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Powering Up the Sales Engineer and Account Executive Partnership

Ajay Jay
January 31, 2024
5 min read

As the world becomes more complex, the products and solutions that we sell are also becoming increasingly complicated. Every sales and sales supporting function must work together as one to maximize deal closure.

➦ A study by Salesforce found that sales teams with strong AE-SE partnerships have 38% higher win rates compared to those with poor collaboration.

What is PreSales or Sales Engineering

The Challenge of Building a Strong SE-AE Partnership

There are many reasons for the growing differences between the two, but it all comes down to the fact that products and solutions are getting extremely complex, and you need deep technical knowledge and expertise to keep up. 

Additionally, the customer landscape is shifting. Customers have changing expectations and demands with time. So AEs and SEs have to get on the same page and align their strategies to meet those evolving needs.

Today robust sales is not just a handoff between Sales Engineers and Account Executives anymore. It's all about a true partnership and they have to work together in perfect harmony to close more deals.

That's why it's on PreSales and Sales leaders to make sure that the bond between their SEs and AEs is rock solid. They have to foster that teamwork, keep the communication flowing, and empower them to streamline their sales cycle.

➦ A research report by Sales Management Association found that organizations with effective AE-SE partnerships see a 15% increase in average deal size compared to those with poor collaboration, indicating a direct impact on revenue growth.

SEs bringing in the technical expertise, AEs bringing in the sales acumen, and together they form an unstoppable force. For this, SEs and AEs need to be in sync, supporting each other, and collaborating at every step of the way.

Roles and Responsibilities of Sales Engineers and Account Executives

Core Skills of Sales Engineers

Sales Engineers (SEs) are the analytical and detail-oriented problem-solvers of the tech world. They excel at identifying technical issues and providing solutions, working closely with customers to ensure smooth implementation. 

SEs place high priority on maintaining credibility, as their technical expertise is essential in earning customers' trust. They're dedicated to ensuring that the products or solutions they sell address customers' pain points and solve their technical challenges, driving successful customer outcomes.

Core Skills of Account Executives

Account Executives (AEs) are passionate about achieving their sales targets, driven by a deep motivation to successfully close deals and go above and beyond to not to lose deals. However, AEs recognize that building and nurturing customer relationships is the key to sales success.

They take all the effective approaches in the playbook, understand their customers' unique business challenges and align the product or solution to meet those needs. In doing so, AEs take a holistic view, looking beyond individual transactions to establish long-term partnerships that benefit both the customer and the company.

SEs and AEs may have distinct personalities and approaches, but their complementary roles are what make them a dynamic and indispensable team in the sales process. While SEs bring technical expertise and an analytical approach to identifying and resolving technical issues, AEs leverage their salesmanship and relationship-building skills to understand customer needs and align the product or solution accordingly.

Together, they form a perfect combination that ensures successful outcomes for both the customer and the company. In the fast paced and constantly changing world of sales, this partnership is critical for staying ahead of the competition and achieving sustained success.

What AEs want from SEs:

1/ SEs to be responsive, reliable, and proactive in providing support 

2/ SEs to have in-depth knowledge about the products and solutions they sell.

3/ SEs to understand the sales process and contribute to strategic selling efforts.

4/ SEs to accurately qualify product fitment at the early stages of the sales process.

5/ SEs to be organized and provide clear and concise information during customer interactions.

What SEs want from AEs:

1/ AEs to involve SEs on qualified leads that have a genuine need.

2/ AEs to effectively communicate the progression of the deal on the sales side.

3/ AEs to collaborate in developing effective account and opportunity strategies for closing deals.

4/ AEs to help SEs organize their technical sales operations and management.

5/ AEs to be open to feedback, adaptable to changing customer requirements, and willing to work collaboratively in finding solutions.

➦ A research report by SiriusDecisions revealed that organizations with highly aligned AE-SE teams achieve 15% higher customer retention rates and 17% faster sales cycle times.

4 Steps to Strengthen AE & SE Alignment

  1. Make the most of everyone's strengths: AEs and SEs have different skill sets, which can complement each other. AEs may focus on broader business objectives, while SEs may provide technical solutions. It's important to recognize and leverage these unique skills to address customer requirements and deliver compelling solutions.


  1. Foster a culture of open and honest communication: Listen actively, clarify expectations, and address any concerns or challenges proactively. Clarify roles and responsibilities – Who does what when and how. s to collaborate effectively, align their efforts, and deliver a unified sales pitch to customers.


  1. Promote a collaborative mindset: Successful partnerships encourage brainstorming,  clear expectations, creative thinking, and joint problem-solving efforts. AEs and SEs should collaborate closely to identify customer pain points, develop tailored solutions, and address objections or technical hurdles together. Seek feedback and learn from it.

  1. Nurture lifelong learning and growth: Although given less importance but staying updated with product knowledge, market trends, and industry insights plays a key role in maintaining strong partnerships. AEs and SEs should also engage in cross-training opportunities to better understand each other's roles, perspectives, and challenges.



Conclusion

The partnership between Sales Engineers (SEs) and Account Executives (AEs) is crucial for achieving sales success and building long-term customer relationships. Together, they form a powerful team driving successful outcomes and helping organizations stay ahead of the competition. Sales leadership can leverage this partnership to enable and empower their sales teams, providing them with the right resources and support they need to achieve their targets and build lasting customer relationships. By investing in sales enablement and fostering collaboration between SEs and AEs, organizations can achieve sustained success in the highly competitive sales landscape.

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