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.