Entries from September 2008 ↓

James Dyson, my hero

Dyson AirbladeOK, I have to admit that James Dyson is one of my all-time heroes.  The guy struggled for years and years to get his cyclone vacuum into people’s houses.  People laughed at him and the big companies ignored him (and subsequently copied him), but he kept on inventing and selling until he became a household name.

I’ve been eagerly searching for one of his new Airblade hand drying units and found one at a local resort this past weekend.  I must have gone into the bathroom four times before my wife asked if everything was ok.  I told her what marvel lay in the latrine and she said “not Dyson again!” – I was on a big Dyson kick for a long time after reading his autobiography – which I HIGHLY recommend.

So how does the awesome new hand dryer lend itself to a sales lesson?  Well at his heart, I sense that James is an engineer that simply wants to solve problems.  Now he went about it and actually solved the problems himself – I’m not suggesting that you have to do that.

But why not look for your customer’s problems that your company might be able to help alleviate and work with your team to at least propose a better solution.  You can bet Hoover laughed at Dyson until they noticed significant market share going his way – what if one hard working Hoover sales engineer would have spotted the need Dyson recognized, do you think Dyson could have survived?

I contacted Dyson’s PR department to ask for permission to use this photo (granted) and to see if I could shoot Mr. Dyson a few questions about his sales philosophy – I was told that they had to prioritize his time and he was too busy; oh well, it didn’t hurt to ask.

BTW, Mr. Dyson, if you ever read this I have a few product ideas for you that I think your cylclone technology would perform brilliantly at and the markets are enormous.

Simplenomics Strategies


My readership has really started taking off recently – thank you all!

As some of you know, I’m a fan of people and sales sites that are run by people that are actually selling for a living.  A recent friend of mine, Mike Sigers of Simplenomics is doing just that.

I like a lot of things about his site, but my favorite is his writing style.  He tends to weave personal stories in to help explain whatever theory he’s discussing.  On top of all that, Mike may be the only person capable of having a picture of the late-great Meatloaf on a sales blog!

My take on Mike’s basic message – be honest, work hard and use common sense.  There, you’re already ahead of 70% of your competition.

Sales Commandments

The ten sales commandmentsFrank Pacetta from Xerox listed his top ten sales commandments in the Wall Street Journal.  These truths were acquired during a year where he turned the worst performing sales district into the number one district in the country.

  1. Prepare customer proposals on weekends and evenings.
  2. Never say no to a customer; everything is negotiable.
  3. Make customers feel good about you – not just your product.
  4. Meet customer requirements, even if it means fighting your own bureaucracy.
  5. Do things for customers you don’t get paid for, like solving billing problems.
  6. Know your competitor’s product better than your competitor does.
  7. Be early for meetings.
  8. Dress and groom yourself sharply so you look like a superior product.
  9. When it’s time to go home, make one more phone call.
  10. If you stay in the shower a long time in the morning because you don’t look forward to work, find another job.

Pretty good, but I have to respectively disagree with number 2, perhaps it warrants a post in itself.

From engineering to sales

I get emails from engineers for two main reasons. They either ask how to make the switch from engineering to sales, or they ask me why anyone would want to move from being an engineer to a salesman.

To address the second question, I’ve created a list of six reasons you might want to jump to the dark side of sales. I’d appreciate any additions that you could make to the list in the comments section.

Drum roll please…..

  1. Money – As a whole, the sales profession is the highest paying career out there. Of course your individual circumstance may vary, but it is a surveyed fact that sales positions out-pay engineering.
  2. New challenges – Perhaps, you’ve mastered your technical domain and just want to move onto a new challenge. Instead of toiling over equations, you want to try wrestling with prospects to get them to buy your product or service. There is something exciting about learning a completely new field and stepping out of your comfort range.
  3. Travel – If you like traveling, there are few other professions that offer the breath of opportunities than sales. If you don’t like being hunched over your computer in the middle of cube-ville, you might want to dip your toe in sales.
  4. Product knowledge – No one knows the technical aspects of your products better than you, so why should you let a salesperson who knows next to nothing about your wonders make all the money?
  5. Build a bigger network – In sales, you’ll get to talk to countless more people than you will in engineering. After a few years, you can put this network to use for professional and personal motives.
  6. Visibility to the bigger picture – A lot of times we lose sight of the forest for the trees when we’re hunkered down on a technical problem. Being in sales, allows you to see your company from a client’s point of view. You can add real value to your firm by translating that viewpoint back to engineering – this is something that run-of-the-mill salespeople aren’t typically that good at.

To see what you think, ask you sales person if you can tag along on a few sales calls – but let them know that you won’t talk unless specifically instructed to (many sales people are fearful of taking engineers on sales calls because we’re too honest).

Leggo your ego

Sales EgoAs engineers, we sometimes have a “smarter than thou” attitude. We use big impressive words and revel in praise thrown our way. The problem is that when you try to prop yourself up to look smart, you often make others feel not-so-smart and that is a huge purchasing turnoff.

We often think that no one in the room knows more than us about our product – heck we might have helped design the product ourselves. In reality – everyone in the room knows more than you.

You’re there to learn about your customer’s issues and needs and they know that way more than you do. So keep your trap shut and learn as much as you can before you talk about your product. And when you do start discussing it, be humble and let them know that you’re not sure it’s the best solution for them yet – you need to learn more.

And that’s hard to do if your engineering ego won’t fit through the door!