When you think of a salesperson, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Is it an introverted, detail oriented, thoughtful individual like an engineer? Probably not. The biggest myth in sales is that the best salespeople are the best talkers. Great selling requires more than just talking. That’s why engineers can make the best salespeople.
Engineers are thoughtful.
Engineers are used to solving problems. To solve a problem you have to think before you act. Selling is just like problem solving. The challenge is to figure out how your product or service can solve a problem or improve a customer’s business. With thoughtful planning you can prepare for a sales call. When you learn about your customer’s business before the sales call you can avoid some of the pitfalls of selling.
Planning includes thinking about what will be the likely needs of a prospect. This means you’ll be asking specific questions that guide your customer to an understanding that there is a problem or need that your product or service can address. Randomly asking any questions without thought of their suitability to your customer’s business makes it less likely that you’ll find a match. In sales you’re looking for a match between your products and services and your customers’ needs. When you think before you act, you increase your probability of sales success. Some people believe selling is easy and thinking is optional. They’re probably not in sales.
Engineers are great listeners.
The best salespeople are the best listeners. They hear what their customers truly mean and what they need. They pay attention to subtle nonverbal communication which is so important in all communication. It’s especially important in selling. A salesperson who listens well can see whether a customer is interested or not by watching body position. It’s a sign of interest when a customer leans forward and asks the salesperson questions. A poor listener would miss the clues.
Engineers as a group are introverts. Introverts are better listeners. When they sell, they are listening instead of talking. They are able to gather more information needed to sell. Selling is learning about a customer. Your job is to understand where there are needs that you can fill. You learn by listening. If you’re doing most of the talking you miss the opportunity to learn about your customer.
Engineers understand process.
Engineers work processes. They know that a process is just a series of steps and all work is a process. They understand that sales is a process and it starts with the customer’s needs and ends with the salesperson meeting those needs. Some salespeople misunderstand the process and begin by focusing on their need to sell. Their results are less successful.
Being successful in the sales process requires going through the steps in a systematic way. It’s very unusual for a customer to want to buy before you have discovered his needs. It’s less successful for a salesperson to present a solution and try to sell a product before a customer understands there is a need. An engineer respects process order and is able to reliably repeat the process. In sales, repetition is essential.
So if engineers can make the best salespeople, why aren’t there more engineers in sales? Ask a group of engineers what they thing selling is. They think selling is just talking with little technical skill involved. Someone needs to tell them that is a description of poor selling. Great selling involves people who are technical, thoughtful and focused. Looks like engineers are perfect for the job.
Maura Schreier-Fleming is President of Best@Selling (www. BestatSelling.com). She works with business and sales professionals on skills and strategies that shorten their sales cycle and increase sales.