Ramzi Marjaba | Sales Engineering & Using Story to Communicate Impact

 In Being an Engineer Podcast



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Who is Ramzi Marjaba?

Ramzi Marjaba holds a bachelor’s degree in engineering as well as a Master’s degree in Engineering Management. He started his career in software development and eventually made his way into the sales engineer world. He is currently a senior sales engineer with Keysight Technologies, and also runs the website WeTheSalesEngineers.com where he helps other sales engineers develop the skills to succeed.

Aaron Moncur, host


sales engineer, sales, engineers, customer, salesperson, people, ramsey, engineering, talking, problem, technical, solve, skills, emails, questions, technology, quota, reach, story, impact
Presenter, Aaron Moncur, Ramzi Marjaba

Presenter 00:00
Hi everyone. We’ve set up this being an engineer podcast as an industry knowledge repository, if you will, we hope it’ll be a tool where engineers can learn about and connect with other companies technologies, people, resources and opportunities. So make some connections and enjoy the show.

Ramzi Marjaba 00:18
A lot of times sales engineers defer to salespeople in terms of their accounts, how they help their customers. So my recommendation is own it, you own the business as much as a salesperson.

Aaron Moncur 00:32
Hello, and welcome to the being an engineer Podcast. Today we are speaking with Ramzi Marjaba, Ramzi holds a bachelor’s degree in engineering as well as a master’s degree in engineering management. He started his career in software development and eventually made his way into the sales engineer world. He is currently a senior sales engineer with Keysight Technologies and also runs the website wethesalesengineers.com, where he helps sales engineers develop the skills to succeed. Ramzi, thank you so much for joining us, and welcome to the show.

Ramzi Marjaba 01:19
It is my pleasure. That’s a better bio than I would have written for myself. So Thank you!

Aaron Moncur 01:24
Maybe I should start freelancing as a bio writer.

Ramzi Marjaba 01:27
You should. That’s a very good, that’s a, I’ll give you to take a copy of that when we’re done.

Aaron Moncur 01:31
No problem. No problem. All right, well, Ramzi first question, this is the same one. I asked everyone, what made you decide to become an engineer? I mean, I know you’ve kind of gone towards the sales side of engineering. But originally, what was it that made you think? Yeah, yeah, that’s the path for me.

Ramzi Marjaba 01:48
My dad, in short, in long, so I’m, I’m raised in Lebanon. I’m Lebanese, originally, I lived there all my life, or most of my life. And a lot of the work outside. In the world, when you want to live in Lebanon, it’s, it doesn’t make enough money for almost anything. I wanted to be a physical education guy or a physical trainer. But there wasn’t any money in that. So my dad guided me towards computers, mainly because he saw me playing games. He said transition be computer engineer. I thought, Okay, I’ll make games. Turns out it has nothing to do with each other. But I’m glad I went to engineering.

Aaron Moncur 02:27
That’s funny. All right. Well, let’s talk about being a sales engineer. What what is a sales engineer? And how is that role different from your, you know, kind of your typical standard sales role?

Ramzi Marjaba 02:42
That most people don’t understand, like, don’t even know that sales engineering exists. So sales engineering is the process of solving a business problem through technology. Now, in the mechanical world, you might have a sales engineer who’s actually a salesperson, especially when there’s physical hardware, like a wind turbine or something like that someone is selling it, they’re usually sales engineers, but they’re salespeople doing the engineering part as well. But if you go more into the software side, so if you sell any equipment to design that wind turbine, the salesperson is the person trying to find the leads, get the customer to meet with them. The sales engineer is the one who comes in and figures out what the problem is, offers a solution shows the value of that solution to the customer tries to convince them that their solution is better than anybody else’s. And then the salesperson comes back and tries to close the deal. So there’s a bit of difference. But we’re all part of the sales team, we have the same goal, which is, in theory, it should be to help the customer. But a lot of times in, in reality, it ends up being just hoping to close the deal.

Aaron Moncur 03:47
Well, I really liked the way you defined a sales engineer that is solving a business problem using technology. That’s a really clean, concise way to describe it that anyway, it helps me to understand what that means. What what are some some sales skills that engineers who have maybe no interest in becoming a sales engineer can benefit from in their engineering role?

Ramzi Marjaba 04:13
It’s it’s interesting, because when I went into engineering, I wanted to do engineering because I didn’t want to talk to people. And now one of the most I realized that one of the most important skills that engineers in general right now anybody should have is the ability to communicate the ability to take a complex idea and make it simple ability to convince someone to do something. So I kind of classified into two, there’s one set of skills to do the job one set of skills to find the next job, if you will. So if you want to do the job, you have to be able to have communication skills. We write emails all the time. We create reports all the time. We’re trying to convince someone of something all the time. So it’s having the ability to communicate something clearly unlike what I’m doing right now, but being able to actually be concise and get your point across fastest possible that’s a great skill. There’s also influence and persuasion, which sounds negative, but what we’re trying to do is help someone make a decision in the end. So like, Aaron, if I need something from you as your employee, I kind of need to convince you why it’s useful for you. More than it’s useful for me, I don’t want to raise because I need it for my family, I want to raise because I’ve achieved all these things for you. And I’ve earned it, right. And then Joe is speaking, every engineer has that problem solving. As sales engineers I mentioned earlier, we solve business problems through technology. And I talked to so many engineers who tell me, Well, I solved the problem for myself, I solved this problem for myself. When I asked them, how did that help the company say, Oh, it didn’t just help me. So you didn’t solve the business problem, you just solved an annoyance for yourself. If you can solve multiple annoyances for your entire team, now you’re solving a business problem. So do that you address in your career? Go ahead.

Aaron Moncur 06:03
Yeah, I love that you brought up communication. It’s one of the answers that I hear so often on the show, I’m always asking people, What are the skills the most talented, most productive engineers have? And in the beginning, when I first started the show, naively, I suppose I expected to hear answers like, Oh, they’re really good at CAD, or they remember all the thermodynamics equations, or you know, something technical like that. But honestly, the by far, the most common answer I get is, they’re really good communicators. And I’m sure as a sales engineer, you have so much opportunity to practice that skill that it’s it probably pays dividends.

Ramzi Marjaba 06:45
I started practicing that skill when I was more in support in a support role. And I realized that when I noticed, to see like, two extremes, there’s one person who didn’t do any work, and took the easiest tickets, but took a lot of them and marketed himself all the time. My manager loved them. On the other extreme, I worked with two guys, two of my friends who I would see them, they’re like, they’re messaging me at eight o’clock at night, they come in late, but they pick their own tickets for support stuff, and they just work on it. They grind, they take one ticket, the other guy’s taking five, but it’s much harder, and no one knows about it. My boss thought that they were not working. They thought they were lazy. And he was on their case, like, why are you coming in at 10? Why are you leaving at three? Well, because I’m going back to work at five and work until 10 o’clock at night, right? So the fact that they were able to that person was able to market himself, he got the promotions, he got the best gigs where we had to go travel to the customer sites that I was sent to like no offense to Roanoke, but I was sent to Roanoke, Virginia, and he was sent to New Orleans where he there was a lot more fun, fun stuff to do. So that he got to pick wherever he wanted, where I was sent places. So the fact that he was able to communicate and market himself, even though I’ve, in my humble opinion, which if you know me, it’s not very humble. He was the worst Support Engineer on the team. That made all the difference for for my manager.

Aaron Moncur 08:15
And well, I’m seeing your skill in communicating already. Because that was such a perfect illustration telling that story. It’s easy to talk. And sometimes people take something away from it, sometimes they don’t. But we when you can tell a story that illustrates a point that’s so powerful.

Ramzi Marjaba 08:31
That’s the majority of my work as a sales engineer, or people in sales, we have to tell stories, because even though we like to think that we’re fact based, we make decisions based on fact, most people make decisions based on emotion, fact has to back it up. But if I if there’s me and someone else telling you the same exact thing, one through just listing stuff off the data sheet, and the other one telling you through a story of how it helped them and their customers, most 10 times out of 10 or nine times out of 10 Someone would pick that person who told the story, because they can build a vision, they can now see themselves as part of their story. Whereas someone fell in fact, now you’re asking whoever you’re talking to, to make up their story in their mind, and you’re just making it harder?

Aaron Moncur 09:18
Yeah, that’s a good way to put it. Yeah, making them work more. All right, well, who can become a sales engineer? And why might one consider pursuing that role?

Ramzi Marjaba 09:29
So anyone who has thick skin who enjoys talking to people, you don’t have to be an extrovert. I am very much an introvert. And I still enjoy that role. But it takes someone I like to engage in one on one conversation. So I enjoy that part of it. But basically, anyone who enjoys talking to people who likes to understand the business a little bit more than just the technical because everything we do in technology is related to business. If there wasn’t a business behind it, no one would create anything unless you’re in university and you have an art D font, which is, again, I guess, a business, but you have to have thick skin, because you’re going to be dealing with people, whether it’s customers, whether it’s salespeople, whether it’s product managers, project managers, there’s a lot of dealing with people in one should pursue it if, again, if they want to learn business, but and I’m gonna say this bluntly, the workload, the closer you are to the customer, the more money you make. So if you’re if one of your interests is making more money, taking care of your family and doing something that’s not repetitive, you’re not doing the same thing twice in a row. So if you want to do that, you should look into sales engineering.

Aaron Moncur 10:36
You mentioned earlier that you went into engineering because you didn’t want to talk to people. I’m curious, how did you make that transition? Is there not as much talking to people as you thought there might be? And then, therefore, it’s okay being a sales engineer? Or did you just learn how to talk to people and become more comfortable with that?

Ramzi Marjaba 10:58
First off, I fell into sales engineering by accident, I applied to a systems engineering role. So you’ll notice that sales engineers have different many different titles. But for me, I applied to a systems engineering role. And turns out that was a sales engineering role. And I got the job. But even before I accepted the job, I realized that if I want to move anywhere, move up, move sideways, in my career, there’s going to be a lot of talking in German law, communication, a lot of relationship building. Anyways, I spent four years a company called Alcatel Lucent, in support. So I was always talking to customers, not only was I talking to customers, I was talking to customers when they were the most pissed off, no one calls support when they’re happy. Right? So I’m already talking to customers, I’m already talking to teammates trying to convince them to help me or to do something. I’m talking to my boss trying to convince them to give me a raise. I’m doing all that. And I found that being a sales engineer, as I was going through the interview process, I get to still talk to customers, but also if I work overtime, which usually as engineers, we don’t get paid overtime. If I work overtime, and I help sell more help solve more problems for my customers, I get recognition, I get rewarded as well. Yeah, so go ahead.

Aaron Moncur 12:19
Well, I’m wondering how technical Do you think you need to be to succeed as a sales engineering is that the most important skill.

Ramzi Marjaba 12:29
So the more technical you are, that it could be easier for you or faster for you to sell something, the the skill that is required more than being technical is being able to relate that technical information to your customer in a way that they’d understand. So you might be talking, I might be talking to you, and you might be very technical, which means I have to be technical. And if I, if I’m not that technical, I’m going to have to bring in someone who’s technical, which delays, the sales process delays, you being able to make a decision. And if you’re in a hurry to make a decision now, then you might just move on to the next to the next vendor. So being technical is very important. But being able to relate that information to someone who’s not technical, let’s say, You’re not that technical. And if I’m talking, I’m mentioning all the jargon that engineers would, and you just glaze over that I’m doing a bad job as well. So it’s a balance of technical communication. There’s, I think of it as a three axis diagram, where you have human skills, technical skills, and soft skills, or sales skills. So you have to have a balance of all three, to be able to actually make a sale, because if part of the human skills, if I make you feel dumb, because I am the smartest person in the room, you’re not going to like me, you’re not going to buy from me. If I don’t answer your questions, you’re not going to buy like me, you’re not going to buy from me if I lie to you. These are all things that we have to balance together and adjust the way we communicate. Like, for example, when we first started, I asked you, your audience is mostly mechanical, right? So most of my examples are talking about you. And my experience is networking. So I have to shift my, my conversation style to maybe not bring in networking examples, other than this one, obviously, but you know, shift the way you talk so people can understand. It’s the same thing with your boss. If you want a raise, you have to talk their language, not your language. It’s always about the other person, right? Yeah. How did you make their life easier? If you made their life harder? They’re never gonna give you a raise. They’re hoping you’d leave.

Aaron Moncur 14:38
Right? So we’ve talked a little bit about how sales skills can transfer to an engineering role, right? If you’re good with communication, that’s something that engineers can certainly use as well. How about the other way around? Are there engineering skills that are transferable into sales?

Ramzi Marjaba 14:58
So the problem solving is a big one, engineers are known as problem solvers. Right? That’s our, that’s our entire existence, we solve problems. So if you can’t solve a problem, you’re not going to be a good sales engineer. And it’s not limited to the technical though. Now you’re also you can have to debug a human. In addition to debugging technology, if someone wants to, wants you to solve a problem, like I’ve had customers come to me and say, hey, I want that piece of equipment. Right? If I give it to them, then what? Now they’re gonna go straight to the competitor and say, I want that piece of equipment. And we’re kind of racing to the bottom in terms of pricing. But if they come to me and say, I want that piece of equipment, and my my question is, Oh, that’s interesting. Why are you looking for that piece of equipment? What are you trying to solve? And now you start a conversation, you’re debugging the human. Now you get to solve the actual problem, not just what they think their problem is. Yeah. So engineers in like, I might be generalizing. But it’s a positive generalization, where we’re usually curious. And we’re curious about technology. Now we have to be curious about humans. Does that answer your question?

Aaron Moncur 16:07
Yeah, it does. I really like your term debugging the humans. That’s, that’s a fun way to put it. So let’s say that I’m a new sales engineer just starting out right, in my first month or two, what are some common pitfalls that new sales engineers may fall into?

Ramzi Marjaba 16:25
Thinking that you have to solve everything on your own? For one, if you if you ever get to meet a group of sales engineers, we’re very helpful bunch we enjoy helping other people, especially since there aren’t that many of us, we think it’s like, oh, another person who’s joined the Brotherhood or sisterhood? Yeah, let’s work together. So generally speaking, sales engineers, when they first started, they want to solve everything on their own, they don’t know how to reach out for questions, especially since a lot of us are remote. I can do all my entire job from home, I don’t need to see a single person other than customers. But I don’t meet other sales engineers. So we don’t build that relationship for one and two. And that’s kind of contradict my previous statement about being technical, but focusing too much on the technology, and not what problems that technology solves. I’ve worked with es es, who spent the first six months understanding the product deeply. They know everything about it. And I went and when I asked them, Why is that important? They don’t know the answer. Like, what problem does it solve for your customers, you’re focused on your product, not on your customers be more customer centric, so that you can explain that they this, this thing can do this for you, which means you’re gonna save time, money or reduce risk, like, yeah, in terms of maintenance, or whatever it is. So that’s the biggest pitfall I see focusing on not not focusing on understanding what problems the product solves.

Aaron Moncur 17:53
Are there are there other pitfalls? If you kind of take this a step further? Let’s say that guys who have been doing this for you know, 510 15 years, so they’re doing fine, right? They’ve been in it long enough, they’re doing a fine job. But there’s that next level, maybe like where you are Ramzi , like, really, upper echelon top tier doing incredibly well. Are there? Are there some pitfalls that the some people just never learned to get over that prevent them from moving up into that upper stratosphere area?

Ramzi Marjaba 18:25
Yeah. I mean, whether I’m on the upper echelon is debatable. My wife would say no, but I think the biggest thing I see is that communication part, that human interaction, I’ve worked with a lot of a lot of the esses that I work with, have been doing this for 10 years. And they’re focused on the technology more than anything else. They can answer anything about the technology, but they can’t work with customers very well, because the way sales engineers have been treated in the past, and I’m not saying it’s their fault, it’s just the way they’ve been treated in the past was more as sales support. So a salesperson goes and meets the customer. They come up with a bunch of questions, they come back to the sales engineer who has to answer these questions. And the sales engineers cannot ask questions of their own. So they’re more they treated more as a resource. But now it’s shifting, it’s shifting for to towards more of a consultative way of doing things. So those who have been there for 10 years and want to go to that upper echelon, they’re going to have to shift as well, and start talking about their customers that what their problems are, what their customers problems are, and how that technology can help. versus just being there to support the salesperson or even the customer. When they have when they ask questions. I’ve had a customer reach out to me and another sc. Say, I want to do I want to do this feature. I want to use this feature. Do you have it? My colleague responded immediately. No, we cannot. I followed up right after it’s like why are you looking to do this? And my customer will pretty much in an essay of why he’s looking to do this. And then my colleague SAE jumped in said, oh, yeah, we have this other product that can do this for you. Right. And he’s been there for 10 years.

Aaron Moncur 20:16
Another great example of it makes me think of our own customers, you know, if I were to ask, not just what, what piece of equipment do you want us to develop? But why do you want us to develop that? What is it you’re really trying to achieve? Here, they’re probably, you know, so many missed opportunities that have been there all along these years, and I’ve just passed them up.

Ramzi Marjaba 20:36
Well, the thing about customers is they do their research. And there’s a lot of information on the internet today. But all of it is incomplete. And they kind of have to piece it together themselves. And then they reach out to us to a salesperson asking them if they can do this, whatever they thought they want it. And if the salesperson doesn’t take the time to actually understand what their goal is, because what they want isn’t necessarily the best thing for them. Right? So we have to figure out what is it that you’re trying to achieve. And we may not have that for you. But we can build something better for you. And this kind of leads me to the second pitfall is sometimes sales engineers have way too much to learn. So they might not be as much in depth like there, we call it, you’re a mile wide inch deep. So they might not have that knowledge to dig in. And they might have to bring in some help from somebody else. But if we can ask those questions, if we can dig deep with the customer, and we can take more complete information, if we can’t solve it ourselves, we can have help from somebody else to help solve whatever problem that the customer is having. And again, you don’t need to do it alone. We’re a helpful bunch, whether you’re a regular engineer, like just someone who design stuff for a living, or someone who talks about designing stuff for a living like myself.

Aaron Moncur 21:58
Right, right. All right. So you convince me Ramzi , I’m hearing all this wonderful stuff about sales engineers, I’m thinking to myself, I’m done owning a company, I want to jump in and be a sales engineer. Let’s say that I’m going to go out and start interviewing, what how can I? What can I do in my resume to make me attractive as a sales engineer? And hopefully, if I get some interviews, what, what are some tips to share shining the best light on myself that can help you land a job?

Ramzi Marjaba 22:30
So you already a sales engineer, right? As a business owner, right? You’re kind of you’re actually everything? Right? You’re you’re getting the business you’re trying and you’re getting the customer trying to solve their problem and providing a solution. But let’s say someone who works for you, wants you to hire them as as your first engineer sales engineer, like can we take that as an example?

Aaron Moncur 22:51
Sure. Great. Perfect. Hey,

Ramzi Marjaba 22:53
so the thing I always recommend, like I, I just came up with this like yesterday, the three eyes, right? Impact. I can’t remember the elsewise, but let’s start with it.

Aaron Moncur 23:07
I love it. Okay,

Ramzi Marjaba 23:08
so let’s start with impact. When I see resumes, a lot of times, they’re just, they’re just job descriptions. I design stuff with AutoCAD, I did this with tremble. I did this on a CNC machine, I put turbines together, whatever it is, they’re just it’s the job description. And the person right next to you in the same job will have the same exact resume. But what what did you do with that? What was your impact? That major employer wants you to want you to stay? If they did, if you didn’t have an impact, then it’s going to be hard for you to find a job as a sales engineer. But if what was the impact did you reduce? Did you reduce some process by X percent? Did you bring in revenue by by y percent increase revenue by y percent? What was the impact that you’ve had? So try to think about that. And almost everybody’s had an impact in one way, shape or form. They just don’t think about it. So you might need to sit back and ask yourself, like, I have a document that’s called, like, resume building questions where I just asked you about the sort of things if you if you want I can I can make it available for your for your listeners. But you have to go through thinking about what was your impact? What have you done recently? Why should people hire you over somebody else? And that’s all in the resume. But let’s say Aaron, you don’t have a sales engineer position open and they want to move somewhere else. Most of the time resume does not get you a job. You have to be out there connecting with people meeting people. And there’s that saying that I like to think that I came up with but I know how to be people who came up with it before me dig your well before you need it. So even if you’re not looking for a job, go out and connect with people you never know what could happen. Often, we always think like, I want to be loyal to my company, great. Your company wants to be loyal to you until there’s a business problem, and they have to let you go. If you’re happy, don’t go out looking for a job, but still make those connections. So when you need a job, go out and get it. Because even if you have the worst resume in the world, if you have a good referral you’re already in. So that’s from a resume perspective. Did I answer that part? I’m gonna pause here for a second. Yeah, yeah. Any questions? Do you want to dig into or should I move on to the to the interview? Let’s move on. Alright, so for the interview, specifically, again, you have to focus about your impact. But you have to do it through sharing stories. So yesterday, I was talking to one of my clients, and he told me the biggest hurdle he has is answering that tell me about you questions. And I think, like, at least in my industry, almost everybody asked that question. Not sure why. But that does. Do you ask that question in your interviews?

Aaron Moncur 26:03
Yeah, for sure.

Ramzi Marjaba 26:04
Okay. All right. So in my opinion, and correct me if I’m wrong, you’re you’re you run the business. But when when someone asks, well, tell me about you, they will focus more about what have you done with your life? What are you proud of? I want to know a little bit more about yourself. He didn’t know what to answer. So we went through that. Some questions like, What are you proud of in your life? What are you proud of? And his response was? Well, I’m the middle child of five kids. And I’m the first one to go to university. All right, cool. So let’s dig in a little bit deeper on that. Since you went to university, any of your other siblings decided to follow in your footsteps? Well, I don’t know if they decided to follow my footsteps. Alright, but anybody got went to university. So yeah, my older sister, and my younger sister. Alright, so you’re proud of the fact that you’re the first of five kids to go to university and through your example, kids, your brother and your sisters, older and younger, are trying to emulate what you’ve done. You’ve opened the floodgates for your family. So you’re helping your family have a better life. Is that accurate? Yeah, that’s accurate. Okay. Okay. Good. All right. So this is something you’re proud of, in your personal life, what have you made an impact in terms of work, because like, I was able to go to Haiti, my my mother country, and provide humanitarian aid, while offs overseas, and they are well, that’s your story, man. That’s telling me about yourself, right there. So we need to think think about beyond just the things that we’ve done in our lives in this story, he’s showing that he’s the first of five kids who never been to university, his entire family chain, never been to university, he was able to make it to university, he overcame obstacles. And when he overcame obstacles, he was able to use that in a positive light by helping other people out. And he wants to become a sales engineer. So the last thing he has to say is, because I know the value of helping other people, I want to become a sales engineer to help customers make make informed decisions about their, the purchasing that they’re making. So I went from good,

Aaron Moncur 28:08
I love that you keep bringing it back to stories, because again, it’s such a powerful way to communicate with people. Are you familiar with the the story brand worked for it or framework? It’s

Ramzi Marjaba 28:20
is that sort of similar to the hero’s journey? Yeah, it Cynthia. Yeah. Yeah, yeah. So we do that a lot as sales engineers, and that’s something we have to do in interviews. I’ve actually never had someone send their silent as I’m telling the story, like, like we just had, but it had an impact. I’m guessing it looked like it had an impact on you. So the more you tell stories, and there’s a balance, again, of telling stories, and they have to be real stories that you can’t just make a story up. But I never advocate lying, because you’re going to get found out. Like, if you’re okay morally to lie, you’re gonna get found out. So there is no point in lying. But sharing a piece of information through story is much more powerful by then just type facts. Another example, if you wish, we get lost a lot like how do you learn this new technology? And almost everybody I talked to, they told me Well, if I were asked to learn a new technology, I would do this. And I stopped them. Okay, hold on right there. How have you learned a technology? Tell me that story. So we don’t want to talk in hypotheticals? Because if we asked me, How would you learn a technology, and I tell you in the future, it could imply that I’ve never learned it technology in my life. Right. So I’m talking in hypotheticals. I might do this. I might do that. No, tell me exactly how you learn and you technology. Show me that you can learn that you have learned and you can learn and let me know your thought process. Since behind doing that, and by sharing a story again, it’s a little bit more engaging, then I would go watch YouTube videos, I would go take a course. Tell me the story, share that information. It really is the same information. But people remember stories. They don’t remember facts.

Aaron Moncur 30:15
100% Yep, absolutely. Yeah. Well, let me take a very short break here and share with the listeners that Team pipeline.us is where you can learn more about how we help medical device and other product engineering or manufacturing teams, develop turnkey equipment, custom fixtures and automated machines to characterize, inspect, assemble, manufacture and perform verification testing on your devices. Ramzi as I read that, I thought to myself, what I should really do here, instead of this generic plug is tell a short story about how we’ve actually done this with one of our customers. That would be a lot more interesting, wouldn’t it?

Ramzi Marjaba 30:54
You gave me an amazing bio. I’m happy to give you a story later.

Aaron Moncur 30:59
All right. Well, we talked a little bit about how might one transition into the role of a sales engineer. I think I moved too quickly, though, I got all excited about it. Hearing you talk about the wonderful world of sales engineering. How do I even get paid as a sales engineer? That’s important?

Ramzi Marjaba 31:16
Yeah. And again, it’s different for every industry, every company, generally speaking, sales engineers are paid mainly a big chunk of money as a base or salary. And in addition to that, they’re paid commission or bonuses. I prefer the Commission’s I always go after companies that would offer me baseless commission, because bonus is kind of dependent on someone else to decide that, yeah, you deserve the bonus commission, you sell more, you make more. So I always prefer that. And the, again, if you’re a pure salesperson, so a sales engineer who you do sales, the commission split could be like 5050, or 6040. Depends. So 60% of your total salary is base 40 is Commission, or 5050. And for sales engineers, pure software sales, pure sales, even if you’re selling it to a mechanical world, like so whatever software, what’s a good software they use, I can use it as an example. Instead of keep saying whatever software you use SolidWorks SolidWorks, right. Let me write that down. Because I’m gonna forget it. Two seconds. Solid Works. Alright. So if I don’t know how SolidWorks works, that’s okay.

Aaron Moncur 32:27
But it’s a CAD programs kind of like AutoCAD,

Ramzi Marjaba 32:30
okay, right. So if you, for example, if you work for solid SolidWorks, you might want to go on their website, but it could be 80% of your salary is based 20% is Commission, or 7030 could be a different split. But one thing that I want to add is, if you go over your quota, you’re usually assigned quota. So the commission part is based on quota that you’re given from the Lord’s above. If you go over quota, there’s usually accelerators. So it’s it says this. Yeah, yeah. So if you get paid 1%, of quota, usually 1% of commission for 1% of quota sold, you could get paid two or three times more after you hit your quota for every percent sold. So if you achieve 110% of your quota, you’re kind of making it 130% of my math is correct. For commission. So it’s a good chunk of money. And I like it personally. Yeah, it’s useful for my family.

Aaron Moncur 33:29
Do you think that many sales engineers are primarily? What’s the word I want to use here? I can’t think of a better term. So money focused, like is that the primary driver?

Ramzi Marjaba 33:43
No, no, usually, most sales engineers I talked to, although they don’t mind the money, we don’t think it’s evil. It’s solution and technology focused. And the way I teach people to negotiate their salary is to whatever base they get, should be able to, to be sufficient for them to live their lives. I don’t want people to feel like they’re under pressure to tell a fib, let that one slide, not correct the salesperson just to make a deal. So negotiate the base salary to fit your needs should be higher than what you’re making today. Anyways, and then the rest is gravy. The rest is things that like you’re proud of. I call it the grandma test. I got it from a guy named Pat Flynn. So he calls it the grandma test. So if you can look your grandma in the eyes, and tell her what you did, and she’s proud of you. You’re you’re doing something? Well,

Aaron Moncur 34:35
that’s a good rule of thumb. All right. So all right. Well, let’s say that I’ve gone through I’ve submitted resumes I’ve gone through the interview process. Yay. They hired me interviewed Well, now I’m just starting out right. Brand new sales engineer. I need to go hunting, I need to find my new my leads. How can I start breaking into new accounts like what are some best practices to do that?

Ramzi Marjaba 35:00
There are a couple of different ways. So when we’re talking sales engineer, right now we’re talking more sales focused in, then the sales engineer focus. Because sales engineers, the technology focus don’t have to go out and find new opportunities. It’s good if they do. But that’s, that’s not part of their job description. But let’s talk about sales, a lot of times leads just, if the company is doing marketing Well, leads come in. If the company is not doing marketing, well, then you’re gonna have to figure out a way to find your quota. So a lot of research takes place in when when we reach out to customers, for the first time and this, many people have courses on cold calling and cold emails and all that. But the big thing is lead with value. Now, if you’re reaching out to them, you’re not, you don’t want to ask them for a favor to meet you. You want to provide them value so that they can see that, alright, this person is actually helpful. And they can come and meet with me. And it doesn’t happen with one email. It doesn’t happen with two emails could be three months, four emails could be LinkedIn connection could be them. Seeing your posts on LinkedIn, and how you’re helping other people is a lot of different touch points. And I personally just don’t like if someone reaches out to me out of the blue and GSA, I get a lot of because I’m in Canada, I get a lot of people reaching out to me saying, Hey, I’m a financial planner, I want to help you fix your stuff. Call me now. So you didn’t add it? How do you know I don’t have a financial planner? Did you do any research about me? Or is it the same generic email? You’re sending anybody? Everybody else? And when I reached out to you to get on this podcast, I did like, customize my email to fit you to make you want to talk to me. You didn’t I showed my value to you. I hope you still said yes. I’m assuming you are here we are. Yeah, yeah. So you have to show value to them and think, again, being customer centric, and not give up from the first time unless they tell you please leave me alone. If they didn’t say Leave me alone, that’s permission to keep kind of email on them gently. So that these are my thoughts around that.

Aaron Moncur 37:13
Yeah. Something I’ve learned over the years is that this is a phrase that I think I’ve coined, I don’t know, maybe someone else has said it as well. But persistence beats brilliance, it doesn’t matter. You don’t have to be the smartest person in the room. But if you can be persistent, and follow up with these people, you know, aggressively, but But respectfully, then that’s going to, in the, in the long run, lead to a lot more success than just being really, really smart.

Ramzi Marjaba 37:43
I’ve heard consistency beats talent, but I’m going to use years from now on. All right. Yeah, like I agree. Like it’s showing up, right? You, someone, you miss 100% of the shots. You don’t take Michael Jordan. Yeah, there you go. Exactly. But if you only take one shot, how are you going to get better people to think that as soon as they join become something else, they’re going to be brilliant at it. But if you think about it, we didn’t learn how to walk until we were a year old. And we still look like it is like I have my daughter. She’s almost two years old. And I can like, I don’t know how she doesn’t fall five times a day. She doesn’t look stable. But for some reason, as adults, when we start something new, whether it’s a sport, whether it’s a career, we expect to be great on day one, and be if someone doesn’t, I learned this tick trick on how to send emails. And no one responded to me. So I’m going to quit. But it takes time. It takes consistency. It takes practice. And it takes data, like you said, 200 emails, which ones worked? Which ones didn’t? Why did these work? Why didn’t those one?

Aaron Moncur 38:54
Yeah, this gets into really kind of the tactical stuff here. But one, speaking of emails, one that I have found to be effective for me, is when I email someone, and it’s kind of a sales email, you know, if I don’t get a response, I might respond, you know, in a week or two or something like that. I’ll follow up and I’ll say, hey, probably you probably don’t have time for this right now. Not a big deal. I’ll follow up with you again in two weeks. You know, it kind of puts the ball in my court as opposed to asking them for something. And I found that when I do this, Hey, no problem. If you don’t have time for this right now, I get it. You’re busy. I’ll reach out again next week. They not always but much more often, they actually do respond because they’re like, oh, okay, like he’s actually tracking this and he is going to follow up. He’s already done a one so he’ll probably just keep keep up until I respond. That’s been helpful for me.

Ramzi Marjaba 39:48
And contrast, I’ve worked with a sales engineer who actually goes up to the customer so what you’re gonna buy is no I’m not gonna buy

Aaron Moncur 40:00
It is direct. Sounds pretty great. So what you’re gonna buy? Steal that one next trade show I met stop people. So you’re gonna buy it,

Ramzi Marjaba 40:12
you’re gonna buy T shirts like

Aaron Moncur 40:18
even better, just pointed the shirt. Great. All right. All right. So Ramzi, I went out and I met with the lead. And they had an opportunity for me. And so I share with some of the solutions that we have. And I’ve been given them a quote, and they said, cost too much. And it’s gonna take too long. So no, how do I respond to this?

Ramzi Marjaba 40:41
Well, the biggest, the biggest issue I see is when we give a quote, we didn’t have we didn’t develop value ahead of time. Throughout the discovery call, throughout the selling, that we’re talking about our products, we kind of have to highlight the value we have to diggin understand the problem, really well see how much it costs them. Whether it’s, again, there’s usually three things time, money and risk. If it’s going to break every two weeks, it’s that’s going to cost them money in the long run, even if it’s cheaper. So we have to dig into it and understand what the business problem is. And when, when we’re selling, we have to show the value of our product in comparison to what they have today. And when we provide the quote, If the quote is higher, the costs more than solving the problem that obviously they’re gonna say no, but the quote is less. But in their mind, it’s higher, we have to fall back on whatever we did earlier, to show them that, hey, let’s say my product, my solution is 100k. You’re you’re paying around 50k every other month, or every six months, or whatever it is. So in three years, your ROI is whatever that is, I don’t use ROI. I get them to think about that, like, Hey, you’re doing your it’s it’s costing you 600,000 In three years, my solution is 100k. It’s it’s an initial investment. But would that be beneficial to you? So there’s that you have to we have to shift the way they’re thinking about it a lot of times, and that’s the problem that I mentioned earlier, when a customer comes in, says I want that product. And we provide a quote, they take that and go straight to the competitors, like I want this product. And now, how much discount Can you give me? Yeah, well, whoever gives me the highest discount wins. Yeah. Right. In terms of time, that again, that’s something we kind of had to discover early on, what what what do you need to buy? Why is it that deadline? Because a lot of times people throw out some, some timeline that’s not really made in reality. Either they’re trying to object ahead of time, because they don’t have a big pain. Or they just don’t know, we have to dig in and understand why that timeline if we if Honestly, if I can’t fit that your timeline, and you’re telling me on day one, that’s your time, and I can’t get you to it’s actually your timeline. It’s not some fabricated number, though I’ll qualify myself on go on to the next opportunity. But if you’re thinking that it’s that’s the timeline, but you don’t really have a good reason why something happened to me the other day. Someone said I needed something. I’m like, Why? Why are you asking for that thing? It’s like, oh, no reason. I was like, Okay, can we talk about your needs? So we kind of have to dig in and see why that’s the timeline.

Aaron Moncur 43:30
How about. So let’s say that we kind of reflect on this right? Customer said customer takes too long. So I go back and I’m thinking about the discovery process. Maybe I I learned some things from reflection lessons learned, right? I want to get more feedback from the customer. Now, how do you get feedback on a sale that you didn’t win?

Ramzi Marjaba 43:51
It has very much to do with the relationship I’ve built with them. So do they like me? Or do they not? Like if they don’t like me, it’s very hard for me to get feedback. Also, is it a one time sale? Like, is there an opportunity in a year or half a year that we can work together? Because a lot of customers are repeat customers, you work with them once you work with them twice. So it didn’t work out this time. So Mr. Customer, I would really love to or Mrs. Customer, I’d really love to understand where we fell short for you. So we can actually fix it for next time for you. Again, it’s all about them. I’m not getting feedback for myself, so I can go sell the next customer. Like if there’s a chance that I can work with you in the future. I don’t want to do the same mistakes that I did this time. So I want to be there for you.

Aaron Moncur 44:39
That’s a great way to frame it. Yeah. All right. How about So you mentioned during the discovery process, we really want to understand what it costs the customer to not have this solution. And from there, we can reverse kind of reverse engineer. You know what the solution needs to look like in terms of cost and schedule, and all that stuff. Let’s say that the customer They don’t really have if they don’t know exactly what their budget is. And maybe they don’t even know exactly what their scope is yet, but they’re pressing you to give them a quote for something and they want, you know, a fixed price or within some very narrow margin of error of plus or minus 10%, or something like that. How do you work with customers like that to, you know, to make it successful for everyone,

Ramzi Marjaba 45:24
I fire them.

Aaron Moncur 45:26
Straight up, you’re out.

Ramzi Marjaba 45:29
Like it’s a, I’ve had discussions where I have to tell the customer, hey, we’re working on a partnership here. Again, you have to build that relationship, you have to work with them, to have them trust you, you have to build trust, you have to be able to trust them as well. And we have to work through that if they say like, I want a price, I can give you a price. It won’t be between 10 like 10 plus minus 10%. Because we don’t, we don’t know the scope yet. We it’s, a lot of times it’s a discussion, they have to understand where you’re coming from. It’s not they don’t have all the power. That’s that’s a misconception about sales, especially good salespeople who have a big funnel, and know they’re going to be okay. The customer does not have all the power. And we can have that discussion. Listen, I know, I want to work with you, I want to help you. And I know you want this as well. So if you want to work with us, if you want to work together in the future, we’re gonna have to figure it out. We’re gonna have to take it slow. We, I can give you a price right now based on the information I know today. But if I understand you correctly, your information might change tomorrow. And I’m going to help you find out that information as we’re going through as well. And we can develop an A go as, as we’re working together. They may say no, again, not every sale. I’m talking, I’m standing here talking as if I’ve won every deal I’ve not. I’ve lost a lot more deals than I’ve won, but the ones that I’ve won actually helped me achieve my goals. So it’s not always a win. It’s not always a good partnership. So you can’t say no, it’s okay.

Aaron Moncur 47:09
Yeah, that’s fine. Sometimes it won’t be successful for everyone. And you just have to accept that there is some percentage of the time that that’ll be the case.

Ramzi Marjaba 47:17
It’s like a lot of people say like, get to the know faster, try to get to know, because as soon as you get to know you can move on with your life, they can move on with their life. Yeah. Now the balance is don’t get don’t force to know if there’s a yes behind it. So, so know how to thread the line like qualify yourself in or out. But do it right, don’t just qualify yourself out, because you want to get to know.

Aaron Moncur 47:41
All right, so I’ve had all this wonderful instruction from Ramzi have gone out. I’ve done my sales engineer bit of done this for about 1015 years now had a great career doing sales engineering, and it’s gone so well for me that now I’m going to open up my own sales engineering business. And I’m going to hire a bunch of sales engineers to work with me and under me, in my new company, what what are these? What are the top sales engineers looking for when they join a company,

Ramzi Marjaba 48:08
Beyond the financial, they were looking for great technology, we’re looking for a company that would support us with good product. The worst feeling in the world is going for sales engineers to go to go and sell a crappy product. We don’t want that we don’t want to have to lie, we our credibility is all we have. So we want to keep that. And we want the flexibility. We want to be able to take care of our family, I want to go see my kids playing jujitsu or basketball players or football or soccer. Although they don’t play basketball, I’m trying to change that. So we want the flexibility to do all these things. In addition to getting paid well being recognized, and our account manager partners, or if I’m doing everything, my magic, my magic, we have to be partners, versus micromanaged. Because everybody sales, sales and sales engineering, it’s like everybody owning their own company, their own territory. And where this salesperson is the CEO, the sales engineer is the CTO. And if they’re combined in one person, you’re both. So we want the autonomy to be able to do that. And not to be screwed over. I don’t know if I’m allowed to say the word that the S word, but not to be messed over. It’s okay. Yeah. Okay, not to be screwed over with quota. Because every year you become a victim of your success as sales engineers and salespeople. So this year, you made a million dollars, guess what your quota next year is 1.5. And you’re still getting paid the same amount of commission, your commission didn’t increase. So that’s a pitfall of sales engineering and sales in general. I could answer your question.

Aaron Moncur 49:40
Yep. Yes, you did. Yeah. Thank you for checking. All right. Let’s see. Let me just one more question then in here and then we’ll we’ll wrap it up. What do you have a favorite sales, training or book on sales?

Ramzi Marjaba 49:55
So I’m gonna divide that into two. There’s a sales book In sales engineering book in I actually have a YouTube video talking about all about that. But the one I would recommend for sales is solution selling. That’s the one I love the most. There’s a lot of other challenges selling SPIN Selling. I find them they all mean the same thing. They just change the terminology and say it’s a new system. I might be wrong. And for sales engineers, the I call that the SAE Bible, which is called Mastering technical sales by John Kerr. And it’s like a university book. And you can take it read whichever chapter you want to get better in that. But these are only limited to two. These are the two I’ll pick. If I’m not I’ll be here till tomorrow. So I would recommend you limit me to two.

Aaron Moncur 50:44
Okay, fair enough. All right. Well, Ramsay this has been awesome. Maybe just one more. I know. I said one more. So I’m already my credibility shot here. I’ve lived on on air. One more question. final final question. Maybe if you had a billboard, on what you could put something for sales engineers, and all the sales engineers in the world, we’re going to drive past this billboard and see it, what would it be?

Ramzi Marjaba 51:12
Oh, well, it lot of times sales engineers defer to salespeople in terms of their accounts, how they help their customers. So my recommendation is own it. You own the business as much as the salesperson and if you’re a salesperson, you already know that you’ll want it so you’re good.

Aaron Moncur 51:33
Nice. All right. Terrific. Well, Ramzi thank you so much. I sure appreciate you being here with me today. How can people find you?

Ramzi Marjaba 51:41
We the sales engineers.com. I mentioned that I’ll leave that questionnaire for the interview building questions that I use. So if people want to want to get it they can go we the sales engineers.com/aaron to eight, right? Yes. Okay, so they can go there and they can download that if they wish. But Ramzi on LinkedIn, Ramzi Marjaba on LinkedIn I wish I was like share Ramsay on LinkedIn. Ramsay measurable added the same mistake. Then Ramzi we the sales engineers.com. Just reach out. I’m happy to chat and help.

Aaron Moncur 52:11
Wonderful, wonderful art Ramzi, thank you so much again, I really appreciate your time.

Ramzi Marjaba 52:15
My pleasure. Thank you for having me.

Aaron Moncur 52:20
I’m Aaron Moncur, founder of pipeline design and engineering. If you liked what you heard today, please share the episode. To learn how your team can leverage our team’s expertise developing turnkey equipment, custom fixtures and automated machines and with product design, visit us at Team pipeline.us. Thanks for listening.

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About Being An Engineer

The Being An Engineer podcast is a repository for industry knowledge and a tool through which engineers learn about and connect with relevant companies, technologies, people resources, and opportunities. We feature successful mechanical engineers and interview engineers who are passionate about their work and who made a great impact on the engineering community.

The Being An Engineer podcast is brought to you by Pipeline Design & Engineering. Pipeline partners with medical & other device engineering teams who need turnkey equipment such as cycle test machines, custom test fixtures, automation equipment, assembly jigs, inspection stations and more. You can find us on the web at www.teampipeline.us


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