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Hi John,

How do most vendors provide technical support for
evaluations? As a Sales Engineer, we are encouraged to be
as busy as possible with other evaluations, meetings,
presentations, webinars and flying and driving all over the
place.

When an evaluation has a technical problem (eg they find a
bug), do other vendors expect the Sales Engineer to
become support, or do the support departments have a
process to assist?

Thanks,
Rob in Melbourne, Australia
Hello Rob,

Thanks for the question and it is a classic scaling question
asked by many SE organizations. For a little historical
perspective, most companies start off with the SE team
supporting every trial and evaluation in every possible
way. That means acting as phone support, general
education, occasional onsite support and handholding, and
even bug logging and issue escalation. At a certain point
that model becomes a victim of its own success as the
most successful sales teams tend to have the most
simultaneous trials and can spend all their time servicing
those customers and neglecting other parts of the pipeline.

As you note, SE’s are often tied up with other business and
are unable to answer a phone or respond to email in a
timely fashion. Particularly if travelling (I know from
personal experience that Melbourne to Singapore is an all-
day 8 hour trip). Yet when you look at the process from a
mathematical and financial point of view, once you have a
client in evaluation stage the success/conversion rate in
most companies is 80%+. That means that you need to give
them attention to make sure the deal closes.

I’ve seen a number of alternate systems created once the
SE team cannot handle the scaling:

    Many companies now permit evaluation customers to
    utilize their online support resolution system and
    even call their technical support help desk –
    although often on a limited 9-5 business hours basis.
    This is usually fenced in for bug and problem
    resolution type issues. Educational, “how-to” type
    questions are still expected to be handled by the
    sales/SE team.

    Sales Engineering creates a local (regional) SE help
    desk which handles the equivalent of first-line
    support questions and then links into main corporate
    support for more severe or difficult questions.

    In partner-driven models, the partner SE team serves
    as first point of contact. This presupposes a large
    degree of knowledge within the partners which may
    not always be the case.

If you have an inside sales/SE team which works in
conjunction with (and also shares compensation with) a
field team I am a big fan of #2 as it retains the “sales” spin
and control, otherwise #1 can operate very successfully
too, once you get budget and headcount issues sorted.

Good luck. At least looking on the bright side, too many
(qualified) evaluations is a better problem to have than too
few!


/John