Several months ago, sales engineer Aynur M. Akyaz asked the question: “Sales Engineers – Where do we fit in?” on the Sales Engineering Professionals and the Electrical Sales Engineers LinkedIn discussion groups. Over the past few months, many of us joined in this discussion. Depending on where you sit around the table, you see the same thing differently. She asked the question based on her own observations of others, as well as her own experiences. Her insightful summary of these collaborative discussions are today’s guest post.
“I have read every post and wanted to thank everyone for their insight and opinion. I find it interesting that we’ve carried such a spirited debate only to be summarized with the same bottom line: the question I posed doesn’t have a black or white answer.
The right balance of sales and engineering is completely based upon what the customer expects the output to be. Does he or she want brownies or is it cake?
An individual in a sales engineering role has be versatile and find the right combination of these two strengths, dependent on the scope of activities required to solve the customer’s needs. A “sales engineering “ title reflects depth of knowledge in a specialized field. However, the depth of information communicated and how you communicate it should be completely dependent and aligned to the individual you are interacting with. Whether you are selling yourself and your qualifications during an interview, or selling your products and services to your customer, the proper equation to prove value isn’t your call, it’s your customer’s.
Although an individual’s title is a reflection of their qualifications and their expertise, your functions are never so black or white. Every employee within every organization should be a part of the company’s growth agenda. Whether you are a sales person or a sales engineer, revenue growth should be an inherent part of every meeting.
A crucial element in generating revenue growth is the ability to sustain long term relationships and position yourself as a trusted resource to your customer. A “valuable” resource translates into knowing what your customers’ problems are and solving them. Solving a problem begins with determining the central issues of the problem, understanding the results and objectives your customer is aiming to achieve, having the flexibility to shape your approach specific to that interaction, and then providing precisely the right balance of expertise to meet those needs.
The fundamental element to interacting with your customers begins by communicating information in a language they can understand.
Case Study: I worked with a degreed engineer who is very intelligent, highly technical and very well-versed in product. When presenting to a group of engineers he spoke the jargon, held the same behavioral approach, used a very complex technical vocabulary, and impressed the group with his knowledge. At the same plant we held a meeting with a group of maintenance managers. He presented the information in exactly the same manner, discussed the same products, used the same words, and lost his audience in the first fifteen minutes. What was deemed of “value” for the engineers varied greatly from the needs of the maintenance staff. He couldn’t detach from his engineering title and speak in layman’s terms. He didn’t take into account his target audience.
The “value add” of anything product or service you are selling isn’t of any “value” unless the end customer deems it a “value.” You provide value when you demonstrate that you are a resource to your customer and can meet their needs.
The maintenance supervisor wasn’t impressed with the big words and didn’t care about the details of configuring the products to application. He simply wanted to understand in his terms and know how to make it work. Since there was no visible value to the second group, the account was lost. Everyone needed to be on board.
I believe aspects of sales are indeed a science and you can teach the process to just about anyone. Intelligent individuals can pick up technical training with hard work and the proper training. But not everyone has the natural ability to shape and reinvent their behavior according to the individual they are interacting with.
If you can establish common ground with your prospects, they will respect you, trust you, and buy from you. Thank you to everyone who has posted.”
Aynur M. Akyaz has ten years experience in Sales Engineering and Business Development with responsibility for Direct Accounts and Distributor Supply Channels. Aynur’s expertise is in providing engineering and application support of Electrical Distribution Systems, Process and Measurement equipment and training on Arc Flash Hazards and NFPA 70E guidelines. In 2010, Aynur took on the role of District Sales Engineer for Cooper Industries, increased her territory’s revenue by 21%, margin profit by 16%, and received an achievement award for “Best District Sales Engineer”. She holds a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Criminal Law and an Applied Science Degree in Industrial Engineering. She is an active member of IEEE, NFPA 70E, IAEI, and NAPW.