Sales Engineering

Losing your Religion

The new year has begun, in truth we are well into it, accounts and numbers have been finalised, processes, personnel and strategy have been reviewed and through all this the job continues.

I’d like to take a little look back at Q4, the role of the SE in Q4 and what follows can be an interesting one.  It’s the time of year I am at the mental edge of the role, I spend more time thinking about decisions and actions than any other.  With a smirk I’m sure you will have had a sales lead say “this is the most important week, of the most important month, of the most important quarter.”  Every sale is important to a sales team, as the year closes out they gather momentum.
http://www.freeimages.com/photographer/maxpate-62416For some Q4 will have shuddered to a halt, the final days might have felt like riding a truck with failed breaks, turning the wheel at this late stage is not going to change the end result.  And this is the key to it all, you are not in the final throws as an SE going to change the overall result.  Your work should have been done.  You can and should support and help; start the planning process, take a meeting with a partner or two make a cup of tea for the sales admin team.  (As much as reps think they work the hardest at the end of the quarter it’s actually those that have to process and book all the orders they have thrown together that do – all other times its us ;-))

There will be things you would have done differently through out the year and there will be decisions moving forward taken by management, that you don’t agree with.  This however is no time to judge your role by, this is no time to lose the SE religion. Before you know it you will be back in the wagon, the engines will have started, breaks checked and the GPS guiding the way.

Take a breath and remember you are part of the greatest community on earth, who doesn’t want to be an SE!

Q4 The Pressure Cooker

As an SE I’ve never had an easy Q4. http://www.freeimages.com/photographer/ryly-61697

Even if you are in the rarified air of having completed your quota there will always be pressure from the business to bring in the right deals now. This pressure will come down onto the sales team and a portion of it to you. Everyone has their own way of dealing with it; it’s months like these that you remind yourself you are the SE and not the rep and should be able to sail through the rough waters without getting thrown off the boat, head downstairs and batten down the hatches.

You will work with reps in your time as an SE who will attempt to throw you off the boat, this highlights a poor understanding of the roles and responsibilities and a poor working relationship. You either need to fix this, directly or with your manager or find another partnership. That’s a big call as you might be wedded to the vendor you are working for, we often are as SE’s, but reps that take all the glory and are not prepared to take any of the blame for a poorly executed quarter are dangerous to your health. In my experience these reps don’t often last long, the step up and pressure of vendor sales has been a leap too far for them. You’ll know if you are there or not.

Why am I talking about pressure? I am in the end game, its Q4, the last month, the last weeks. Time is running out, I’ve just stepped off a plane, my 4th week away in a row. I’ve crisscrossed the country eight times, I’ve burnt a lot of jet fuel, I’ve stood up in front of countless customers, written two multimillion dollar proposals, seen reps and SE’s breaking down as purchasing departments decide to change the procedures and sign offs at the last minute and I’ve watched the pressure literally melt some minds.

So as an SE what do you do? I think I am lucky, in that my generation of SE’s have all had other jobs before we landed on our feet as a Sales Engineer. It’s that experience that gives us perspective at these times. We know that the pressure cooker we are in is different to those in the armed forces, police, education or health care . It’s still real, it still causes real problems but we have the immediate release of perspective.

What if you are new to the game, what if this is your first Q4? Everyone is different but I highly recommend in practising how to switch off and not bring Q4 home with you. If you work in an office this could be finding a spot where mentally you dump work and pick up home, a corner or set of lights on the way home is the point you  tell yourself you are in home mode now. It takes time but this does work. Or as many do these days burn it off by cycling home.

If you work at home, as I do, you’ll need to practise switching on and off work.  This is hard, you’ll have no train or bus journey to manage this over, you’ll need to be able to do this like flicking a switch. This is a really important SE skill, you’ll need the full support of your family to get this job done right, to travel as much as we do without worry.  Make time for home, especially in Q4.

I’m home now, my kids are laughing with me, I’ve dropped work off outside and the pressure has been lifted.

Hang in there my SE fraternity, good luck closing out, Q4 is almost over.

Image: Boat by Stephen Jones