Energi Technical Marketing
Can An Engineer Make A Good Sales Professional?
Selling is not for the faint hearted, but then again, nor is engineering. Both roles can carry a lot of responsibility where failure is not an option. With the right training, a positive outlook and the right management, engineers make excellent sales professionals.
For expanding technology companies around the world, there is often a discussion as to whether one of their experienced engineers would succeed if moved into a sales role. Often such a transition can prove a great success for both the company and the employee. However, there will be times when it just does not work out. This article discusses some of the challenges that engineers face when making such a transition and why they often need some training to bridge the chasm between an engineering mindset and a sales mindset. Often the first challenge is for an engineer to actually accept that 'Sales' can be an honorable profession. To most engineers and scientist, being a salesman is not an aspiration, as often salesmen are almost regarded as unskilled and less than academic. To some, they may simply be regarded as people with confidence who are good at talking and linger around trade show booths. This perception could not be further from the truth. Successful technical salesmen tend to be highly educated and disciplined professionals that are not only good at listening, but also good at absorbing and analyzing data. Furthermore, making presentations, and the necessary verbal and written communication required during the sales cycle are critical skills that can be a challenge to master. The bottom line is that most technology companies could not exist without their salesmen bringing in the orders. Indeed, it has never been a more important role, whether at a company level or even at a national level. It is an interesting thought that as important as salesmanship is to any economy, there is no academic route through which these skills can be accessed. A key reason that engineers make good technical salesmen is that engineers tend to be good at listening and absorbing information. Another is that they can offer some empathy on engineering and technical issues, as engineers much prefer to deal with engineers. Another reason might be that engineers are good at detail; they have learnt that things should not be left to chance and that its no good to 'hope' everything will be alright. Engineers understand that you get out, what you put in, and this is a good fit for a sales mentality. Maybe the best reason to promote an engineer into sales is their 'fear of failure'. Any engineer that has ever written code, developed a PCB or even designed an enclosure knows that feeling of responsibility and the risk that they may have made an error. Engineers, generally, do not like to fail. They will do the necessary preparation, they will investigate the best solution, they will focus and concentrate on a challenge and will look for the best possible outcome. Also, engineers can be tough, they know about working under pressure. They will have already worked to impossible deadlines and budgets and will have been involved in overcoming difficult commercial and technical challenges. Whatever engineers make think of salesmen, they have more in common than they can imagine! Another perspective is that engineers are mostly self-starters that are motivated by a challenge. Whether it is a new software language, CAD software package or CNC machine, engineers are often prepared to take on a new challenge and invest their energy in self-development. It is this level of self-discipline and proactive approach to work that also contributes towards their potential as successful sales person. The final aspect of why engineers can make good sales professionals is that the whole selling process has a mechanical element to it. There is a cycle, from initial contact to final sale, and then post-sales support. Throughout this sales cycle there are various stages and processes that need to be carefully managed and subjected to analysis and decision-making. Selling is not for the faint hearted, but then again, nor is engineering. Both roles can carry a lot of responsibility where failure is not an option. With the right training, a positive outlook and the right management, engineers make excellent sales professionals. What is more, they will thrive on the challenge and often welcome the chance to break free from their desk and be out on the road meeting new people and seeing new places. Article by Richard Blackburn, Managing Director of Energi Technical Ltd. Energi provide marketing and PR services to the technology sector. They also run sales training courses for engineers and scientists. More information at http://www.energi-tech.co.uk