Engineers make awful sales people

I had an interesting conversation today about the ability of engineers to be able to sell their services. As a one-woman band type consultant, I don’t have the luxury of a sales force that markets my wares in an enticing way.  I rely heavily on referrals and the fact that  I do a great job in software testing.

When I am asked for a quote, I like to base my estimates on value. What is the best value that I can provide at a reasonable price?  I think like an engineer.

However, I’m told that the best way to sell software testing is to focus on risk. How can you NOT afford to test?  I need to think like a sales person.

So, are engineers in general good analysts but bad sales people?

7 Comments

  1. Some engineers make great sales people… but not many. Focusing on risk is fine if you are selling a service the client is not sure they need. But once they know they need it you have to make sure you are first choice to provide that service in a competitive environment…

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  2. Its two different skills. Most people spend their time learning one or the other and don’t bother learning both.

    A engineer who is also a sales person would make a formidable force.

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  3. It’s probably a good idea to sell value rather than selling avoidance of risk. I personally would focus on increasing <a href=”http://watirmelon.wordpress.com/2008/06/17/automated-testing-and-saving-money/”quality and velocity.

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  4. I am in the same boat of sorts. Having a few independent projects that I needs sales for, I am finding it hard to define sales strategies and techniques, even though I know the software inside and out, it makes for a hard sell to potential clients because I am naturally a sales person. Figure I will pick up a Dummies book on sales and marketing and see if that helps.

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  5. You can easily tell whether or not an engineer will be immediately good at sales: just ask if they resent the fact that sales jobs are higher paid than engineering jobs. If they say yes then they do not understand why and, consequently, will not know what customers want to hear.

    Most engineers are not good at generic sales but many can retrain.

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  6. Anne,

    You touch upon a very interesting point – the mindsets required for selling and engineering are very different.

    As technologists – we are good at dealing with things we have full clarity on. E.g. A developer does very good when clear requirement specs are given.

    As sales profile – one has to be good at dealing with uncertainties. Sales is heavily dependent on situations that are outside one’s control (most of the times). Sales is more exploratory.

    Transition from engineering to sales is possible – and engineers who know how to sell stand maximum chance of success.

    As Tom Peters says: “Everyone lives by selling something” and hence having a basic knowhow on “how to sell” is very important for one’s success – even as a technologist.

    My 2 cents!

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  7. […] I doubt you would want some advice from an engineer. We are typically terrible at sales. Engineers make awful sales people | Maverick Tester It looks like Davo and others have given you some great advice that makes sense. Whatever you […]

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