, and partner risk (data, compliance)
  • Read and apply their API and app documentation

Partner with Marketing Team

Sales engineers must work closely with marketing team members:

  • Know your product marketing SME and how to consume their work. Help refine personas and help hone in on "magic moments" or "AHA moments" that prospects have in demos.
  • Get really good on the company elevator pitch and spotting the ICP, Ideal Customer Profile
  • Volunteer to demo and present at trade shows and corporate events
  • Know how to access enablement content

Partner with Security Team

Sales engineers also work with security teams to eliminate client risk. To achieve this, sales engineers should:

  • Consult and align on completing client security assessments
  • Get enablement and input on how to speak to the aspects of cybersecurity, including cloud, network, and app security.

Partner with Customer Success Team

Finally, effective sales engineers work with Customer Success teams to ensure that customers are generating ROI in using the product. By providing technical support to customer success teams, sales engineers can help address customer issues and ensure that customers are getting the most value from the product. To achieve this, sales engineers should:

  • Provide knowledge transfer to customer success teams
  • Help troubleshoot customer issues
  • Ensure that customers are using the product effectively
  • Provide technical training to customer success teams
  • If your solution offers training or certification, do it

In conclusion, sales engineers play a critical role in the success of SaaS companies. Because of the SaaS headwinds in 2023, I predict there'll be more roles that transcend the binary "pre-sales/post-sales" labels, working with the client full lifecycle, pre-sales to implementation to success and renewal. This adds LTV by ensuring the product isn't oversold or under-engineered to client needs. By working cross-functionally with sales, product, engineering, partner, security and customer success teams, sales engineers add critical value to a SaaS org. By collaborating closely with these teams, sales engineers can ensure that the product meets customer needs, is reliable and scalable, and is being used effectively by customers.