I didn’t go to university to work my *!#@ off to get my degree in Electrical and Computer Systems Engineering to become a salesman! I poured scorn on sales engineer positions. Sorry, Sales Engineering wasn't offered at Monash, so how dare you even use the term. I didn’t want to be seen as someone who pushed products on others; that’s not engineering! To me there was something unsavoury about selling, and to be honest, I thought it was beneath me.
“I don’t sell, I’m an engineer!”
And now, many years later, I take calls from my professional services clients that often begin with “Can you train engineers/consultants/lawyers to sell? But please don’t call it sales training because we don’t sell here, and no one will turn up.”
Why is this? Why is there so much negativity around selling? After all, we’ve been bartering and trading goods and services since 8000BC, having decided there was more to life than hunting and gathering.
There are, I’m sure, a multitude of reasons for this. At the risk of over-simplifying however, many of us who come from technical or analytical backgrounds have never been shown how to sell. We haven’t been exposed to the art and science of sales (yes, it’s both…). We don’t care to learn about it because we don’t like it or, perhaps more accurately, we don’t like the idea of it. And that’s often because of the beliefs we have formed; the truths we have assumed.
Beliefs are formed in many ways but perhaps our dislike of selling stems back to the “snake oil salesmen” of the 1800s in America’s West. They introduced the high pressure, hard selling techniques, often associated with dubious products, to line their pockets. Now, we all have stories to tell of how we’ve been pressured to buy things we don’t need, or we’ve paid too much for and ended up with a lemon.
No one likes the feeling of being sold to. At best it’s completely transactional, and at worst it’s manipulation, screaming self-interest and leaving customers feeling used.
If you want to grow your business, if you want to retain your clients and have a sustainable business, the answer is simple. Stop selling.
Instead, genuinely and authentically care about helping your clients’ businesses to succeed. Seek to understand what they do, how they do it, why they do it. Analyse the information, diagnose potential areas for improvement, growth, savings, innovation etc and share your insights. Then help them to think outside the box and collaborate to develop solutions that work for them, rather than pushing a preconceived idea that works for you.
Now you’re not a salesperson, you’re a problem solver.
Oh, hang on, isn’t that what engineers/consultants/lawyers and other analytical professionals love to do?
And the even better news is that we already have the skills to do this – we just need to apply them in a different context, commercially, with a greater level of understanding of people rather than things.
If you want to win more business, stop selling. Start solving.