Many of us leave money on the table when we sell: we avoid working with companies full of technical decision makers. These engineering professionals tend to make us feel uncomfortable about our proficiency as sales professionals: they second-guess our motives, logic, and data.
We are correct in feeling uncomfortable, unaware that it’s second nature, and “engineering as usual,” for technical professionals to second-guess their peers! Technical education, training and mindset is based on continually questioning and seek validation of data and assumptions. Techies are constantly doing their homework, so they usually know the correct answer – even when we don’t.
Technical decision makers are well-worth the effort you put into developing their business if you understand the rules of engagement involved in creating a strong and collaborative relationship. These rules of engagement require you to scrutinize your own traditional methodology of sales processes and practices, and those of your company as well.
Here are 10 Tips for overcoming your reluctance, avoidance, or lack of confidence when selling to technical decision makers.
Tip #1 You are not their engineering peer unless, of course, you have an engineering or IT degree. Don’t try to represent yourself as one, if you do not have a strong technology or science background.
Tip #2 While you may not have that engineering degree, you can do your homework about their industry, company, and competitors. Bring that knowledge and insight to the sales table. You are, after all, a business professional. Lead with your strong suit.
Tip #3 Have a business conversation with technical decision makers focusing on the value your solutions bring to their technically-based business. Lead with your strong suit and continue to play your strong suit.
Tip #4 Understand your limits, no matter how much of a sales rock star you may be. Identify resources, perhaps new ones, to assist you in cultivating the technical business segment and closing that sale. If you are used to working alone, consider changing your habits in order to expand your knowledge base.
Tip #5 Slinging technical lingo around the table like confetti will invite technical decision makers to query your understanding of these terms. Do your homework; be prepared to develop a comfortable working knowledge of “their world” if your presentation incorporates technical terminology. Technical decision makers will appreciate your willingness to learn and communicate.
Tip #6 Be honest about what you know, and don’t know, about their technology. Ask questions instead of winging it. You might end up getting a plant tour, or engaging in a solid discussion of their technology – providing you have demonstrated value and relevance in your business offering.
Tip #7 Technical professionals pick everything apart; they are trained to scrutinize processes, platforms, and deliverables. When you think about it, the wrong measurement can result in a space shuttle’s missing its target! Their stuff is that serious. Be proactive. Anticipate the “what if this or that happens?” perspective and have some prepared responses.
Tip #8 Will the data you present stand up to being validated by technical decision makers? The more comfortable and knowledgeable you are about your company’s data, the more conversant you become discussing anyone’s data, including your own.
Tip #9 Technical decision makers enjoy collaborative relationships and can offer you long term, lucrative contracts. If you are in the habit of handing off the sales contract, collecting your commission, and heading out to hunt down your next prospect, assess whether your own habits or corporate culture can support a collaborative relationship with a growing technical customer base.
Tip #10 You are a work in progress. Devote time to developing the skill sets needed to develop this type of customer. You may find out you are far more able to understand areas of technology, and data sets, than you thought you were. Start using that left side of your sales brain, in addition to that over-developed right side!
Babette N. Ten Haken, Founder & President of Sales Aerobics for Engineers, LLC, brings entrepreneurial mojo back into small and mid-sized businesses, particularly in the manufacturing sector. She builds vibrant revenue-producing business strategies for technical start-ups seeking investors and early customers. This article is excerpted from the original, which appeared in the January 2013 edition of Top Sales World magazine.