If you feel speaking with engineers is like having a root canal without anesthetic, don’t flatter yourself: engineers feel the same way about talking to sales people. Either way, this conversation isn’t really much of a dialogue at all, in the majority of status quo conversations. Is it?
Engineers tend to be specific and direct in the type of knowledge they are asking about and in the nature of answers they expect to receive. Words are very important to technical professionals: a word translates into a design specification or outcome. If you, as a salesperson, don’t know your stuff and are throwing around technical buzz terms like they are confetti, I don’t have to tell you that technical professionals will have no mercy in making you feel like an inferior life form. Engineers won’t hesitate to let you know you certainly are not as intelligent and well-educated as they are and that you are on the outside looking in to their world. When you consider that they are just as marginalized within their own world as they are making you feel, perhaps you two do have something to talk about.
What do you sound like to an engineer? If you don’t know how to answer this question, record yourself doing the usual “pitch” that either you or your company has put together for their sales force. Do you sound like a real person having a realistic conversation with a technically-oriented business owner?
Do you sound like a caricature salesperson: all words and no substance, a talking head full of business babble?
Unless you are an engineer who sells, these technical professionals may not expect you to understand the intricacies of their work. But they do expect you to enlighten them about the business world in which you operate, day in and day out, and how you can make them more competitive. These technical professionals are so caught up in the myopia of their own niche markets and specific solutions that they often lose sight of how their business is similar to or different from other companies in the industrial sector.
Your ability to translate your experiences across the industry segments in which you operate can represent valuable insight. This insight, in turn, helps them be more anticipatory and predictive in their engineering and design output.
You may have more messages to discuss with them than the sales-call-close spiel your company wants you to push at them. The more relevant your discussion, the more valuable it is to your customers. You end up “selling” them on your value without having to “sell to” them about your products and services.
Engineers, and the majority of your prospects as well, don’t like their time to be wasted. They expect a salesperson to “sell” at them, to pitch a product or service to them. There is very little collaboration or engagement in that type of status quo scenario. The technical professional isn’t interested in sales spiel. However, they are always interested in features and benefits.
What if you surprise your technical colleagues by adding insight and relevance to their technical knowledge? After all, you are the sales expert. Engineers love data. What if you color outside the lines of your sales spiel and investigate competitive industry trends. Then you become a collaborative colleague instead of a pesky sales person whom they don’t pay attention to.
Change it up a bit. The one way to dispel the stereotype of being a blah-blah-blah babbling salesperson is to be a relevant and valuable resource. Take the steps to do your homework when making sales calls. Especially to your techie prospects and customers.
They are hungry for information and data. Not blah-blah-blah.
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.