Winning sales engineer trait #4: Confidence

May 8, 2012 § 1 Comment

Here’s an old technical sales joke for you:

Q: How many SEs does it take to screw in a light bulb?

A: I don’t know at the moment, but I’ll get back to you with an answer soon.

In this next installment of the 7 Habits of the Most Effective SEs, it’s time to see how a little confidence can go a long way. Many people think that confidence is like charisma: either you’re born with it, or you lack it your whole life. When it comes to being a capable SE, I don’t subscribe to that point of view. Instead, I’ve always felt that knowledge and experience breed certainty. Earlier in this series, I described how being technically skilled and inquisitive can pay big dividends, and confidence just happens to be one of those benefits.

Regardless of whether it’s in your DNA, or you gain it through the school of hard knocks, confidence is essential in technology sales. SEs will often find themselves in front of potentially hostile audiences, from scowling executives in dark suits to skeptical middle managers to jeering technical wizards. Each audience considers the SE to be an inferior:

  1. The executives view the SE as a peon attempting to extract large sums of money from the firm.
  2. The middle managers view the SE as a mere technician with no business sense.
  3. And the technical wizards view the SE as an impostor, incapable of understanding their unique technical requirements.

The SE must be able to overcome the natural instinct to flee in terror, instead relying on their confidence to gracefully face whatever challenges lie ahead. Prospects pick up on this self-assurance, too, which can help cement a winning sales cycle. Finally, it’s critical to remember that it isn’t necessary (or advisable) to answer every question on the spot, but they must be addressed promptly afterwards – just like the light bulb question I listed above.

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