This article discusses technical salespeople but has equal application to all salespeople with an orientation to product, specifications, features and benefits.
Historically, Application/System Engineers focus on pre-sale and/or post-sale functions, collaborating with sales, delivery or service. In some technology-heavy organizations, the role has served as a training ground for future salespeople. Yet, in the twenty years that I have been helping companies, there are only a few that have really invested in developing the selling ability of their engineers. Ironically, when companies hire salespeople, they typically overemphasize technical, industry and product knowledge.
Dave Kurlan has written extensively about how the sales landscape has changed since 2008. In Frank Belzer’s book, Sales Shift, he discusses how sales has been turned upside down by Inbound Marketing. Today, professional selling requires better skills, tactics and strategies than ever before. This means companies must invest in their Applications and System Engineers if they want to edge out the competition and thrive.
Ask yourself some questions: How comfortable are you bringing along a technical person on your sales calls? Do you worry about them talking too much? If you sell through channels, have you found it difficult to control the transactional sales approach demonstrated by most of your channel partners' salespeople?
Assuming that a technical person can naturally lower a technical prospect's resistance, and likely have greater credibility than a salesperson, why wouldn’t you leverage this dynamic?
You may be saying to yourself, “Of course, we train them. We are constantly investing in our technical people.” But, in which form of training is that investment? Technical people tend to have common Sales DNA challenges which include:
- They are averse to confrontation.
- They are overly-trusting. [Dennis Connelly's 2-minute video on this topic]
- It’s important for them to be right. [Dave Kurlan's 1-minute video on this topic]
- Detail is king. [ Frank Belzer's 1-minute video on this topic]
- They feel the need to correct people. [My 1-minute video on this topic]
- They are more focused on themselves.
- They lack good interpersonal skills.
Consider the impact that these characteristics have on the quality of a relationship. If technical people must help prospects discover and develop alternative solutions and personally compelling reasons for them to act as a sponsor, they need very good interpersonal skills and technical expertise.
They need to follow the company's customized sales process, understand the business problems facing their prospects, and be skilled at developing their part of the conversation. They must develop critical skills to discuss details, remain big picture, and avoid providing free consulting.
It’s common for technical people to pick things up quickly. Sales leadership may interpret this to mean that they require less sales coaching. Yet, everyone is affected by self-limiting beliefs. The challenge for technical people more often is how strongly held these self-beliefs are. Helping people see how they can think through a different lens takes time and repetition, which requires great coaching.
Consider the impact that your technical people have on a sale. Ask yourself whether your team sees sales as a noble, highly-skilled profession (Frank Belzer's 1-minute video on joint sales calls with technical salespeople). Do they see themselves as technical people who don’t need to develop their selling ability? What messages are you delivering about this? Would it be a good idea to challenge your own thinking?
I invite you to join me and a panel of sales experts for an impactful, one-hour webinar discussing the architecture of the sales force and more on February 5: "Leading Your Ideal Sales Force - Part 1" at 11:00AM Eastern Time.