How does this happen? Go no further than your workplace and corporate culture.
When businesses find it difficult to create and reinforce a culture based on collaboration and communication, “Us versus Them” mindset becomes the status quo. Communication dysfunction is reinforced daily. Employees dwell within departmental silos and data kingdoms. They remain skeptical and unsupportive of one another.
As a result, “teams” do not communicate very well. They are unable to create highly valued outcomes that contribute positively to customer success and customer retention.
Let’s explore how to exorcise sales and engineering communication dysfunction from your own business equation. You may not be able to quickly fix your corporate culture. However, you most certainly can create your own professional roadmap that emphasizes cross-functional communication and collaboration!
First of all, consider this. People do business with people they understand. And you do not understand technical decision makers. In fact, they intimidate you.
If you are engaged in complex B2B selling (business-to-business), your professional day involves cross-functional collaboration. The folks you work with are business, technology, engineering, finance, legal, sales and marketing folks, for starters.
Also, each person utilizes a distinct, professional vocabulary. Not all of us intuitively understand this vocabulary. However, you are not confident enough to admit you do not know what the other person is talking about.
Additionally, there are technical communication style points involved. Professional lingo aside, there is no margin for error when engineering and manufacturing design decisions have to be made. For that reason, technical decision makers relentlessly ask questions and drill down to the ultimate level of minutiae.
Their interrogative style scares you. Sometimes you feel stupid. So you avoid cultivating them as colleagues and prospective clients.
The technical and engineering validation processes leverage a methodology of skepticism.
Stop feeling sorry for yourself. Have you noticed that technical and engineering validation does not cut anyone any slack, even when the folks seated around the table are professional peers?
Their validation process is the hallmark of the scientific method. It is demanding. Think “The Martian” movie and book. Without this degree of discernment, the space ship misses its target by a long shot.
Their validation process focuses on word choices and syntax as well. Is your sales lingo “approximate” when technical decision makers require you to be “exact”? Otherwise, you are pitching and they are not catching what you are trying to communicate.
Your discomfort selling in this environment is the main reason you avoid selling to skeptical technical decision makers. They intimidate you. They use big words you do not understand. Your sales cadence and tempo are out of sync with the way technical professionals conduct business.
You leave a lot of commission dollars on the table by choosing to live inside your current level of comfort.
Overcome sales and engineering communication dysfunction with these take-aways.
It is time to get “unstuck” from status quo selling habits which are holding you back from becoming a true businessperson of worth. Here are three go-to’s before you call on your next technical decision maker.
- Skeptical technical decision makers always ask killer questions. They need to acquire relevant and valuable insights. They aren’t necessarily trying to trip you up. They are trying to trip everyone up, including their own technical peers. Decision makers seek assurance that they haven’t overlooked anything critical to outcome.
- Anticipate the questions skeptical decision makers will ask you. No one person sitting around that business table has all the answers, even the technical and engineering folks. No one expects one individual to have all the answers. The key to the scientific method is cross-functional, multi-disciplinary collaboration. People expect debate and push back. Be prepared to do the same.
- Avoid slinging technical lingo unless you are a professional peer. The Achilles Heel of many sales enablement programs is that they contain enough technical articles to make a sales person “dangerous.” If you throw out a technical or engineering term, skeptical technical decision makers are going to pounce on it. Do not pass yourself off as a technical peer unless you are willing to be exposed as an imposter. Rather, defer to a technical member of your team for clarity of context. (Hint: Stop bringing your engineer into the picture only when it is time to demo.)
When the cadence and tempo of your conversation matches the cadence of tempo of responses, you collaborate with technical decision makers.
Overcoming communication dysfunction is all about how you leverage your innate curiosity to continuously establish context and define clarity of purpose.
You gradually learn a whole lot about the technical aspects of the stuff you sell. You develop core competencies in multi-disciplinary collaboration. Some of that scientific method stardust will rub off on your sales process and methodologies.
Hopefully, some of your sales stardust cross-pollinates your technical colleagues’ professional mindset, as well. That is your goal.
Communication dysfunction only negatively impacts customer success when you allow it to. Go forth, prosper and download my White Paper: New Strategies for Selling to Skeptical Technical Decision Makers.
Babette Ten Haken is the Founder and President of Sales Aerobics for Engineers®, LLC. She has one of the most distinctive voices in today’s workforce, professional development and customer success communities. She traverses the interface between tech workforce hiring strategy and developing collaborative technical and business teams focused on customer success and customer retention. Babette’s playbook of technical / non-technical collaboration hacks, Do YOU Mean Business? is available on Amazon. Visit the Free Resources section of her website for more tools.
Image source: iStock