Regardless of where we sit at the table, we see the same things differently. Do you appreciate those different perspectives? These differences fuel collaboration, not disagreement!
For those of us who generate business, selling solutions provided by engineering-intensive companies, how can you create more value for your organization that also results in a decrease in your marginalization within that organization? The cultures in technically-intensive companies perceive business development specialists to be like hunters; they are sent out identify prey and possibly kill those saber tooth tigers and bring them in-house (identify opportunities and win contracts). The gatherers (technical folks) take it from there.
The problem is, the market may be hungry for some other type of offering which your company is perfectly capable of providing. But you haven’t let your hunters/business development experts in on this revelation, so they continue to track the same prey rather than expanding your (and your clients’) palette.
Business development professionals are well-positioned to tune into industry trends. After all,
they are out there talking with potential customers who may not be aware of the breadth and depth of your company’s capabilities. How is your organization incorporating business intelligence into new customer acquisition? If you don’t feel the business development folks are smart enough to extrapolate this information into current and new markets, do you end up short-changing everyone?
Let’s flip the table around and consider how difficult it is to sell solutions to engineering-intensive companies. Your company may have trained you to sell solutions, but the engineering mindset will spin your solutions out into an endless algorithm of “what if” to see how robust your solution actually is. And the engineering mindset really is smart enough to figure out how to create the solution you are selling, as well. As a seller, you hardly ever feel you “have the engineering company at ‘Hello’”. In fact, the company may enjoy making you feel downright uncomfortable.
Treating the business development folks like a team sport – no matter whether these folks work for you or are selling to you – serves no productive function other than reinforcing how smart everyone is in their respective professional silos. And, let’s face it, the engineers win that contest hands down. Problem is, the engineers suffer from a lack of soft skills related to communication of value, relevance and business-building to and for their clients. And the business development folks are the ones who perhaps are less impeded in their ability to take risks and walk your engineering talk.
It doesn’t make sense to perpetuate the Us-versus-Them status quo mentality that our academic training, institutions and companies tend to develop and perpetuate. You can’t have each others’ backs if you are, theoretically and behaviorally, at each other’s throats.
It’s up to you to catch yourself falling into these status quo habits. Yes, we all lose patience trying to communicate with our technical or non-technical counterparts. Dial yourself down a notch or two and teach as you communicate. Engineers are usually great communicators when it comes to explaining the details and extrapolating into a broader context. Business development folks are usually great communicators when it comes to relating the solution to the big picture. What happens when you arrive at that same endpoint, pulling together?
I’m seeing complement here. It’s just a matter of taking the time to test it out. Do you have a professional colleague from the “other / Them” discipline with whom you are comfortable working? Make an appointment to figure out “what they say” and “what they mean” and how it relates to what you are saying and what you mean. You just might find yourselves on the same page.
I’m guaranteeing it will change your perspective. It will move you 1 millimeter outside your comfort level and you won’t want to go back to the way things were.
Well, there’s a lot to be said about being comfortable. But comfort is not a guarantee for being secure. In today’s global economy, it makes sense to be poised for your next manager, promotion, or job with another company.
Make yourself as robust as possible. Think about working with the guys and gals sitting across the table from you.
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.