Since joining Big Nerd Ranch in April 2011, I have grown by leaps and bounds as a software developer and consultant, and I'm surrounded by the best team I've ever worked with. But despite this, my personal career goals and aspirations include giving up coding altogether.
Adding the sales engineer role
Fortunately for me, Big Nerd Ranch loves to experiment, and we add roles when we need them. We recently added a sales engineer role, and not only does this role align with my future career goals, it's turning out to be a role that is really helping the company.
So what does a sales engineer do? Where do I fit in? Most importantly, how do I help close deals?
SELLING A PROCESS
Traditionally, sales engineers work for software product companies. These companies have sales staff that can penetrate new markets, find new customers and do all the "sales things" right, but they are usually not very technical. Their clients need to know how a software product will work, how it will integrate into their current IT infrastructure—and frankly, whether it will work at all—before signing any deal. This is where the sales engineer steps in.
At Big Nerd Ranch, I don't have to help sell a product. I help sell a process. This process works. I've been involved with the process for a year and half and have delivered rock-solid web applications with confidence and ease because of it. Because I have experience working with Big Nerd Ranch's iteration-oriented process, I'm able to advocate for it when talking to prospective customers. I also have roots in a variety of industries such as health care, telephony and the software industry itself, so I am able to tie together my collective industry experience with what I have learned at Big Nerd Ranch to relate easily to clients and understand the problems they need us to solve.
During the services sales cycle, I've noticed that clients always want to know two things. The first is our price and the second is our competence. I help business development with the price aspect by reviewing ballpark proposals before they are put in front of potential clients. If something in the ballpark seems a little strange, I will research the problem and see how easily we can solve it. This can affect the length of a project, so I try to find any potential showstoppers or missing project components before the project begins. The second component I work with is selling our collective competence. Clients want to know that the money they spend will be in good hands, and I am conscious of this fact while communicating with potential clients.
At the end of the day, I thoroughly enjoy my dual roles at Big Nerd Ranch. On one hand, I crank out Ruby code and Tech Talks. On the other hand, I crank out new projects with the business development staff. As Big Nerd Ranch continues to grow, I'm sure that the sales engineer role will expand and my development days will end. Thankfully, I work at an awesome company with an awesome CEO who is willing to experiment and create an environment that nurtures professional growth.
Image credit: Twentieth Century Fox