Regardless of where we sit at the table, we see the same things differently. How do you and your technical colleagues (yes, including your sales engineers) work towards appreciating your differing perspectives? These differences can fuel collaboration, not disagreement.
It’s up to you to choose your outcome.
If you sell solutions provided by engineering-intensive companies, there’s usually a sales engineer involved in the equation. Start pondering how you both can create more value for your organization, your colleagues, and your customers. This simple action can also result in a decrease in your own feelings of marginalization within your organization.
The cultures in technically-intensive companies perceive business development specialists to be like hunters; they are sent out to identify prey, kill those saber tooth tigers and bring them in-house (identify opportunities and win contracts). The gatherers (technical folks and the sales engineer) 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. However, 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. The sales engineers remain confined to their cubicles, used on-demand.
No matter what your core capabilities are, technical, sales engineer or sales, today’s business development professionals need to be informed about industry trends. They do their own research, rather than waiting for their companies to provide that information to them. Sales folks are out there talking with potential customers who may not be aware of the breadth and depth of your company’s technical capabilities. Every time an engineer or sales engineer speaks to a peer at another company, there’s an opportunity to talk about your company’s strengths – without giving away free engineering advice.
Are you able to do that?
In today’s globally competitive business ecosystem, everyone’s doing the selling. Yet the word S-E-L-L remains the most loathsome four-letter word in any engineer’s vocabulary. I haven’t met one engineer who would have gone into engineering school if they felt they ever would have to learn how to sell. The sales engineer gets stuck in the middle of this conundrum.
Sales, sales engineers and engineering professionals sit at the cross-roads of a multitude of business development conversations, although these indicators may sound different depending on the discipline. Is that how you see your job: sitting at the cross-roads of business development?
In today’s globally competitive business ecosystem, no one is exempt from identifying sales leads and commercialization opportunities. Do you know how to listen, how to ask questions, how to root out those business development opportunities for your organization? Are you actively engaged in systematically reading up on industry trends and trigger events which may impact your customers?
By concentrating on developing yourself as a valued resource within your area of domain expertise, you may find that your customers and prospects start to call you before they call your competitors. These decision makers want to have relevant conversations that aren’t primarily about selling your solution, yet are all about the value your company brings to their business tables.
Today’s globally competitive business development paradigm has an all-hands-on-deck feel to it. Partners and players may come from all areas of your company, including the front desk reception area. Everyone becomes a stakeholder in building business, retaining loyal customers, driving revenue through the company, and holding on to their jobs.
The traditional business model of the sales folks doing the selling, the technical folks doing the “doing”, the sales engineer demo-ing, and everyone in between serving a supporting function, all wrapped up with a visionary leader who is uninvolved in the daily, tactical and strategic goals of the company, is all over.
If you work with a sales engineer, or are a sales engineer yourself, you can lead by example by forming a high-functioning, collaborative relationship with your sales people. Win contracts; widen your selling circle by involving more players and stakeholders within your organization. Reward them for their assistance.
Consider how you can make yourself and your colleagues as robust as possible. It may start by working with the guys and gals sitting across the table from you. Then peer over your cubicle and involve the folks down the hall. Keep walking; there are a lot more business partners for you, within your organization.
Babette N. Ten Haken, Founder & President of Sales Aerobics for Engineers, LLC, brings entrepreneurial mojo to small and mid-sized businesses in the manufacturing and service sectors. She builds revenue-producing business strategies for technical startups. She provides you and your colleagues with an arsenal of collaboration tools and communication skills required for today’s globally competitive marketplace. This post originally appeared in the Salesforce.com Blog.