A sales engineer operates as part of an overall sales team. Winning an opportunity requires that each member of the sales team stay aligned. Alignment requires collaboration and is best achieved by voice-to-voice and face-to-face meetings.  

Not All Meetings Are Bad!

Meetings have a bad reputation these days. Mostly due to not having a clearly defined purpose. So, just because meetings are poorly run shouldn’t mean that meetings are bad. In fact, I propose that well run, well-organized meetings with clear objectives are a sign of health within a team. My point isn’t so much about the meeting itself but what gets accomplished in meeting together.

Consider the reality of our roles and how much we need to interact and engage with people. Without healthy interaction little gets done. Don’t allow the current fixation on reducing meetings distract you from the need to meet with people.

From a sales engineer and presales perspective, there are many meetings that are either essential ore required when engaging with customers. That is a topic for another post, whereas our focus in this post is about the essential meetings within the sales team and how a world-class sales engineer should engage and participate.

The 5 Essential Meetings

Here are five essential meetings that a sales engineer should ensure they engage in. Being an active participant ensures you stay grounded and supported while being aware of the larger sales and corporate strategies.

Being a sales engineer means being part of the larger team.

  1. Sales Rep Account Review  
  2. Sales Management Team Update
  3. Sales Engineer Opportunity Review
  4. 1on1 Meeting
  5. Quarterly Business Review (QBR)

Making A Difference

The company you work for may have a different meeting list, but regardless, the essential best practice I am promoting for a sales engineer is the need to understand their role in meetings. Sales engineers should participate & engage as well as sales leadership nudging and enabling their sales engineers to participate and engage.

Many organizations still treat their presales team members as “demonstration experts” and connected but not really in sales. In order for this to change it requires that sales engineers step into sales more and sales management allows sales engineers to participate beyond being the demonstration expert.

Those sales engineers who excel view themselves as being part of the sales process and strategy while being the technical conscience on the team. Sales engineers who actively engage in these and other meetings ensure they are aligned with key opportunities and use these meetings to build upon their working relationships with team members.

1Sales Rep Account Review

Overview & Purpose

These meetings are typically held weekly so that you stay current to your in-quarter opportunities. The purpose of this meeting is to monitor the progress of your key opportunities for the upcoming week or two.

SE Involvement

To update the team on their progress and upcoming meetings as well as reviewing their key tasks for the week. The outcome of this is to ensure that there is alignment between the sales rep and the sales engineer.

SE Best Practices & Tips

Attend these meetings consistently. If you miss a meeting then send a status update to the sales rep. Don’t allow a week to pass by without engaging with your sales rep on how an opportunity is progressing.

Sales managers should encourage sales reps to have consistent meetings. This meeting should involve more than just you and the sales rep. It should include other team members such as your marketing manager, partner support, technical architects and professional services.

2Sales Management Team Update

Overview & Purpose

These meetings are typically held weekly – a best practice needed to keep the core sales team aligned. This allows sales managers to keep the team updated on their progress both from a company and a team perspective. The content varies for a sales management meeting but can include:

  • updates on company news
  • corporate initiatives
  • team member updates
  • review of specific deals
  • competitive updates
  • marketing and partner updates

SE Involvement

A sales engineer should attend these meetings to ensure they are aligned with their region/department sales leadership direction. A world-class sales engineer should know what is going on in the company and within the team.

SE Best Practices & Tips

This meeting is more about the SE keeping in step with the direction of their sales management to understand key initiatives and priorities.

A world-class SE should be ready with at least one comment or update that is relevant to the team if called upon. Keep your update to 2-3min in length.

This meeting should be prioritized over customer meetings! One of the main reasons is that your sales rep is attending. Don’t allow a sales rep to disqualify you from this meeting because they *need* you at a customer. What is said and decided in this meeting can impact you as a sales engineer – as such be present!  

3Sales Engineer Opportunity Review

Overview & Purpose

These meeting are typically held weekly or bi-weekly. They occur between the sales engineer and their manager. The purpose of this meeting is to ensure alignment with the in-quarter opportunities.

SE Involvement

The objective of this meeting is to review updates and the overall progress of in-quarter opportunities to ensure the right resources, effort and tactics are being applied to move an opportunity forward.

SE Best Practices & Tips

Ensure that you update your CRM 2 days ahead of this meeting. Doing so ensures that your SE manager has time to review any updates ahead of meeting with you. This also makes the meeting more effective so that you can cover the right opportunities in a short and focused period of time.

Keep the focus on key opportunities for the quarter that need discussion and attention to move them forward. Always err on the side of escalation when something isn’t going well by alerting your SE manager. This gives time to resolve an issue.

Use this meeting to update your SE manager on any other issues which are impacting your ability to progress the opportunity including internal sales strategy, differing perspectives or lack of engagement with other key team members. The purpose is to surface items that can be addressed sooner than later.

Other practices by sales engineers for this type of meeting include:

  • Update on support cases with existing customers – especially those that have active in-quarter opportunities
  • Discussion on any in-quarter enablement training that is required
  • Review of in-quarter opportunities which are being *forecast* but either the sales rep or you the SE are not investing time into  

41on1 Meeting

Overview & Purpose

These meetings vary in frequency from weekly to monthly. The purpose of the 1on1 meeting is to ensure that you have time to discuss issues you are facing that is impacting your overall well-being on the team and how that is impacting your contribution. This can vary from your emotional, physical health to the interpersonal dynamics between you and your team members.

SE Involvement

Having a dedicated time where the SE can safely surface issues beyond the opportunities they manage is essential to the health of the SE. As such, the SE must come to this meeting well prepared to table their items.

SE Best Practices & Tips

A sense of trust is essential for a 1on1 meeting. providing some level of insight by the sales engineer to their manager is required in order for the 1on1 meeting to work. Allowing your manager to have a sense of how you are feeling about life, work and your career is important. I know this sounds touchy-feely, but the reality is that we are emotional beings – not robots.

Since we are not robots – its essential you have a safe time to discuss what is going on in your work-life. This includes how your career is progressing (or not), how the overall dynamics with your team is going, the interpersonal issues on the team and what your sense of the company direction is and how that is impacting you. This isn’t about being happy – but it is all about your level and sense of engagement.

The outcome of a quality 1on1 is that the sales engineer has a sense that they have been heard and that there is a path forward to resolve any specific issues. Another way of saying this is that they sense they are further engaged in the specifics of their role, their importance to the team and that what they are doing makes a difference. That seems like a daunting task, which it is. That is why regular meetings to check in to ensure the health of your sales engineers is essential.

5Quarterly Business Review (QBR)

Overview & Purpose

These meeting occur at the start of a new quarter. They are managed by the sales management team and typically include the larger team including marketing, partner support, senior sales management and professional services.

SE Involvement

The QBR is a deep dive into the past quarter as well as a forward view into the next quarter. The focus of a QBR is typically on the performance of the sales rep. However, it is essential that sales engineers be present, attentive and engaged during this essential planning session.

SE Best Practices & Tips

QBR’s are essentially the same across most organizations but there are nuances depending on your executive sales leadership. In some organizations SE’s are not expected or invited, to participate. That may sound unfamiliar to you, but the reality is that not all QBR’s are the same.

Regardless of your specific practices on how sales engineers participate here are some best practices for sales engineers who want to distinguish themselves:

  • Ensure that you meet with your sales rep(s) prior to the QBR to understand what they are going to update their sales management on. Validate the information they are going to share.
  • Review any issues that they are going to raise. Specifically seek to resolve any issues ahead of the meeting where you as the SE might be the focus of discussion (ie: the sales rep blaming you for a lost deal)
  • Know which deals are being called for the upcoming quarter. Share your perspective to ensure that the deals are in fact winnable and not a placeholder for activity.
  • Be ready to support the technical account strategy during the QBR. If asked don’t defer to the sales rep. Be ready with a concise, 2-3min summary, of the essential steps for winning the opportunity with a technical win plan
  • Takes notes and stay engaged during this meeting. Take note of what is said or not said. Of particular importance take note of questions/issues raised by your sales management. Be the scribe for any action items related to a specific opportunity. After the QBR sit down with the sales rep to review and action these items.

Above all else be aware of the emotion of the QBR. Being present and aware of the ebb and flow of a QBR is essential. Many careers have been made or destroyed within a QBR.