Traditionally, manufacturers have turned technical experts like engineers into sellers because of their in-depth product knowledge. But according to CSO Insights’ Sales Performance Report only 32% of manufacturing organizations believe they have a sales team that’s built to succeed. One reason? Manufacturing sales organizations often assume technical expertise is enough. When manufacturers identify engineers to move into sales roles, they must ensure they have a plan in place that trains and coaches these subject matter experts into high-performing sellers who create a stronger pipeline and turn opportunities into closed-won business.
Technical knowledge is just as important as ever, but in an industry facing increased competition, a growing number of buying influences and a longer sales cycle, there are additional skills necessary to be a successful seller. In CSO Insights’ recent World-Class Sales Practices Study, only 20% of manufacturing sales leaders reported that they assessed why their top performers win. Before hiring and onboarding engineer-turned-sellers, take the time to understand what works with your top sellers so you can better understand the sales DNA your new sellers need, build the right hiring profile and identify gaps where additional training can. By doing this, you’ll be able to enjoy these four competitive advantages.
1. They’ll Exceed Heightened Buyer Expectations
Buyer’s today want personalized messaging from experts revealing how solutions will address their pain points. In fact, 43% of buyers say that subject matter experts (SMEs) from the industry or third parties are a preferred resource for solving their business problems, according to CSO Insights’ 2018 Buyer Preferences Study. The study also found that buyers are more likely to turn to SMEs as a resource than to peers or previous experiences with a vendor.
Buyers want a seller who truly understands every aspect of their business and brings solutions for their challenges to each conversation. Engineers come into sales with the advantage of in-depth technical knowledge. By pairing that know-how with the ability to ask the right questions and demonstrate how a solution addresses all aspects of the buyer pain points, including reduced total cost of ownership, creating new revenue opportunities and meeting changing government regulations, SMEs can be unstoppable sellers.
2. They’ll Better Understand Technical Buying Influences
The modern manufacturing buyer has changed. In the past, sellers maintained relationships with one or two decision-makers, who agreed to handshake deals over a round of golf. Today, on average 6.4 buyers are involved in the process, and they often have different valid business reasons.
When meeting with sellers, buyers seek new insights they can’t find through an online search. They want an expert who can add value provide answers to all of their challenges. Therefore, sellers need to answer questions such as:
- How will your solution contribute to our long-term growth?
- How will your offering adapt as the industry and technology evolves? How will your solution address changing environmental standards or government regulations?
Engineers-turned-sellers likely understand these product-focused questions, allowing them to feel comfortable with the different buying influences. Because of their product knowledge, they also think about other situations that may have a direct impact on the sale such as how the quality of the product and strong customer experience can reduce the total cost of ownership. Sales leaders should evaluate these conversations to discover what works, and coach sellers on how to have these discussions, including specific messaging to use or pieces of content to share, to improve performance.
3. They’ll Embrace the Science of Selling
With an emphasis on methodology, data and analytics, sales has become more process-oriented and scientific in the past few years. This modern approach to selling appeals to the learning style of many engineers—even if they never considered a career in sales. Though they may initially lack an understanding of important selling techniques, such as how to use ask the right questions to secure a confirmation for the next meeting, there are replicable techniques and trainings based on years of research and analysis of current trends that can help them grow.
Learning a sales methodology is similar to the process of engineering. Sales consists of different stages, each with unique actions that lead to the next step. Consequently, implementing a consistent sales process aligned to the buyer’s journey is important for your engineer-turned-seller. The approach clarifies each stage, the buyer’s expectations and the requirements for moving an opportunity along the buyer’s journey.
Your CRM platform and other supporting technologies, such as Scout, can also help manage and provide insight into what techniques are working, and where a seller may need additional guidance. Investing in technological tools that reinforce your methodology also appeals to process- and efficiency-minded engineers.
And there’s benefits for sales leaders too: tools like Scout allow you to coach sellers on techniques to improve their performance, using data from their own efforts. It also reveals how sellers can lose fast so they can pursue other opportunities that are more likely to result in a win.
4. They’ll Sell with Perspective
As technological and marketplace trends continue to shift, manufacturing sellers will need to absorb and understand external factors that impact their customers and end-users—such as tariffs, material costs and geopolitical strife. Because of that, sellers need to be able to speak to these issues and explain how their offering can help their customers innovate and improve performance no matter what comes next. Sellers need to build stronger relationships with buyers, and need to be able to give them what they’re looking for: informed answers to the problems they experience—and that takes perspective.
Your sellers can leverage these relationships to potentially develop a coach as they turn their attention to other buyer personas, such as procurement and purchasing. Their internal coach could share important elements of the buying process, such as the decision-making style of executives or the specific pain points of each buying influence. With this information, your sellers can personalize their messaging to address the concerns of individual influences to provide expertise, insights and guidance beyond products and solutions.
As the buying process continues to evolve, manufacturing sellers must be a resource to buyers by sharing expertise that addresses the buyer’s long-term business needs. Engineers-turned-sellers can take their technological knowledge, aptitude for learning and use it as a competitive advantage to provide solutions and improve performance.
So, what comes next in your journey to recruit, train and retain engineers?
First, invest in data-driven selling assessments that accurately predict those with the selling DNA more effectively than the outdated practice of evaluating on gut-instinct. These selling assessments focus on the traits and personality characteristics found in successful sellers in your organization and will help you build a recruitment profile, as well as understand skills gaps in your existing sales force.
Second, make sure your entire sales team operates together with a common language and methodology. Discover how Strategic Selling with Perspective helps your manufacturing sales team put the right strategy in place so they can engage with buyers earlier in the sales cycle and use a repeatable, scalable sales process to drive more deals.