What goes on “inside” organizations where design and engineering magic happens? What does the status quo look like in your manufacturing or engineering firm? In companies full of engineers and designers, the company structure may not have changed much since the the pyramids were built – except there now are quite a few technology upgrades and less staff involved. There are job titles which equate with specific roles and functions as work goes through the organization and is eventually implemented into the outside world.
A critical aspect in this status quo model involves the individuals who initially identify and input that work into their organization. There is more to the functionality of these business development professionals than just handing the baton off to the next person in the project relay-race.
For individuals selling for, as well as to, engineering-intensive manufacturing companies, company culture can make this “inside” world seem like a cosmic mystery. Your sales and business development skill set is deemed important enough for you to have a specific function in this organization; yet your role is truncated once the project comes in house.
You are made to feel inadequate, and unwelcome, in participating in the cosmic mystery of the design and engineering processes.
Think about how important it is for all of you to maintain a dialogue throughout the project design, engineering and implementation process. The relationship you have created with the customer doesn’t stop once the project comes in-house. Yet the in-house folks seem to take over and feel they own that relationship, and that customer, from this point forward.
The customer may have other ideas about this status quo truncated business relationship with you. The customer may feel comfortable continuing to check in with you regarding the status of the project or because their questions aren’t being promptly addressed by the in-house folks, who are now busy “doing” since they feel the “selling” is over. Yet the in-house folks take offense when you bring up this question – after all, they now “own” the project and apparently the relationship as well. Their idea of growing that relationship involves peer level design and engineering discussions rather than keeping the owner informed and updated.
Is this what the status quo looks like in your organization? It may look the same way in your customer’s organization as well. What would happen if your company decided to create a more lateral flow of information and shared account management responsibility across departmental and functional silos? What if your role didn’t end once the project came in-house? More importantly, what if one of those in-house designers and engineers were involved in your customer acquisition process, from the beginning?
Then everyone is on the same page throughout the project. Those relationships are grown from the first meeting, and key stakeholders are neither compartmentalized nor marginalized. There is a tremendous knowledge management upside to this concept. However, conceptually, it flies in the face of “this is the way we have always done things” mindset: the status quo.
Similarly, if you are a sales person who avoids selling to technology-intensive companies or one who works for such a company, what is the upside to meeting with an engineer from this (or your own) company and asking for their insight on the issues that seem to be daunting to you? While engineers may make you feel intellectually inferior during your client calls, they love to talk about their technology. You might both learn from each other, by creating a dialogue where knowledge is shared across the table rather than segmented as an “Us versus Them” status quo stand-off.
It’s a matter of demystifying each other’s world. After all, business is not conducted in a vacuum nor is it a solo act. Creating collaborative relationships within and outside of your organization help you grow your skill sets and confidence.
Depending on where we all sit around the table, we see the same thing, differently. That’s a recipe for robust, enduring, and collaborative solutions for your company as well as your customers.
Babette Ten Haken blogs about sales, manufacturing, engineering, entrepreneurships and start-ups at Sales Aerobics for Engineers® Blog. Her company, Sales Aerobics for Engineers®, LLC, teaches technically oriented companies to have customer conversations that are productive and drive revenue. Her book, Do YOU Mean Business? Technical / Non-Technical Communication, Business Development and YOU, is available on Amazon.com. You can download a free chapter here.