The 6 Qualities of a Deal Crushing Sales Engineer

Taylor Bukowski

When an athlete wants to improve their game, they focus on key performance areas to take them to the next level in the upcoming season. In PreSales, the same competitive spirit reigns. As another year comes to a close, it offers a time for SEs to reflect on the characteristics they must embody and master to become a world-class SE. By doing so, they’ll also master the art of PreSales. 

2021 has been a year of challenges, changes, and transformations. The business world has become increasingly remote-based, felt the reverberations of year two of the pandemic, and the face of the B2B buyer has changed as millennials come of age. These dynamics are only accelerating. For SEs to stay on top of their game, they have to take a hard look at themselves, what’s working and what’s not, to meet the buyer, team, company, and network needs. Ultimately, this is how to excel in deals and a PreSales career. 

As the modern B2B buyer has changed and become more collaborative and transparent, the winning traits that make up an extraordinary SE have evolved as well. When expert SEs touch deals, they influence the trajectory and tone of the entire buyer journey from the moment the deal is born to implementation and customer success. They succeed in generating revenue and repeat customers by their very ability to channel the attributes and flair of a great SE. 

Wondering what those characteristics look like? Which are best to focus on to quickly improve your competency and overall deal dexterity? I’ll share 6 qualities that have helped make my career in PreSales a success and that make the mold of a deal-crushing SE.

  1. Stay curious

It’s hard to determine if curiosity is a skill or more of an attribute of an exceptional SE, but I’ve always felt that curiosity is central to the job. SEs are always trying to perform deep, insightful discoveries that are only successful when they truly commit to uncovering every detail that pertains to the deal. SEs are always trying to answer the question of “why?” Why should someone buy our product? Why should they buy it now? Why shouldn’t they buy our competitor’s product? 

If an SE’s intensely curious, they tend to find out exactly how things work. SEs are the first ones to get their hands on a new product and with great curiosity comes fast development and growth of product knowledge. By having a deeper understanding of a product, SEs can provide true value to their prospects because they can solve their pain points. They can uncover needs the buyer never knew needed to be solved for. A curious SE keeps digging because they never know what gems they may find or what improvements they may discover that need to be added to the roadmap for a product to succeed.

  1. Be a team player

Collaboration can encompass everything from the normal day-to-day interactions between team members to working hand-in-hand with prospects and customers. When SEs collaborate with their buyers and customers the relationship moves away from buyer-seller and transforms into a partnership that establishes the SE as a trusted advisor. 

When we think about building up collateral, this doesn’t happen alone. It’s often that users across the team are collaborating and bringing their best assets to the table, that way SEs can build tribal knowledge and share in their success. At Vivun, this idea is embodied by one of the cultural values our company lives by—We, not me. This challenges us to be selfless, to think outside the box, to pick up each other’s slack when needed, to look for the best in each other and to bring it out in us so we can deliver the ultimate product and experience.

Yes, at times, there are “lone wolf” SEs that hit their numbers, but I truly think the best SEs are the ones who are willing to roll their sleeves up and work together towards a win. This may mean helping out someone on a deal that you’ll not be able to credit for, but at the end of the day, if you build solid relationships with your team, they will jump in without hesitation should you find yourself in a similar situation. 

  1. Connect on a human level

A great SE understands the pain of their prospects and customers in order to get a glimpse into their world and uncover hidden needs. When SEs breathe and imagine the challenges of their prospects and customers, the buyer’s journey becomes a holistic and more personal experience. 

As modern B2B buyers have become experience-first buyers, who expect expert support and guidance during their entire evaluation, from trial to pilot to purchase, expressing empathy has never been more important to connect with buyers. These buyers demand a sure thing; transparency and high confidence in the expected value delivery. When SEs understand the buyer’s world, they can provide a buyer experience that speaks to them. 

At Vivun, as a provider of PreSales software to other PreSales teams, I’ve had the unique opportunity to experience the same pain points as our prospects and customers, and this has allowed me to empathize, and ultimately, connect at every stage of the journey. However, no matter what company an SE is at, if they’re able to put themselves in the shoes of their customers and prospects, they can start to understand the problems and challenges their customers and prospects face, why they matter, and how to solve them. 

  1. Adapt quickly and creatively 

Adapting, in general, is about creative problem solving, thinking on your feet, all while thriving in gray areas and being comfortable with ambiguity. 

Presentations and demos don’t always go as planned, and even simple conversations with prospects and customers can have curveballs. Becoming more comfortable by embracing the uncomfortable is the fundamental way to increase flexibility and your ability to adapt and handle the unknown. 

One of the most obvious examples of this is having to go off-script during a demo and think on your feet. Often the best demos aren’t scripted but rather have a philosophical methodology they follow that allows for flexibility, receiving prospect feedback, and responding to it extempore. And as any SE knows, there are many times, many late nights, many conversations back and forth with buyers that require SEs not only to be flexible but creatively so.

  1. Cultivate a growth mindset

Sharing expertise freely with buyers, customers, and internally is one of the best gifts SEs can give to make individuals more successful and to ultimately influence company strategy. It’s worth it for SEs to spend time on research and cultivate domain knowledge while also thinking deeply about what they’re learning in the field from face time with buyers and customers. Being willing to share this knowledge and lead by example is what’s going to drive change at every level, especially a SEs career.

Having a growth mindset is also about being a thought leader, becoming a subject matter expert who shares their opinions and experience through content with an audience specific to their domain. Becoming a thought leader is the next step to demonstrating your expertise to buyers; however, this is a step most PreSales professionals don’t take, as it does require time outside your daily responsibilities and creativity. The rewards of being a thought leader with a growth mindset are extensive. It helps increase visibility, lead generation, sales enablement, credibility and trust with prospects and customers, ensure job security, and more. 

Creating quality and valuable content is at the core of being a thought leader whose passion is to exchange ideas. Producing consistent, relevant work and establishing a regular cadence and stream of content is fundamental. Using social platforms like LinkedIn help extend influence and provides an audience hungry for domain-specific content. 

  1. Commit time to professional development

SEs need to be willing to take a hard look at themselves and their work and be proactive about making improvements. This includes asking managers and peers for feedback on a regular basis, outside formal review periods. One of the easiest ways to really develop as a professional is to always be willing to listen. If the feedback doesn’t apply, it can always be filtered out later. 

Growth in the workplace is achieved by setting and identifying goals and learning new skills. If time isn’t set aside for professional development, SEs tend to stagnate. Keeping a learning mindset, being willing to examine decisions, building self-awareness, cultivating peer relationships will help any SE develop into the very best they can be. 

At the end of the day, professional development is about sharing lessons and driving impact through others. Be a leader who stays humble, remembers their teachings, and encourages others to do the same.  

Leveling up for a successful year ahead

All 6 of the key characteristics of an SE, I shared—stay curious, be a team player, connect on a human level, adapt quickly and creatively, cultivate a growth mindset, and commit to professional development—have made me the SE I’m today. By focusing on embodying and refining these characteristics to meet the needs of the modern B2B buyer, SEs can maximize their value to their team and buyers.

Every new year, like many, I set personal and career goals. The new year resolution I’m setting is to double down on my efforts to become a PreSales thought leader while building my brand and connecting with an audience of my peers to exchange my ideas. 

I encourage you to select one of these key characteristics and focus on it in the upcoming year, tracking your progress as you evolve as a PreSales professional. 

Excelling in these 6 characteristics is made much easier by using the Hero by Vivun platform to track deals, perform deep discoveries, influence the roadmap, and more. Sign up for a demo today!

Taylor Bukowski November 30, 2021