Whether you are in a business development function for an engineering-intensive company or whether you are part of the technical team for that company, you are responsible for revenue generation. Engineering firms who marginalize or compartmentalize their business development team are out of touch with what’s required in today’s global environment for successful revenue generation and customer retention. Sales people who are hunters, dropping off the saber-tooth tiger of a contract to the techies and then trotting back out to land their next big prey, are missing out on important, collaborative exchange.
Revenue generation involves a lot of consistent heavy lifting by everyone involved. How much time and commitment do you put into mastering your expertise in your field? How much time do you spend learning about the other disciplines so that you bring more and more to your organization’s table?
Even if you do the right things the right way, there’s no guarantee that the market won’t bottom out, your customer will disappear when you think they are ready to sign the contract. And who else to be your extra set of eyes and ears than your very important technical colleagues, who are having all those conversations with your customers’ and prospects’ internal departments. Your technical colleagues may be privy into information that can lead to a bigger contract or prevent your current campaign from derailing.
There is no room for a siloed approach to potential collaboration between the sales and marketing functions and the engineering and design functions of a company. Dinosaur approaches will go the way of, well, the dinosaurs.
Why not change up your approach to business development by seeking hybridized, win-win solutions, one at a time?
As unbelievable as it may seem, there were quite a few engineers who have crossed this conceptual abyss and become involved in marketing, sales and management. Do you work with some of them?
Some points to keep in mind as you reach out to your technical colleagues, to create your extra set of eyes and ears:
Collaborative relationships start at home. What are your companies’ respective areas of core competency? Build a sales and technical culture based on them. Again, if you have to.
- There’s no room in this economy for technical and engineering staff with an attitude. And the same holds true for sales professionals.
- There’s no room for rock star sales people who are enamored with their ability to win business by creating unrealistic customer expectations on price, timeline and deliverables. Make sure your engineers get to know you. Take them on sales calls. Both of you need to work on understanding the Voice of the Customer by listening to it, in real-time, and then discussing what you both heard.
- Nobody’s area of expertise is an insurance policy on their longevity with their organization. If the new economic paradigm is about providing value to your organization, then you need to understand that anyone in your organization can become responsible for impacting business development. So build your internal team by collaborating with your technical colleagues.
- The future of engineering-intensive manufacturing may just be in the development of a workforce characterized by hybridized, interdisciplinary, technically-oriented business development experts. Whoever can learn to understand the dynamics of technical and sales processes – and communicate them internally and externally to customers -will have a leg up on the competition.
So where do you fit into this emerging picture?
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.