Sometimes, regardless of where we sit around the table, we see the same thing the same way. Last week, I posted a blog entitled “What if an Engineer ran the next Sales and Marketing meeting?” My thanks to the extraordinary feedback provided predominantly by members of the following LinkedIn groups: Sales Gravy LinkedIn group, SME Society of Manufacturing Engineers LinkedIn group, Institute of Industrial Engineers (IIE) LinkedIn group and Sales Playbook! LinkedIn group – among other groups who responded. Regardless of whether these articulate folks were coming at this topic from a sales and marketing or engineering perspective, the feedback was surprisingly consistent.
Since we all collectively sat around the table last week, kicking this topic around, what did we share and possibly learn from this collaborative dialogue?
1.Ultimately, whether you are in a business development / sales and marketing function for an engineering-intensive company or whether you are part of the technical team for that company, you are responsible for revenue generation. The sales and marketing function sometimes seems like it has a revolving door associated with job longevity. However, in case you haven’t noticed, unemployment rates among various engineering disciplines are not decreasing. We all ARE in this together.
2.Revenue generation involves a lot of CONSISTENT heavy lifting by everyone involved. It’s stressful stuff. There is no free pass to anywhere. No easy solutions. Are you responsibly doing your job or just playing it safe, collecting a paycheck and hoping you don’t draw too much attention to yourself one way or another? Are you engaged with your customers and other members of your organization, learning about the factors impacting their business decisions? Do you engage in self-improvement and continuing education – outside your major area of expertise? Are you becoming a Master at your craft or are you content with mediocrity, thinking that being merely competent will be satisfactory to make it through the next performance review?
3.Even if you do the right things the right way, there’s no guarantee that the market won’t bottom out. Collaboration involves assumption of responsibility and assumption of risk. And in this most challenging of economies, risk is being redefined weekly as industry recalibrates goals, objectives and deliverables. So even if all the stars are aligned, there are factors impacting the marketplace that are bigger than all of us. We’re living in this one right now.
4.There is absolutely no room for a siloed approach to the interconnectivity between the sales and marketing function and the engineering function of a company. And this feedback rang loud and clear from the folks on both sides of the table. If you treat your business development specialists like they are ignorant, motor-mouthed sales folks whose job it is to procure projects for the engineering department so the engineers can provide glorious solutions for customers, go read a newspaper – if you can still find one. Dinosaur approaches will go the way of, well, dinosaurs.
5.Seek hybridized, win-win solutions, one at a time. There were quite a few engineers who had crossed the conceptual abyss and became involved in marketing, sales and management. And these folks articulated their revelation that regardless of what side of the fence you are on, if you are not demonstrating the value of your organization to your customers – CONSISTENTLY – you will not retain their business. It’s not about your products and services, it’s about the resources and solutions you provide. Are you an advocate for your customers?
6.Collaborative relationships start at home. In both the sales and marketing LinkedIn groups as well as the engineering LinkedIn group feedback, there were case studies of companies who encouraged highly successful collaborative and trusting relationships between their business development arm and the engineering discipline. Any of you who have been out there for any length of time know that there has to be trust. And I am not being idealistic. Trust is built on confidence. So what are your companies’ respective areas of core competency? Build a sales and technical culture based on them. Again, if you have to.
7.There’s no room in this economy for technical and engineering staff with an attitude. Engineers who sit in their cubicles looking down their noses at projects they feel are too simplistic to showcase their engineering know-how to the world have spent too much time in their cubicles. Have them spend a week with your business development folks making sales calls with prospects and current customers. The business development process isn’t all about selling their engineering skills. It’s about relationship building – just in case the bottom falls out of the market … again.
8.There’s no room for rock star sales people who are enamored with their ability to win business by creating unrealistic customer expectations on price, timeline and deliverables. Come on, guys. You know you are only as good as your last sale. So don’t leave the engineering staff holding the bag. Spend at least one hour a week working in-house with your favorite engineer so you can listen to the type of questions and conversations he/she is having with the customers you have won for your company. And the engineer, in turn, can listen and perhaps participate in the conversations you have with prospective and current customers to nurture the business development process.
9.Nobody’s area of expertise is an insurance policy on their longevity with their organization. If the new economic paradigm is about providing value to your organization, then you need to understand that anyone in your organization can become responsible for impacting business development – even the receptionist or the delivery person. The last time I checked, business development always has been and remains a team sport.
10.The future of engineering-intensive manufacturing may just be in the development of a workforce characterized by hybridized, interdisciplinary, technically-oriented business development experts. Now that’s a mouthful. This workforce will be coming out of the engineering schools and graduate schools, vocational schools and high schools. This workforce will be created by the necessity of the new economic paradigm and the ability of management to communicate this vision to their employees. Whoever can learn to understand the dynamics of technical and sales processes – and communicate them internally and externally to customers -will have a leg up on the competition.
So where do you fit into this emerging picture?
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. Download her newest White Paper at her Free Resources Page. 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.