Once upon a time, some very nice engineers working for a custom manufacturer were told by their Boss that they had to SELL. Or else they might lose their jobs.
The engineers tried to sell. They thought of the word “sell” as the equivalent of a four-letter s-word! They were cursed! They huffed and puffed and asked their current customers for RFPs, lots of them. Pretty soon, they had more RFPs than they could handle, and no time to do their engineering. They were trapped in the Funnel of Doom.
The Boss looked in the mirror, who told him: “Bring in that consultant.” And he did. The consultant (who did not fly in on a broom) met with everyone many times. She gave them homework to do. She taught them some business-building aerobics. And then “poof” she was gone. Until her next visit….
Two weeks later, things were a lot different at that company…..
- Things were cleaned up. The company was no longer an RFP mill. The engineers-turrned-sales-reps jettisoned the backlog of RFPs they solicited from current customers (who had no interest in awarding them business). They concentrated on doing work for paying customers. (Whew!)
- Upper level management conceded that telling engineers to “sell” by asking for RFPs was busy work with a dead-end probability of landing a deal. (A major epiphany for upper level management. Their sales paradigm was changed. No more business as usual.)
- Two of the four “sales” engineers contacted companies they identified as potential targets for their own company’s core capabilities.
- Since the engineers were jazzed about contributing their skill sets to the target companies, they had decent conversations with peers, did some internet research on trigger events about the target company, and discussed their findings with the CEO and the VP of Sales.
- The leads provided by the sales engineers were intriguing to the CEO and the VP of Sales, who decided to make follow-up phone calls to these target companies and have true C-level peer conversations.
- The CEO and VP of Sales had the “sales” engineers sit in on their conversations. What an epiphany for the engineers to hear what a C-level discussion sounds like (e.g., not exactly design issues).
- The CEO and VP of Sales broke down the status-quo corporate silos and freed their engineers from their towers and cubicles! They shared information with the “doer” engineers. And they did something significant: they debriefed with them after each phone conversation, comparing what each of them heard.
- The recently-anointed sales engineers became enthusiastic about identifying and qualifying more leads opportunities, especially since the CEO and VP followed up on most of these leads, or told them why the lead wasn’t viable for their business and strategy.
- The curse was lifted! Everyone started contributing to the bottom line. And they could complete the requirements of the original position they were hired – and paid – to do.
- One of the “sales” engineers was so good at identifying leads opportunities that he began making appointments with prospects and went on initial sales calls.
- The newbie sales engineer started reading more about sales, took a few courses, and transformed into part of the sales arm of the company.
- Upper level management was thrilled to have some of the weight of business development taken off their shoulders by staff engaged in leads identification.
- And they closed more business with new customers.
- Did they live happily ever-after? The anemic division covered their operating expenses. No one was fired. No downsizing. The company is still in business.
- Everyone realized there are “personalities” involved in what makes them viable, and not. They are still dealing with those “personalities.”
- This company did break down the tower of status quo silos. They did learn to sell, together. They liberated themselves from the Funnel of Doom.
- They understand that selling is an opportunity to showcase their core capabilities, not an excuse to turn their company into an RFP mill.
Have you found yourself in the same place? Then you know it’s no fairy tale.
Let’s talk about it.
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.