One of the first questions I ask the industrial manufacturing CEO’s with whom I work is: what are the dynamics of your sales force’s interactions with your engineers? That’s usually when their jaw drops. Dead silence. Isn’t this the $64K question? And that’s the low end of the value of this question.
Think about it. Think about your own corporate culture. How do you, as an engineer, typically interact with your salespeople? Not at all? Only when there’s a big mess for you to clean up? Only to “do your job “which you limit to “what is asked for or required” and then head back to your cubicle and hope that you’ve earned your keep. Sound familiar?
Too many organizations on too many continents still silo their engineers, their sales people and, quite frankly, anyone else they can silo. The lack of interoperability of skill set – translated into lack of communication – is DEVASTATING.
Too many salespeople negotiate the sale and then hand things off to the engineer to implement. Salespeople: I have news for you. The Engineer does not have the training or the skill set to grow the sale. Engineers: I have news for you. The salespeople are not asking all the necessary questions to define the parameters of the project.
So, in the best of all possible worlds: what if the salespeople continue to work with the engineers post-sale? Yes, I know, there are salespeople out there who only care about their next sale and large commission. Yes, I know, there are engineers who just want to be told what to do without any other responsibility. So how long are the engineers going retain their positions since the sales rep is the person generating revenue for the company?
THE BIG THING that engineers need to understand is when to stop the post-sale discussion about implementing the project. Engineers will spin a discussion out so that the scope of the project eventually resembles the attempt to reconcile quantum mechanics with general relativity. WHOA BOYS AND GIRLS. Let’s distill this project into bite-sized do-able chunks. The most profitable business pathway may ignore the most tantalizing engineering solutions which are not technically reasonable or feasible.
THE BIG THING that salespeople need to understand is not over-promising engineering capability and production capacity. Your company – and your engineers – are not all things to all people. However, it is up to you to figure out how they can become your rock stars.
What a thought, huh? Your engineers are your rock stars.
Message to engineers: you are the salesperson’s best friend. By working together you can actually grow the sale. Continuing to keep your cards close to your chest is not going to create job security for you. Nor is everyone interested in stealing your engineering solutions. NEWS FLASH: the whole world is not after your ideas. If your ideas are that great PATENT THEM. Relax. Message to sales people: the engineer is the only person equipped with the technical skill set and know-how to expand the scope of the project into multiple projects over multiple years (unless your sales person is also an engineer with the ability to win complex sales). Each of you are the only people who can do what YOU do. Think yin-yang.
I’m not being idealistic. I do this every day. I thank my lucky stars for my sales engineers. I wouldn’t think of closing a complex sale without including my Engineer of All Engineers. He is my Rock Star. I actually included him on a post-technical presentation (his gig) conference call where he could hear the conversation where I closed the sale. He was flabbergasted. Yet his background work was the reason I was closing the sale. As an engineer, he was not equipped to close the sale. He had never heard the language and dynamics of the sales conversation leading to the close. It was revelatory to him. I debriefed with my Engineer post sale, went over the dynamics, and the reason what he had said was so valuable that it resulted in the close.
The sales process should be synergistic. Not silo-ed. We both have something to teach one another. And, quite frankly, the engineers really have the technical know-how to be quite dangerous with a bit of coaching on sales probes. The sales folks know how to manage the dynamics of the sale but often lack the technical expertise to really “see” the potential of what they create for their company. Especially when it comes to adoption of new technology.
So the next time your salespeople hand over their hard-won sale to you, the engineer, to implement I recommend that you request that you both continue to work together as a sales team, post sale. You can learn from one another. It will improve your sales close ratio and your understanding of each others’ skill sets. It also may improve the perceived value that you, the engineer, bring to your company.
You know, you both really are not from different planets. We all reside on Mother Earth, not Mars and Venus. Time to talk the same language. In this global economy. Now.
Babette N. Ten Haken, Founder & President of Sales Aerobics for Engineers®, LLC, brings entrepreneurial mojo and business- and revenue-producing collaboration and communication tools to small and mid-sized businesses and startups. She was named one of the Top 50 Sales & Marketing Influencers 2013. Her book, Do YOU Mean Business? focuses on technical / non-technical collaboration strategies and tools.