This time of year represents a time to reflect on what we’re thankful for. In the spirit of our U.S. Thanksgiving holiday, here are five things that I’m thankful for – from a sales point of view anyway.
that my competition is lazy and follows the “show up and throw up” strategy.
that my customers view me as an expert in my field and come to me for advice – even on things I don’t sell.
for all the technological advances that allow me to have an easy to search database of my customers and prospects.
that I had the courage to jump from engineering into sales.
for all the readers of this blog.
Please feel free to add to my list and have a splendid holiday.
I try really, really hard not to mix personal sales efforts in with the posts (right now it’s below 1%) but I’m so excited about this new venture I’m involved in that I just can’t contain myself. The success of this EngineersCanSell site has really opened some exciting new doors for me – thank you all for that.
I’ve joined forces with a few dynamite design and marketing partners to form aCreativeSource.com. We are now in a position to offer services across all sales and marketing functions. Our specialty is blending marketing and sales strategies in a cost effective manner.
As a new entity, we’ve already completed jobs ranging from designing logos, marketing brochures, and Web sites to developing full blown marketing and sales plans to executing a survey and cold call strategy to develop high quality prospect lists.
Oh, the point of this post. Please check out our new site at http://aCreativeSource.com and if you have a need for our service and are one of the first ten people to mention “EngineersCanSell”, we’re offering 20% off in exchange for a testimonial.
I’ll warn you that I may have another exciting announcement in the months ahead!
Update: This offer has filled up and is now closed – thanks for the interest.
In the previous post, we talked about exactly what viral marketing means. That begs the question “Should I use viral marketing?”
This is an area that I am quite passionate about and think that we, as engineers, can gain a competitive advantage. You need to tread lightly, however.
Depending on what you’re selling, a lot of your customers will look at you like you have two heads if you tell them that they should be following your every move on Twitter. You run the real risk of alienating these folks – I talk from experience here. I used to try to keep my marketing and sales methods on the cutting edge of social technology. I’ve learned over the past few years that my customer base runs literally about two-years behind that curve, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
My point is that you need to know where your customers stand in this arena before you pummel them with zany invites and pitches. You don’t want to try to sell an Xbox game to someone that is still using Atari.
Start small with simple things like newsletters and blogs and see how your base reacts. Educate them as you bring them along the technology curve and you’ll be seen as an expert in two fields, and that can never be a bad thing.
Depending on what type of company you’re working for, shop tours are typically a common step in the sales cycle. Prospective customers want to see what your machinery looks like, how clean it is, how much room you have, and just get a good feeling that you can actually fulfill their order.
A critical, but often overlooked, area of the tour is how your workforce projects themselves – in particular the technicians on the shop floor.
You should be continually coaching them on how important it is for them to smile at guests and say hi and to ask them if they have any questions. I’ve found that the best way to get them on the same page is to ask them beforehand if they would mind talking about their area to the prospects. You can then say something like “Joe, would you mind telling us a bit how this press works.”
In return the workers get a sense of pride and your prospects really see that you connect with the workforce and have the ability to track their orders through your manufacturing system.
Yes, I realize you may know more about the machine and could talk more eloquently – keep your trap shut.
Spread the fame around and always thank them with donuts (or oat bran muffins) the next morning.
OK, 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.
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.
Frank 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.
Prepare customer proposals on weekends and evenings.
Never say no to a customer; everything is negotiable.
Make customers feel good about you – not just your product.
Meet customer requirements, even if it means fighting your own bureaucracy.
Do things for customers you don’t get paid for, like solving billing problems.
Know your competitor’s product better than your competitor does.
Be early for meetings.
Dress and groom yourself sharply so you look like a superior product.
When it’s time to go home, make one more phone call.
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.
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…..
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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).
As 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!
I’m often asked “What is the first thing I should do when I move from Engineering to Sales?”
My answer is typically insultingly simple: “Talk to your customer service department.”
These guys (and gals) have heard every complaint and compliment in the book. They know who uses your product and in what capacity they use it. Take them all out to lunch and befriend them.
Here are a few questions to ask your customer service department to help you make the jump to sales from engineering:
What are the 3 most common complaints you get about our product?
How do you handle those complaints?
What are the 3 most common compliments you get about our product?
What complimentary products go with what I’m selling – do you think that there is an opportunity for an up-sell here?
Do customers ever complain about our sales force? What do they say?
How do you think I should approach sales? Any advice?
What can I do on the front end so that you get less grief on your end?
Do you think that there are any markets that we should enter?
Do you think there are any uses for our product that we don’t exploit?
Can we have lunch like this once a month, my treat?
Take their advice and insight to heart and begin to get a clear picture of just who your customer is. When you go on a sales call you can now say things like, “a lot of our customers were pleasantly surprised to find out that they could do [something] with our widget after they bought it” or “I have to ask if you intend to try to do [something] with our product, because some who have tried didn’t like the result because [reason].”
You’ll get a sense for what your customer’s needs and wants are and will be well prepared for many of the questions that you’ll get asked in the field.
We all know the ABC’s of sales right (Always Be Closing)? I think that sales philosophy is BS (Bull $#!%). A car dealer closes a sale when you take a car off his lot – a professional salesperson simply lets their sales cycle lead to a natural end, whether it’s a sale or not. I’m very passionate about this subject.
As we’ve talked before, your prospects should be well aware of the sales process steps that you’re going to walk them through right from the onset of the courtship. So if you reach the end of these steps, an order will be the natural outcome, you don’t have to pressure them into “What will it take for me to get you in this car today?”
Before you say anything, of course I realize that this is an oversimplification and you often have to nudge clients into moving, but the theory is sound.
Another thing I hate about ABC is the word close itself. When you get your order, it should be an opening to more business with them, not a closing of some type.
A key to treating customers in this manner is that your sales funnel is full enough so that you’re not panicking at the end of your quarter and instinctively try to push your prospect faster than you should.
So do yourself a favor and take the notion of closing out of your mind. Walk your clients through your sales process and show them all the points along the path where they have an opportunity to detour. If they are still on the ride at the end, an order follows and you start the dance all over again.