Engineering isn’t all about technical skills. Sales engineering skills are just as important for engineers to stay employed.
Because sales engineers sell physical and digital products to customers. This also includes selling services, like engineering consulting. So it’s safe to assume without sales, many engineers wouldn’t have jobs.
Here in this article, I’m going to go over the 10 best ways to level up your sales engineering skills. And even if you’re not in sales, I recommend you pay close attention. Because every engineer can leverage these skills in the following ways:
- Get angel or VC funding
- Find engineering business partnerships
- Discuss and convince your colleagues why your engineering solution is best
- Calmly explain a heated situation to your boss
- Reassure angered customers everything will be okay
- Convince a review agency to speed up the review process of your submittal
#1 Public speaking & confidence
All sales work revolves around public speaking. You need to be able to stand up in front of a group of strangers and confidently speak.
I know, easier said than done. But this is what makes this skill so powerful. I’d go as far as to say, public speaking is the fast-track way to gaining superhuman confidence.
Then not surprisingly, confidence is key to winning the trust of potential customers. Because if you’re not confident, people can sense it from a mile away. So, practice your public speaking, and then practice some more. I’ve even written 11 ways on how to improve public speaking skills for engineers.
#2 Read your audience
You need to be able to gauge your audience’s interest. For example, as you present, can you also answer the following questions:
- Does your audience seem confused?
- Is your audience becoming bored?
- How interested in a topic do your listeners look?
If you can answer these questions in real-time as you speak, you’ll be golden. Because you gain the ability to pivot your talk to keep your audience locked in. And this is critical!
You do NOT want to lose your audience’s attention, as you’ll have a heck of a time pulling them back in. This is why every talk is a dance with your audience to keep their attention.
Now, the best way to gauge your audience is by reading faces. Look at your listener’s body language too. Then, just as important, get your audience involved in your talk and see how they react. If you ask a question and receive dead silence, you need to hit the panic alarm.
In short, find ways on how to make a boring presentation engaging!
#3 Manage pressure & conquer stress
Sales work is far from easy. You’ll speak with strangers who’ve heard 10 similar pitches as yours in the past month. To be blunt, most people will give two shits about your speech.
Just think of the last time you stepped into Home Depot, and a sales rep tried to hook you to buy solar panels. You probably gave them the ‘get away from me!’ face.
Similarly, your listeners may also be in a hurry to get back to their day-to-day work. So, the last thing they want is to listen to you endlessly ramble. For this reason alone, they may come off as cold and standoffish. This naturally then amps up the pressure for you as the presenter.
If this wasn’t enough, you may have a sales quota to reach. Maybe you need to close X number of sales a month, otherwise, you’ll lose your job. So, your stress levels will skyrocket from all angles.
BUT, you can’t let your audience see your stress, or you’re a goner. No one wants to close a contract with someone who is fear-stricken. Especially since you’ll now probably describe your product in a doubtful manner. And this will make your product seem inferior and unworthy of the big bucks.
All in all, I find the best way to overcome pressure and stress is to practice presenting. Then practice some more. A lot of presentation stress comes from surprises. But once you’ve seen every audience type, nothing will surprise you.
And not to forget, calming your mind will greatly help as well. The best way I think is to humble yourself by looking at stars in the night sky. I find this to be an amazing hack to soothe a stressed-out mind.
#4 Ability to present alone and in a team environment
Some people present best alone. While others need to present in a team, so they have someone to lean on.
Regardless of your preference, you need to be able to present both ways. Because you never know the situation you’ll find yourself in as a presenter. Maybe your longtime sales partner all of a sudden has a family emergency. So now, you need to present solo.
Are you up for the task? Can you still present without your crutch, team member, by your side to “save you” when you slip? These are real questions you need to answer.
On the flip side, you need to be able to present with people who are your polar opposite. For example, maybe you’re not too talkative. But, management partners you with a loud Type A personality.
Now, you need to quickly adapt to your situation. This means presenting alongside your new loudmouth partner without looking like a side piece. I know, it’s not easy, but you need to learn to stand your ground.
To successfully pull this off, I go back to practice. You need to endlessly practice presenting solo and in teams. Also, learn about people in the real world and how they tick. Don’t limit your human communication to blue screens only.
#5 Sharpen your technical skills
If you don’t know your product, how can you ever convince someone to buy it? You can’t!
So put in the time to learn your product inside and out. Don’t leave any stone unturned. Because your entire sales presentation revolves around your product.
It’s like in sports. How will a coach lure superstar players to his team when he himself knows nothing about the game? He can’t!
Now, the best way to learn about a product is to brainstorm all the questions customers can ask. Then, find answers to these questions and do your best to learn the technical details. Don’t just try to memorize answers, otherwise, a curveball question will stump you.
#6 Product demonstration ability
In engineering presentations, you’ll probably bring along some versions of your products. Even if it’s a miniature version.
These products you bring are powerful since humans are visual creatures. But to successfully present your products, you need to be able to properly demo them. Again, we go back to the importance of understanding all parts of your product. Otherwise, you won’t know what you’re holding and you’ll look like a deer caught in the headlights.
Let’s now take a page from our favorite cringe-worthy commercials…sense the sarcasm here.
Remember those late-night infomercials on TV we all loathe? The ones where they try to sell you the latest awesome grease drain pan? These infomercials are still around in full swing because they work amazingly well. They spell out exactly what their product will do for viewers.
So, learn from these infomercials. See how they present and demo their products to TV audiences. Even if you only learn one small tidbit, you’ll come out ahead a winner!
#7 Don’t forget about questions and answers
Ask your audience questions. This is key to keeping them engaged. Questions are also helpful in seeing how well your listeners are following along.
I always find it best to have a list of questions stored in your mind. You can then tap into these questions, as necessary. But at the same time, you need to learn how to improvise on the spot.
In other words, if you see an audience member with a confused look, ask questions on their behalf. This may mean coming up with a tailored question right then and there.
At the same time, learn how to properly answer questions. Don’t give quick and short answers because you think the question was simple. To you, maybe it’s simple, but to others, your response will leave them scratching their heads. Because in most instances, your audience won’t have a technical background. So, YOU need to hold their hand and guide them as the expert.
#8 Research your audience
It’s important to research everything you possibly can about your potential customer. In other words, you need to know how to snoop around and learn all the details about your audience. This is one time when snooping is encouraged.
In your snooping, try to answer the following questions about your customer (company):
- What’s the core business?
- How have sales been trending recently and historically?
- Is business done both domestically and globally?
- What’s the employee count?
- How many years is the company been in business?
- What’s the demographic of the company’s customer base?
- What type of technology does the company currently use?
- What issues currently plague the company?
These questions will help you mold an awesome presentation around your customer’s needs. And this is a surefire way to increase your chances of closing a sale.
I’ve even given presentations, where the customer thought I was one of their employees. All because I had put in the time to research their company. So I find this to be one of the simplest sales engineering skills to learn. And this is why everyone should do it!
#9 Master fundamental sales skills
This is a no-brainer. You need to know how to close out a sale. Whether you’re selling a candy bar or a $1 million panelboard, the sales’ mechanics are the same.
In other words, you need to have good negotiation and persuasion skills. At the same time, you don’t want to come off as too pushy. So there’s a fine line you need to walk.
For example, a customer may think your product won’t help their bottom line. But YOUR job is to convince them otherwise. You need to be able to show why and how your product will benefit them.
Of course, with the caveat, you’re selling a legitimate product. A product you yourself believe wholeheartedly in. As Henry Ford once famously said about his introduction of cars into the market,
“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”
#10 Bring out your personality
Bring out your personality in presentations. Yes, I know, your product does all the selling for you. But, you’re still trying to close a deal with a human. Humans still innately rely on their lizard brains to make decisions. So if you come off as unfriendly or untrustworthy, you may lose a sale.
Also, let’s take it a step further and put the current sale aside. Your personality will help you create deep-found connections. These connections will later become super useful for you.
For example, in the future, you’ll have an open pipeline to pitch new products to a customer. This is a powerful lead!
Mastering sales engineering skills
Sales engineering isn’t easy. Far from it!
Not only do you need to have technical chops, but you also need people skills. And this unique combination of skills few engineers have. This is why it’s important you maximize each of the tips we went over. Especially as global competition increases. Then, you’ll stand out among your peers.
Even more, in most instances, you’re not selling a car everyone knows about. You’re selling something people may have never even heard of or seen before. So, you need to be able to quickly and effectively get your point across.
Overall, I think sales engineering skills are good for every engineer to have. At the end of the day, everything in life is a sale, whether you like it or not. So level yourself up, and make yourself a more awesome engineer.
Which of the sales engineering skills do you find to be the most important? Do you think engineering sales is more difficult or design work?
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Koosha started Engineer Calcs in 2020 to help people better understand the engineering and construction industry, and to discuss various science and engineering-related topics to make people think. He has been working in the engineering and tech industry in California for over 15 years now and is a licensed professional electrical engineer, and also has various entrepreneurial pursuits.
Koosha has an extensive background in the design and specification of electrical systems with areas of expertise including power generation, transmission, distribution, instrumentation and controls, and water distribution and pumping as well as alternative energy (wind, solar, geothermal, and storage).
Koosha is most interested in engineering innovations, the cosmos, our history and future, sports, and fitness.