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Why Recruiting Good Sales Engineers is Hard

Good sales engineers are not easy to recruit because the two principal requirements conflict. You need people with enough technical knowledge to be able to comprehend, work on and describe the intricacies of the product or service; they also must have the ability to sell. Most engineers don't - Google "engineers can't sell" to see what the world thinks on this topic.

Clearly it's not because they lack the intelligence, more the reverse, they think that (a) sales has nothing to do with engineering, (b) salespeople belong to a lower caste than engineers, (c) they think that they are not cut out to perform the sales role even if they wanted to (which they don't - I refer you to Dilbert, by Scott Adams).

The reasons continue in that techie company management often consists predominantly of engineers, scientists, inventors - you are very unlikely to find a team of hard-nosed closers who are interested above all in how much this month's / year's figures have increased over the previous period. The other side of this is that we wouldn't have dramatic progress in all matters scientific and technical if it were salesmen at the head of such companies. Like it or not, both abilities are needed for techie organisations to grow strongly.

Perhaps you don't want to see rapid expansion, your passion is the science; that's ok - your choice. But let's consider what would be necessary should you want to become a major player in your field.

If you are lucky or exceptionally prescient, perhaps you really have created a 'better mousetrap" and  the path to your door is becoming very well trodden - meaning - some innovations do have such self-evident advantages that the media and mouth-to-mouth publicity does all the marketing you need. Raspberry Pi, the cheap, simple but adequate, computer being a current, prime example.

More commonly, you are likely to have competitors offering broadly similar products or engineering services, and from the customer's point of view, minor differences in specification, performance, delivery, reputation - and of course, price - are the considerations upon which they will base their choice of supplier.

Do you think that being able to demonstrate persuasively that your company has stronger plus points and satisfactory compensations for the weaker aspects might help you get the order? If so, you need someone suitable to be the interface between you, the creator / manufacturer / stockist / specialist and your potential clients. This is where the skilled sales engineer comes in. That person needs to make a persuasive case for the prospect to choose your company. He or she will have to demonstrate the appropriateness of your solution and resolve any difficulties or objections from the customer.

If you can hire a sales engineer with the right skills you'll see that the ratio of closed orders to sales enquiries improves significantly. Be wary of trying to convert a standard spec engineer into a salesperson though, the personality traits of sales people and engineers are quite different and there is only so much that training can do to change that.

I know this first hand, having run the Selling for Engineers seminars for almost 20 years now and seen that the qualities which make for a really good sales engineer are present in perhaps no more than one fifth of the individuals attending my seminar, although all are tasked in some way with a business development role. The training doesn't do any harm, of course and must increase commercial awareness, but for the top flight people, there is no substitute for the twin abilities of techie know-how combined with natural sales ability (mostly meaning a good level of interpersonal skills). It's rare and that's why good sales engineers are hard to find.

My book guides you through the best route to hiring a good technical salesman.

About How to Hire a Good Technical Salesman


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