There are a lot of courses they didn’t teach you in engineering and business school. How to articulate your value-add to individuals outside of your profession is one of those courses. While the term “value-add” is often used to describe the intangible that your products, services and platforms provide for customers, does anyone really know what this term means?
For technical professionals, the term “soft skills” describes any skill set that doesn’t directly involve the scientific and quantitative methodologies needed to design and execute IT and engineering output. However, there is nothing soft about those types of communication skills, especially when you may be working virtually with a team who doesn’t speak your language.
While engineering = engineering = engineering, if you are using words – instead of calculations – to communicate, there can be quite a bit lost in translation (including units of measurement!).
If you are a small to mid-sized manufacturing or service company, chances are you were impacted by the global economic meltdown. Perhaps you are retooling and recalibrating. If so, “doing business” doesn’t look, sound or feel like it did in the 1990’s and early 2000’s.
There is a different playing field and a different set of dynamics to today’s conversations. If you are a small to mid-sized manufacturing or service company, you are a non-traditional seller. Chances are in the past you were a larger company. You left the selling to, well, those “sales types.” Except now you are recovering from downsizing and you find yourself in the selling role. It doesn’t feel comfortable to you, does it?
Perhaps your discomfort is based on your perceived need to dust off your “soft skills.” Your customers, however, want to have an engaging and relevant conversation that focuses on issues larger than your need to sell them your stuff.
Focus on developing your knowledge of their context. How has the economy impacted your customers’ respective businesses, locally, regionally, nationally? Have your customers’ companies undergone transitions in personnel, deliverables, supply chain, markets served?
By taking a higher level perspective of industry verticals, and developing a more globally focused business IQ, you will find that your conversations with customers not only engage them , but you, as well. You may find you are selling them on you, without selling your stuff. You also might learn far more about factors impacting business development, in the process.
When considered within this broader context, those “soft skills” aren’t very soft at all. They are powerful tools for creating relevant, valuable and impactful conversations that drive revenue and economic development. Isn’t that the type of continuing conversation and business equation you, and your company, want to be an enduring part of?
Babette N. Ten Haken, Founder & President of Sales Aerobics for Engineers®, LLC, is the catalyst for your business transition, startup growth and professional development.