Episode OneHundredSeventySix

Perfecting the AE/SC Relationship

Guest: James Kaikis, Senior Manager of Manufacturing Solutions Engineering at Salesforce and Cofounder of the PreSales Collective

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About This Episode

In a perfect world, the AE and SC are so aligned that the customer experience leads straight to the president’s club.

That perfect world isn’t as hard to visit as you might think.

Aligning AEs and SCs is what I talked about with James Kaikis, Senior Manager of Manufacturing Solutions Engineering at Salesforce and Cofounder of the PreSales Collective, a brand new global community for presales professionals.

“If you have a good AE/SC relationship, it really changes the customer experience,” James said. “At the end of the day, if you have a good seller-buyer experience, you can win deals.”

The AE/SC relationship dynamic has changed over time, obviously. But where’s it at now?

And how should it look?

What not to do

Here’s where James sees AEs and SCs dropping the ball: Not staying in their lane.

“Let’s be honest, an SC might have a lot of selling experience and they swerve into the AE’s lane and do some things that they probably shouldn’t do,” James said.

Same with AEs who create friction with too many directions. 

The cure for this overlapping of roles is clear expectations. “Go align with your AEs, understand their motivations, their strengths, their weaknesses, what they see as your role in the sales cycle, and what they see as their role,” James said.

Another problem? It’s waiting too late to bring the SC into the deal.

Generally, earlier is better because it saves you from having to repeat (and mar the momentum of the customer experience).

“If you’re in a ratio of one SC to eight AEs, it’s almost impossible to be in every call,” James said. 

Nothing bothers the SC more than getting on calls that are not qualified, right?

“Getting the SC in as early as possible is critical — but don’t waste their time,” James said.

Honestly, just be sensitive about how much they have on their plate vs. the nature of the lead before you get an SC involved.

Creative alignment

In an ideal world, what are the qualities of an AE/SC relationship?


AEs and SCs work together best when they’re… actually working together.

“It’s just being partners in a deal cycle,” James said.

An SC typically gets to see a lot of different deals, styles, and use cases. Meaning that when an SC mentions to a middle of the pack AE that doing A, B, and C would up your game, that’s a sign of true partnership.

“We SCs know what’s working and what’s not working, and we can help elevate those best practices,” James pointed out.

Business sense

Usually, SCs are seen as a technical resource, but they actually have to have keen business acumen, too. 

There are a lot more people involved in sales, now. “Those SCs have to step up to the plate from a business perspective and be more than just a technical resource,” James said.

In other words, SCs are A+ generalists in that they’re pretty much all-around problem solvers.

Customer-centric problem solving

SCs should be willing to tinker to make things smooth for the customer. “We need to be pulling our weight, helping the customer, and making sure that we’re aligning with the right technical expectations and business expectations,” James said.

To achieve this, SCs should listen to feedback. (Oh, and AEs should listen to feedback, too.)

Sales is such a motivated environment. No AE walks into work aiming to hit 25% of quota and miss chances to make money.

“This is why I love working with salespeople: They want to be the best. Sales cultures in general are about achieving an objective, hitting your number, and making some cash,” James said.

On the rare occasion when there’s a personality clash, revisit each other’s expectations, then focus on the relationship. 


James tells a story about an AE who closed a massive deal… and gave his SC a 60” TV out of gratitude.

This isn’t to say that you should shower each other with gifts, but it is important to take the time to appreciate the mutual support between AEs and SCs.

“Show them that you guys are working as a team and it’s a give and get from both sides,” James said.

What AEs and SCs need the most

When you’re working with SCs, AEs need to do these 2 things:

  1. Understand that your SC is doing a lot of work for a number of people. Treat them like a partner, not an assistant.
  2. Be receptive to your SC’s feedback. They are most likely taking a holistic view of serving the customer.

When you’re working with AEs, SCs need to do these 2 things:

  1. Stay in your lane. Most AEs really do know what they’re doing, so don’t try to take their work.
  2. Be receptive to your AE’s feedback. They are most likely taking an individualized view of serving the customer.

You notice that listening to feedback is on both lists? Well, that’s because it’s truly the foundation of a partnership.

“The best relationships are the ones that have expectations that are set,” James said. “They know strengths, I know weaknesses, and they’re doing the best thing for the customer experience.”

Reach out to James on LinkedIn, and be sure to check out the PreSales Collective.

For more engaging sales conversations, subscribe to The Sales Engagement Podcast on Apple Podcasts, on Spotify, or on our website.

About The Podcast

The Sales Engagement podcast is the #1 podcast focused on engaging your customers and prospects in the modern sales era. This show features real-life stories and best practices from revenue leaders doing the job day in and day out, in a casual, radio-like talk show.

Each episode features modern tactics, strategies, hacks, and tips to get the most out of your sales engagement strategy and help you navigate the next generation of sales. You’ll find energetic talks that will provide you with real actionable value around building meaningful connections and creating a better selling experience through authentic conversations that you can measure.

The Sales Engagement podcast is here to help B2B sales leaders, customer success leaders, and marketing leaders innovate and usher in the next era of modern sales by building pipeline, up-selling customers, and ultimately generating more revenue with more efficiency.

Hosted by Joe Vignolo, Senior Content Managing Editor at Outreach, and Mark Kosoglow, Vice President of Sales at Outreach.

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