One of the questions frequently raised by new visitors to the site is “How do I know if I’m an SE?” I think most of us seasoned professionals forget that many companies are not familiar with the concept of a dedicated presales engineer and thus many folks find they are doing SE-type work but have no framework for defining the position nor how to formalize it.
I will provide a simple guideline for determining if you are in fact an SE by trade, even if your title suggests otherwise:
You speak to prospects about the detailed specifics of your offering prior to their having purchased.
That’s it. If this type of work is predominant in your role, congrats, you are an SE. You might also have a lot of other complementary responsibilities such as product support, product deployment, creating marketing materials, etc. But the essence of the SE is that they are interfacing individually with potential buyers to provide technical details that the “sales” counterpart in the relationship is unable or unwilling to provide.
At first glance my guideline above does not distinguish a sales rep from an SE, however if you think about it, if you are truly in sales you will spend more time on the non-technical aspects of customer acquisition than you will discussing product specifics with prospects. It’s also important to note that you can still be an SE even if you do not have an assigned sales rep. Sometimes the product could be so transactional that marketing is acting as Sales, moving them through the buyer funnel, only kicking out a prospect to you if they have specific technical questions. And, once answered, the prospect proceeds back to the website to order.
What do you guys think: Is there an even simpler definition we can use? Is there something I’m leaving out? Let me know in the comments.
BTW – If you like thinking about definitions and frameworks, you should really check out our certification program.