Your engineering staff is your lifeblood. Are you in sales, marketing or finance? Do you work for or sell to manufacturers, distributors, or service companies? How’s it going?
Time to take your own pulse on how you, as a salesperson, get along with your engineers. Do you view them as allies or adversaries? Do you even understand how they think? Are you, yourself, an engineer who has been forced to cross the proverbial chasm into a sales engineering function?
As a salesperson, you may either be calling on engineers as a prospect or working directly with them within your organization. The sales function is contrary to the way engineers are trained. Technical professionals are objective rather than subjective. Deductive rather than inductive. Left brain vs. right brain. Problem solvers rather than big picture thinkers. Pragmatic vs. The Next Great Thing.
Word choices have tremendous significance and specificity to engineers. Choose your words wisely. You may learn something from your engineering colleagues.
Your sales life and pipeline can be enriched by learning from your engineering staff – and vice versa. Engineers bring value to the products and services you sell. Learn from them. Hang with them. Ask them questions. They think differently from you. And depending on where we sit around the proverbial table, we see the same things differently.More robustly.
Spend time with your technical colleagues. Take them on your sales calls. Tell them about your sales calls. You just may have more value to provide to your clients and prospects alike as a result of these conversations and collaborations.
You can pay this relationship forward. Teach the engineers how to ask business development questions. It’s an entirely different reasoning process than the technical community is comfortable with. Although you may sound like blah-blah-blah to them, demystify the new sales paradigm and see where your collaborative relationship takes you.
You both sit at the crossroads of identifying business development opportunities that positively impact your bottom line. Root causes usually have really big contexts. The engineer-as-tactical-problem-solver can benefit from taking a strategic sales perspective. That nets them lots and lots of potential tactical problems to solve over time. Not every problem needs a tactical solution, just the ones leading to longer term business relationships.
Work together on identifying and pursuing longer term relationships with your customers.
Rather than dismissing your engineering staff as a bunch of geeks who hold their cards close to their chests, take the time to sit and talk with them. Bridge that communication gap. Tell them what you are looking for from prospects. Talk to them about opportunities missed and sales won.
Engineers need to learn to ask you questions, rather than wait for you to define their workload by your sales outcomes.
You might find an ally and support for going after more complex sales. Engineers may find someone to share ideas with that can result in new product development as you cultivate potential clients. Perhaps a sales engineer is born.
Most engineers in America would never have signed up to be an engineer if they thought for one second that they would have to “sell.” In this economy, who can afford not to wear multiple hats? With engineers agonizing about whether to get an MBA or a Masters in Engineering, I encourage you to move towards collaborative relationships: you know, those multifunctional working relationships, within your organization.
Bridge the gap, collaborate, learn, win more business.
What have you got to lose?