Friday, September 24, 2010

Sales Engineer vs SalesPerson - What's the difference?

In my industry (Information Technology), we have something called:  "Sales Engineers."  We also have Salespeople.  In fact, there's different styles and types of Salespeople.  What's the difference between a Salesperson and a Sales Engineer?  What does a Sales Engineer do that a Salesperson doesn't?  Some people have preconceived notions as to different roles.  Here's an interesting take:  All Sales Engineers are Salespeople, but are all Salespeople Sales Engineers?  Maybe.  I'm not even sure if that's an accurate sentence.  Wait, it gets more confusing.

A Sales Engineer is supposed to be somebody who is technically saavy (maybe even certified), but also has sales chops.  Wait a minute, couldn't that be the just a technically saavy salesperson?  Where does the distinction happen?  In fact, I know some Salespeople that know more about technology than some Sales Engineers that I know.  Hmmm...still confused.

OK, I know the difference.  Sales Engineers are usually categorized as "sales support" which means that they don't carry a quota and are there to SUPPORT the Salespeople.  Right?  Well, maybe.  If a Salesperson isn't producing, does the Sales Engineer get called into the Sales Manager's office?  I don't think so.  If the sales team does well, and everyone's in the money, does the Sales Engineer get commission - usually.  Something doesn't add up, right?

If the salesperson doesn't understand the technical requirements and/or configuration of a technology sale, they rely on the Sales Engineer.  Does that mean the salesperson doesn't really need to understand the technology in the first place.  I mean, if you strip away the product knowledge from the sales process, isn't the salesperson's job reduced to building relationships and getting "their foot in the door?"  That doesn't seem right.

OK, here's another one.  If the salesperson proposes a technology solution to a customer and they messed up costing your company some real cash, they get busted - maybe even having their commission taken away.  What happens if the Sales Engineer's configuration is messed up?  Anything?  A "lesson learned."

Bummer.  I was hoping to figure this one out, but instead I'm more confused than ever.  I'll figure it out - eventually.


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