As technologies become more complex, so do the means by which those technologies are sold. Expertise varies, and there is a point at which sales efforts are conducted in teams consisting of a sales rep who deals with the contractual element, and the sales engineer who handles the technical heavy-lifting.
Sales Reps are about the overall value proposition. They will hunt you down like a dog, identify your pain points, and come up with a basic idea of what you need, how much it costs, and how to finance it, if need be. In most cases, small businesses without complex technology needs will never see a sales engineer unless they pull-up next to one at a stoplight. But nonetheless, some small companies are big users of complicated applications. Therefore, the integration piece, the legacy software and devices involved, and your sheer value as a customer might generate a visit from an SE.
While the sales rep carries the ball from a generalized “deal” point of view, the SE gets down to the technical nitty-gritty. The SEs are the ones to ask about how the suggested solution will interact with what you’ve already got in place. They are the ones who can demonstrate the solution, and walk you through the training processes. If you’re wondering about how the proposed solution is likely to impact your monthly power bill, the sales engineer is the one to ask.
On the other hand, if your questions are more around how to get a better price, any rebates or discounts that might be available, trade-in credits, when the solution can be up-and-running, squirrely terms in the contract, or anything along those lines, then the sales rep is the person you need to talk to.
Here’s the best part: If you ask an SE a question that should be put to the sales rep, or vice versa, they just might answer the question for you anyway. But will it be the correct answer? Reach into your pocket and pull out a shiny, new quarter. Toss it in the air, and let me know if it’s heads or tails when it hits the floor.
Yes, I’m overdramatizing this, but only slightly. The thing is that the sales rep and the SE work closely enough that they often think they know the answers of the other. But due to the nature of their respective roles, these can never be more than educated guesses. That is why the onus is on you, the customer, to be able to discern which questions to bring to whom. Maybe it should not be that way, but in practicality it is. But by looking at your questions in an accurate context, you’re well on your way towards getting the right information that will help you make decisions on behalf of your company.