Think Like A Sales Engineer

Most people who are selling for your firm--a principal or a dedicated employee--are doing a decent job. Gone are the days, mostly, when selling was accomplished with slick sales talk and any persuasive means necessary to close the sale.

Having said that, we are still too eager to close new business and it shows up in our loss of leverage as we can't help but want it more than the prospect needs it.

This leads me to a suggestion: think like a sales engineer and not like a commissioned salesperson. You could even take it further and try complete honesty, as this video clip from a mobile home salesman demonstrates (h/t to Philip Morgan).

Here's what a sales engineer does: "Sales engineering is a hybrid of sales and engineering that exists in industrial and commercial markets. Buying decisions in these markets are made differently than those in many consumer contexts, being based more on technical information and rational analysis and less on style, fashion, or impulse" (Wikipedia).

A sales engineer is more concerned with fit than closing a sale. They know a firm's offering in detail (because they were consulted during product development) and they are talking from one engineer to another. They can spot bullshit a mile away, and they aren't going to risk their reputation because of some unmet sales goal. Most likely they'll have to support a sale, later, and don't want to be stuck fulfilling any bad promises that they made initially.

Really confident salespeople who think like sales engineers know these things:

  • That the positioning was fashioned to fit very specific prospects, and if this prospect isn't the right fit, there will be others that surface later.
  • That their firm may be a fit surrounding the service itself, but also around how that service is delivered. Process matters, and how you work won't change all that much, so make sure the new client is comfortable with it.
  • That the tighter your positioning, the more honest you can be, and the more honest you are, the more you can relax.

I read the promises you are making on your websites and I just give myself a dope slap, over and over. Your process isn't proven. You don't listen more than average, probably. You don't take a holistic approach unless there's an ample budget to work within.

If you aren't willing to close your business before you compromise on what sort of client to take, then you're feeding a machine.

I'm tickled pink when I see a firm:

  • Recommend a competitor from time to time.
  • Slow the sales process down to avoid any hidden gotchas down the road.
  • Stand their ground when those idiots in procurement get too full of themselves.
  • Close a great new client, on a strong foundation of competence, and then keep that client when the decision maker moves on to a new job. Twice.

If you have time, read this account of how Liston got started in his approach to sales, and then see where you can relax a little and emulate it yourself.

Sales engineers look for a fit. Salespeople look for a close.

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