February 6, 2022

Reimagining the Life of a Sales Engineer or Sales Engineer Leader With Data

Reimagining the Life of a Sales Engineer or Sales Engineer Leader With Data

John Ream

John Ream
Reimagining the Life of a Sales Engineer or Sales Engineer Leader With Data

Being a sales engineer (SE) and/or sales engineer leader is often a demanding role. Before working at People.ai, I faced the typical challenges that are all part of the trade. Having to manage so many duties – ramping new SEs, facilitating requests from account executives and sales leaders, promoting cohesion between sales and sales engineering, managing team bandwidth – threading the needle isn’t easy.

Now that I’m working at People.ai, I have realized that there are four operational areas where our technology is helping hundreds of other SEs and SE leaders.

1. Eliminate manual data entry for sales engineers

In my 8 years as a sales engineer, I have completed incredible amounts of data entry. Logging activities, next steps, technical details, etc. The number of times I’ve heard SE leaders during team calls remind sales engineers to update the CRM, and again at the end of the week, month, and quarter – there is an endless amount of manual drudgery in maintaining a CRM.

We lose a lot of information as we jump between back-to-back-to-back meetings. Tracking every activity, with every key contact, results in having to dedicate a “calendar block” to catch up (both in CRM and in the brain fog of the day’s activities).

Additionally, as sales engineers, we need to absorb a lot of information when we first enter new opportunities to get up to speed. This usually involves setting up at least one overview discussion with the account executive (AE). Even then, you often don’t have enough insights into which contacts the team has engaged and what activities have taken place. Is this the first-ever call with the prospect and the AE, or have there been a number of different conversations to date?

In order to eliminate manual data entry, you have to ensure that all activities and contacts are automatically matched to the right account and opportunity within the CRM. This includes filtering any non-business or sensitive information and gathering the appropriate activity and contact information.

This enables sales engineers to reduce the amount of manual data entry they have to enter, but also provides full visibility into everything that’s going on within an account or opportunity. Instead of playing telephone with the AE (over email, Slack, Zoom, phone call, etc.), we can save time and focus on high-value activities. We form an up-to-date understanding of what has been happening within accounts and opportunities, to maximize time spent on strategy when having these overview discussions with the AEs.

Automating sales activity capture in CRMs eliminates heavy data entry for SEs while enabling greater visibility into accounts and opportunities, so you can come better prepared for meetings. Here, we’re looking at insights into time spent with various personas – both internal and external.

2. Ensure sales engineers are spending the optimal amount of time on opportunities

Earlier in my career, I remember the amount of time and effort that went into a single given opportunity. For example – one opportunity entailed over 60 hours of preparation work. Then, a full day of remote discovery (8 hours), because my flight was canceled due to weather. Lastly, a final two-day, on-site sprint, with 8 hours of demoing each day. The end result: A closed won opportunity for only $150k.

What is the problem?

In hindsight, the amount of time I spent on this opportunity versus working on other opportunities resulted in less overall revenue for the company.

Since People.ai automatically populates all time being spent on a given opportunity, you have a justifiable metric to be able to push back when one opportunity is eating up all of one SE’s time.

Comparing potential deal sizes with how much time your SEs are allocating toward opportunities can help ensure your best resources are spending the optimal amount of time (not too much, not too little).

In my example, I pushed back on the sales rep for the required time with little remorse. If we had People.ai at the time, we could have avoided this scenario. I would have immediately known the time cost was not worth it, and would have had the data to defend it. What is the optimal balance of hours per opportunity? Is the amount of time being spent worthy of a positive ROI? With People.ai, you can easily capture and benefit from this information as an SE leader.

3. Determine which sales engineers have additional bandwidth

As an SE leader, you have to continuously keep up with your team and determine who has additional bandwidth to support new opportunities.

The faucet is on, and you must select the right bucket (sales engineer) to accommodate the flow. If this isn’t adequately performed, there is trouble ahead.

With People.ai, an SE leader can see firsthand the amount of time SEs are spending with clients and easily compare it against the broader team. The general rule of thumb is that 10 hours of client-facing interactions per week is optimal (assume 30 hours of customer prep, with 10 hours of customer-facing time and add-on activities like RFPs and other work items). Having this insight enables our customers’ SE leaders to optimize the fluidity of opportunities across their team, and to make data-driven decisions quickly.

Ensure your sales engineers are not overflowing buckets, and smooth out the changes of flow from the faucet with a keen eye on balancing workloads across the team.

Detailed breakdowns of how your SEs are spending their time can help you reallocate resources based on available bandwidth – improving your team’s capacity while avoiding burnout.

4. Validate which committed opportunities are real

Another critical role of an SE leader is to validate that a deal is real. Who has better insight into opportunities than the technical team?

Often, account executives start committing deals too early. A key factor to determining if a deal is real or not may be as simple as determining whether the appropriate internal resources have been involved within the opportunity.

Knowing the amount of time an SE has spent on an opportunity can help pinpoint whether a deal is ready to close. What are the chances the $1.45M Johnson & Johnson deal closes without any SE involvement?

We speak with many organizations, prospects, and our customers, who have validated that knowing the amount of time spent on a given opportunity by a sales engineer enables them to better de-risk committed deals. It is simple: How can you close a complex $500K SaaS deal – or any deal for that matter – without the appropriate technical overlays involved?

With People.ai automatically logging all activities and time spent with both internal and external participants, it provides the necessary information to:

  • Ensure SEs are spending adequate time on a given opportunity
  • Validate appropriate use of resources on given opportunities
  • Enable the deployment of resources at the right time in an opportunity
  • Quickly identify the real vs. fake opportunities in the pipeline using data


Improve the performance of your sales engineers with data automation and better insights. The key is to automatically capture data from key sales activities within your CRM, as well as to have access to AI-driven insights to keep your team firing on all cylinders. When you reach for a tool to help your SE team, it should:

  • Eliminate manual, double data entry (activities and key contacts)
  • Ensure only business-related activities are synchronized
  • Ensure SEs are spending the optimal amount of time on the right opportunities
  • Seamlessly identify bandwidth availability across the SE team
  • Validate which committed opportunities are real

Ready to learn more? Check out our workbook on the steps to better sales preparation – including fueling your CRM with automated activity capture.  

Ready to see these capabilities in action? Register for a demo today!

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