A couple weeks ago, I posted on LinkedIn about a dynamic duo I knew - an AE/SE team that was unstoppable. One of my followers recommended an awesome podcast on the same subject, from the PreSales Podcast team.
So I thought I’d share my notes from the podcast - and all the aha! Moments it gave me about the SE/AE relationship. Let’s go!
Leading and Learning
The AE/SE relationship is important - they’re different roles, but with the same ultimate goal - making a sale. Learning a few tips for working together smoothly, and how to see things from the other perspective, can make everyone’s job a lot easier - and more fun too.
Professional curiosity is key. It’s great to have an SE who has been an AE, or an AE who has a nerdy, technical side so they understand why things are happening the way they are. The AE turned SE has an incredible amount of empathy for the pressures and quotas AEs face that straight SEs don’t have. They understand the pressure of carrying the quota in a very real way.
AEs might be avoiding areas of the product during demos if they’re buggy and customers don’t like it - but this can get contentious with SEs. They might tell the AE to just deal with it and stop avoiding it. Other SEs are aware of the situation, and that the problem is what it is - the fix might be out of their hands and in the hands of product or customer experience, and that creating a bottleneck at the deal point could be a mistake.
Come Together Through Communication
Personalities don’t always get along on both sides. But really, any two people can come together if you’re willing to communicate. Talk openly about your strengths, your weaknesses, goals, and what’s going to block you from those goals. People approach their jobs and their overall careers differently - and each deal differently too, right?
So communicate on things beyond just asking “who’s doing the talking on this call.” If you can get on the same page on these things, you can do the call prep quickly and effectively because you understand each other already. This also helps you approach oddball use cases better, because you’re more capable of handling audibles in the moment if you aren’t busy misunderstanding each other.
SEs are pretty tech-focused - they’ve usually done a lot of back-end demos in their lives. But they don’t tend to focus on the outcome of their use cases. Sometimes AEs can get defensive when AEs talk about demo flow - but that doesn’t have to happen. The AE needs to be constructive in their criticism, and the SE needs to be receptive.
That goes both ways - for example, if the SE has a specific way they want their demo notes, and if they ask the AE to go get more info from the prospect so they can tailor. We need to be open and trusting with each other, knowing that we’re always working towards the same goals. We both want to get deals in and perform well. The minute you’re set in your ways, or unwilling to take feedback or modify or upgrade, you probably need to take a break. Walk away, get refreshed, and come back with a clear and open mind.
Tech Savvy Sessions
How can AEs get technical? AEs gotta be more than just setting up appointments and doing the negotiations - they’re engaged the whole way. They should use the product if they can. Use a competitor’s too - or at least research it. It’s not your job to do the work the SE does, but you should at least understand it and be able to predict if a request you’ve made makes sense or not. That way, you can tell the stories, know the use cases, and come over the top and sell. That’s the pinnacle of performance.
From the SE side, their AE should be an industry expert and coming up with creative solutions to bend and morph your product to push boundaries on what your product can do. And the SE is there to make sure this will actually all work. “I try to push it as far as I can, and then my SE is there to reel me back in.” Prep is vital for this - you need to be aware of the business challenges and prepared to work around the value statement.
Creating the Dynamic Duo
Working together closely is also helpful. Danny and Travis talk every day - they Slack until 8 pm every night, they grab beers together at kickoff, they’re truly a team winning deals together. Travis is even on all discovery calls - and if he can’t make it, they discuss it afterwards. Wild, right?! The SE/AE relationship can be one of becoming trusted advisors to each other.
Sometimes AEs don’t even need to be on demos - which is a pretty emotional topic for us AEs (are we not needed anymore? Is this is not including SEs on disco calls? I got some things to think about on this part for sure).
SEs aren’t just a support role - it’s a full partnership, at least when it’s really effective. SEs tend not to get credit, so James has developed some things to make that happen. He puts all wins in their Wins Slack channel - credit to the SE. And in the Win emails from the head of Sales, where they write up a case study that goes to the whole organization and I give lengthy shoutouts there. And talking to your SE directly about how you appreciate their role is powerful too.
Companies can do a lot more to enable the AE/SE relationship - how can they help both sides work together? Adobe/Marketo has a lot of focus on making sure they’re working together with SMART goals that zero in on creating the best customer experience.
This isn’t a quick or easy process - you need time, and trust, and open communication. And plenty of empathy to understand where each person is coming from. Don’t be afraid to ask - most negativity in AE/SE relationships comes from a fear of asking something, and it just builds up over time, then turns into a huge issue when the original ask was small. Honest and open feedback is the key to a great AE/SE dynamic duo partnership.
Check out the full podcast here to get all the info.
How is your AE/SE partnership going today? Got some inspiration for ways to make it better? Let us know in the comments - I’d love to hear stories from other dynamic duos.