Why can’t engineers sell?

Well, that title is offensive enough. As engineers and inventors, we’re in an envious position to sell our products and services with the technical know-how that only a select few have. A run of the mill salesman would kill to have our in depth product knowledge and problem solving skills. Heck, many of us helped invent whatever it is that our company is now selling.

So why is it that most companies hire professional salesmen (or sales engineers) over promoting us to that typically more lucrative position?

  • Are they afraid that our pocket protectors will wear holes in their company provided shirts?
  • Are we so backward that we’ll grossly offend their clients and send them dashing for the competition?
  • Do they think that we’re just not interested?

Typically companies have silos that people fit in, or should I say that they fit people in. “You, you’re an engineer, and you over there, you’re a salesman”. The problem is that in today’s world, engineers are relied on more and more to take an active role in the sales process – in fact we need to lead it many times.

I’m sure a lot of you out there view your corresponding sales team simply as order takers for all the hard work you do. And in fact, in many instances you’re exactly right – so why not step up and claim the sale yourself?

This gets to the core of this blog – how can we as engineers excel in the sales world?

The good news is that we’ll be putting together a structured method to follow to help ensure sales success. I’ve found that this method is attractive to most engineers because it fits our ‘divide and conquer’ attitude and leaves the ‘soft skills’ talk in the garbage where it belongs.

So back to the original question of why can’t engineers sell – well we can, and we’re going to learn here how to do it and how to do it so well that we’ll be faced with a choice of whether we want to be in the engineering or sales group.

Ask yourself this question – do you think it would be easier to learn how to sell or to learn how a material’s microstructure controls the mechanical properties – the answer is obvious and this is why engineers have a leg up on standard salesmen, we already understand the technical mumbo jumbo, we just need to package it better.

In fact we already conquered one of the 10 sales commandments, “Know thy product”. As you know, most salespeople never even come close to following this rule – they simply call you in to field all the technical sales questions; and then they take the order – and the commission.

Perhaps the title of this post should have been “Why don’t engineers sell?”

The answer to that question is much more involved and we’re going to tackle it frequently here in this blog. We’re going to lay out a structured sales approach based on the theory of following a structured method called Sales Funnel Selling.  We’ll dissect the sales process into easily digestible steps and become an expert at each step. When all those steps are put together, we’ll have a seamless and successful sales process that relies on honesty and integrity rather than cheesy sales tactics.

In the next post, we’ll define our sales funnel and begin to see how it applies to helping engineers sell.

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2 comments ↓

#1 Ampman on 03.09.08 at 2:18 am

Engineers can be the best possible salesmen. They should do it and pocket the commission, plus visibilities, not counting trips and meals on expense accounts.

#2 Eric on 03.09.08 at 7:41 pm

@Ampman:
Engineers can and should be the best salesmen out there.

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