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18 comments

Do Engineers Make Good Salespeople?

Posted August 01, 2011 8:54 AM

For the past several years, high-tech industries have increasingly hired engineers with some industry experience as field sales people because of their technical background and ability to understand and solve a customer's underlying production problems. Do engineers make good sales people? Do they traditionally have the people skills necessary to seal the deal? What would be your advice to an engineer looking to switch to sales?

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#1

Re: Do Engineers Make Good Salespeople?

08/01/2011 11:54 AM

stereotyping saves time

The maps are great

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#2

Re: Do Engineers Make Good Salespeople?

08/01/2011 1:04 PM

Engineers CAN make good salespeople, but salespeople never rarely make good Engineers.

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#5
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Re: Do Engineers Make Good Salespeople?

08/01/2011 11:31 PM

Salespeople usually have boundless confidence in their own ability, so all problems are invariably "easy", costs are always "low" and timing is always "achievable".

All they need then are some technical skills and they'd make great engineers. Unfortunately, once they know what they're talking about things stop being easy, low and achievable.

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#15
In reply to #5

Re: Do Engineers Make Good Salespeople?

08/02/2011 10:57 AM

By that logic ffei, then all engineers are anti-social nerds incapable of communicating thus making poor salespersons. As both an Engineer and successful Salesperson and Sales Manager I can say that Salespersons are not born they are created out of a combination of determination and experience. There is no common thread other than those two variables. I think it is easier to teach a non-engineer enough technical information to keep himself out of trouble in a business transaction than it is to teach an anti social or un-social technical expert on the subtleties of human interaction required to pull off successful business deals. The greatest skill a Salesperson can master is to know when to shut up. That can sometimes be more difficult for us Engineers that those born communicators.

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#18
In reply to #15

Re: Do Engineers Make Good Salespeople?

08/02/2011 6:47 PM

I don't think that "logic" applies at all, I was talking about salespeople.

However, I suspect that good technical engineers have a side that enjoys cutting themselves off from humanity while they solve challenging problems.

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#3

Re: Do Engineers Make Good Salespeople?

08/01/2011 11:14 PM

All my career, i helped sales people sell my company's products, especially the new ones i and my team designed. i always gave honest advice to the customer. i did not always go by 'the customer is always right'...after all, i am the expert in my area, and the customer must respect me for telling him the truth, even if it goes against his ideas. What is more, i even recommended a competitor's product in preference to my own, when i felt it served his application better. Invariably, such instances, rare as they were, scored big with the customers who paid me back by shifting their major orders to my company. Honesty does pay.

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#4

Re: Do Engineers Make Good Salespeople?

08/01/2011 11:27 PM

Some do, and some don't.

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#6

Re: Do Engineers Make Good Salespeople?

08/02/2011 12:38 AM

I've known 3 men in my life who were successful salesmen. From my viewpoint the measure of their success was their happiness with their work and their financial success. They had a couple of common characteristics. They truly enjoyed people and building relationships. And their trustworthiness was impeccable.

One was a quiet but friendly electrical engineer who built one of the biggest accounts in a High tech US industry. The other two were college and high school dropouts respectively. The former worked in a world where technology was of little importance and was his company's top salesman (out of 200) in his best year before the company fell on hard times. The latter worked in an industry where the technology was cutting edge for its time and he learned it all from his early teen years as an apprentice to a career capstone as VP of Sales for a medium sized US corporation.

A minority of engineers have the personal skills to be good at sales. If an engineer wants to go into sales and be financially successful a good deal of self assessment is needed. This starts with understanding whether people or things are more important and satisfying in your life. If you ever dread having to meet and interact with people and would rather be left alone to work on your project then that is a warning signal to steer away from sales. If you have trouble with meeting commitments that is another signal. So is a high focus on personal success and objectives, that winning isn't everything, it's the only thing in your relationships.

Still interested in sales? Then aim for a business where your technical skills and knowledge are applicable and get to know everything you can about the problems, both technical and business, that the customers live with. Then get ready to solve those problems. Remember it's about your customers, not your commissions. And, by the way, learn how to negotiate and how contract law works.

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#8
In reply to #6

Re: Do Engineers Make Good Salespeople?

08/02/2011 1:10 AM

Excellent analysis and advice, GA.

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#7

Re: Do Engineers Make Good Salespeople?

08/02/2011 1:08 AM

Sales/Marketing department is the core department in any business. If the sales people cannot sell the company's product as per the projected target the company becomes gradually sick. Engineers can always be a good sales engineers particularly to sell sophisticated equipment as they can only explain to the ordinary customer the technical ingredients of the product. Many times a good engineer cannot be a good sales engineer.

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#9

Re: Do Engineers Make Good Salespeople?

08/02/2011 1:11 AM

For preparing quotations for engineering goods(mechanical,civil,electrical,you name it) and to go and meet clients with catalogues,to explain the performance of equipment, after sales service,to answer queries on technical aspects etc engineers are the best.

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#12
In reply to #9

Re: Do Engineers Make Good Salespeople?

08/02/2011 8:11 AM

"For preparing quotations for engineering goods(mechanical,civil,electrical,you name it) and to go and meet clients with catalogues,to explain the performance of equipment, after sales service,to answer queries on technical aspects etc engineers are the best."

This is not what sales is about. Sales success is when a potential customer agrees to invest his valuable time to do those things you suggest. Identifying those customers has to be done religiously, each day, in order to be a good producer. It is precisely this devotion to the process that makes it difficult for most people to be good at sales. Constant rejection can be depressing. I have known several highly accomplished engineers who were outstanding sales people. There is a difference between account rep and sales rep.

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#14
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Re: Do Engineers Make Good Salespeople?

08/02/2011 10:24 AM

Engineering sales is different from selling other types of goods. Without engineering knowledge most of the times it is impossible.

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#10

Re: Do Engineers Make Good Salespeople?

08/02/2011 3:00 AM

It depends entirely on your definition of 'good'. Are you looking at short term sales figures or a longlasting trusted relationship with customers?
Oh I see, short term sales figures...then 'No'.
Del

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#11

Re: Do Engineers Make Good Salespeople?

08/02/2011 8:06 AM

It is possible for engineers to be good Sales People. There are many living examples. In case of high tech products only engineer can sell the product as he has in depth knowledge of the product. MBA qualified graduate can not present his high tech product if he does not posses intricate knowledge of the product. Such person should be engineer with good oral and written communication skills, presentable personality, polite etc.

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#13

Re: Do Engineers Make Good Salespeople?

08/02/2011 8:40 AM

Lots of good thoughts here, but one critical aspect of sales is missing in the discussion; Closing the sale.

Most engineer types are excellent at addressing questions and objections, but don't really have a clue about actually asking for the sale. This is what "salesmen" inherently know, or are trained, how to do.

I'm a techie type and I learned sales techniques but as an introvert it is not something that comes naturally. For example, I love selling but I detest prospecting/cold calling.

All that said, selling can be learned by engineers and engineering can be learned by salesmen, but is learning both detrimental to either one? Can an introvert personality move into the extrovert arena, or vice versa? Yes, no, possibly. Depends on the individual. Sales psychology is a field in itself.

I worked in my favorite sales model when I was in the CAD/CAM industry. We generally had a 2 person team; the salesman and the technical expert. I was usually more successful (and more comfortable) as the techie, and less successful (and less comfortable) when I moved into the sales person role.

Hooker

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#16

Re: Do Engineers Make Good Salespeople?

08/02/2011 2:14 PM

You be the judge. Watch these videos......

VFD Cable

Energy Savings

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#17
In reply to #16

Re: Do Engineers Make Good Salespeople?

08/02/2011 2:48 PM

Well, in a couple of places I've worked, those would've been called marketing or marketing training videos, produced to be used by sales, support and/or training personnel.

The guys in the video aren't asking anyone to buy the products so I wouldn't consider them "salesmen" in this context.

Hooker

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Users who posted comments:

34point5 (1); askjoet (1); Del the cat (1); Ed Weldon (1); ffej (2); Hooker (2); kvsridhar (2); mrswamy (1); PFR (1); pnaban (2); RVZ717 (1); suresh sharma (1); wagado (1); WoodwardDL (1)

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