Unleashing the Power of Social Media to Win Deals as a Sales Engineer
As a Sales Engineer, you may perceive yourself as an expert with whom a client would consult to solve a relevant business problem, explain technological trends, or inspire with the art of the possible. And although “Sales” is a part of your title, you don’t dare to call a stranger because you don’t know how to start the conversation—or maybe you’re afraid of rejection or being caught in a weak position. So you stay silent until the deal is lost.
Are you nervous before a discovery call if you haven’t met the people earlier? Do you love to work on problems in solitude? Are you creative and naturally curious? Then the chances are high that you belong to the introvert type. Did you know that the greatest inventors of the internet are introverts? Bill Gates, Craig Newman, Guy Kawasaki, Steve Wozniak.
If you are like most Sales Engineers, you are excited about the domain you work in. So why not speak about it with new acquaintances? For example, you could ask for other people’s opinions about challenges, future states, or possible transformations. You can do all of that without approaching a stranger in real life.
Today, social media comes to rescue you as an introverted Sales Engineer. Using Linkedin, is becoming increasingly easier to connect with professionals than ever before. You can scan the profile of who you’re trying to reach, highlight some of their achievements in a short message, and ask for a quick informal chat. Let’s dive into how to use social media as a way to network with other like-minded individuals.
The law of familiarity.
I have the feeling I know this person! This thought should shoot through your prospect’s mind the moment we join the discovery call because they have seen some of your work online.
It may be a post about an exciting challenge in your domain; it may be a YouTube video where you have given an interview, your company’s webinar, or even a conference that had you for its keynote. All of those become your assets and speak to your social media personality. The more assets you create, the more you spread and repurpose them, the more familiarity you will accumulate. And it doesn’t matter if you have 10 or 30,000 followers because the one occasion where your account executive directs a prospect to your nicely curated and resourceful profile might be enough to set up a sales opportunity for success.
Let’s experiment. We need a statistic to frame it: 46% of decision-makers are between 18-34 years old. That means half of B2B researchers for decision-making are millennials and the largest demographic on social media. Now, imagine your competitor is going to launch an internal initiative. Every Sales Engineer and leader is asked to curate their LinkedIn profiles: headshot, banner, compelling headline, and a fleshed-out meaningful experience section. Additionally, they are incentivized to post opinions about their industry every two weeks, between five to ten sentences. Doable? Yes.
Let’s assume next that you are head to head in a deal with a staunch, tough competitor.
Naturally, your prospect researches you. But what will they find? Hopefully an appealing profile and inspiring posts. But if they don’t, and they visit your competitor’s peer profile which is robust and thoughtful, then the law of familiarity kicks in. The most likely result is that the perceived competence of your peer is higher from minute one of the discovery call.
Every day you actively avoid building your brand means making your career more challenging. It’s like neglecting exercise until it’s too late. The minute you get diagnosed with being too sedentary, you will ask yourself: Why haven’t I done this Yoga session every morning? You can work yourself back in shape, of course, but it’s way harder from such a wrecked position.
LinkedIn has nearly 800 million users in more than 200 countries and territories worldwide. (That’s ten times the number of inhabitants of my home country: Germany!) And there are estimates of only 3 million posts per day. That’s far too little for those demanding professionals—like you—on the platform hungry for information. A good portion of posts are irrelevant marketing, meaningless company news, or even worse, politics. What LinkedIn users want is high-quality content that is educational and entertaining. In addition, readers demand your opinion as a domain expert.
My advice: Stop ranting about the fluff that gets published. Instead, create quality pieces and flood other people’s feeds with them. If you struggle to overcome the resistance to put yourself out there, read Steven Pressfield: The War of Art. And even if not, read it anyway.
Don’t be afraid of publishing your ideas. Every human is an artist. Creativity is part of our genes, as is storytelling, which is scientifically proven. (See Narrative Economics by Shiller.)
Face it: Your job as a Sales Engineer will need you to prospect sooner or later. That’s not about cold calling new clients but reaching into existing customer’s organizations to find new opportunities. Who is better equipped for that than you as the expert? Also, when you work in software sales, the chances are high that you consult clients about digital transformation and a need to change. You might call it disruption, right?
But what about you? If you resist going social, you fight a transformation and a need to change. When you tell clients to use your disruptive tech, show them that you walk the talk. Disrupt yourself and start posting.
By publishing just a bit more information than the average Sales Engineer, you will provide hooks for other professionals to contact you. That gives you a huge head start with deals. It’s important not to forget that at its most fundamental level, social media acts as a safety net and career opportunity. If you have a name out there, people will remember you when placing experts into vacant roles.
Five things to remember:
- Don’t be perceived as an unknown, invisible techie.
- Be a disruptive Sales Engineer. Be what you preach.
- Help your Account Executives promote your profile by making it compelling.
- Social media presence makes your discovery calls more effective and eventually lets you close more deals.
- Be someone people ask for expertise.
How should I start?
First, practice writing. You will need it anyways. Every email, every proposal is an opportunity to become more skilled in writing. Get a book on writing via your favorite book store.
Next, create a swipe file and put everyday ideas in there. Please, document them. You will forget ideas, especially when they are good. Always be brainstorming and experimenting.
To empower yourself to become a smart, social-savvy Sales Engineer, I challenge you to come up with 10 ideas to post daily for a month. Once finished, you will have enough content to post for a year.
Last but not least, generate work that positions you and clarifies what makes you different. Find your niche and have the prospect’s architects contact you.
About the author:
Patrick Pissang is a Sales Engineer by heart, advocating a modern culture to technical selling: proactive instead of reactive, focusing on creative methodologies, and being themselves instead of a competitor-led. Today, Patrick is the founder and lead trainer at Sales Hero GmbH; a company solely focused on making Sales Engineers successful in a highly competitive environment. Patrick’s newest book, The Social Sales Engineer, is written for every modern PreSales consultant.