Selling as an Engineer

By Joseph Lampinen

Although a lot of engineers do not like the idea of selling anything, the fact is that as an engineering professional, there are many settings and situations where you need to be persuasive.

Selling Products and Selling Ideas

In the field of engineering, selling can have multiple meanings. It can mean selling your own product or solution. It can also mean selling or consulting on the product your company makes. Since technical sales is an important occupational field, there are many sales engineers and application engineers — engineers who consult on how to best employ a product to achieve the desired goals.

Selling can also mean selling yourself and your ideas. In this sense, it refers to being persuasive so you can sell your ideas internally to peers, to your supervisor, to other departments in your organization, or to other stakeholders. In this sense, it is about possessing the ability to convey the benefits of your idea or suggestion for the organization.

Key Aspects of Being Persuasive

Regardless of what type of selling you are going to be engaging in, it is important to understand the key aspects of being persuasive. People who are accomplished at selling use their skills to find out what customers or stakeholders are trying to achieve and what their budget is. Then they present their solution in a way that demonstrates its value.

In short, you have to determine who the main decision maker is, identify the business problem and then establish the value of the solution. Establishing the value of the solution involves backing up your recommendation or suggestion with hard data — in other words, you have to present facts and figures that prove the value of your solution to help solve the other person’s business problem.

For instance, let us say you are a sales engineer and you are speaking to external customers about your company’s products. You would first find out what business problems they are looking to solve and then show them spec sheets and data about your own product to persuade them that it is the solution they are looking for. Or if you are an industrial engineer and you have created a fix that would streamline a specific workflow and save the organization time and money, you would collect all of your data and present it to your supervisor to convince him or her that it is a viable solution that will benefit the company.

Learn How to Be Persuasive

Further complicating the fact that most engineers are not natural sales people, learning how to sell is not normally addressed in engineering school. However, to be successful, all engineers need to gain a comfort level at selling or being persuasive. Fortunately, there are numerous books and courses available that teach you the basic skills of selling in a technical environment. I would encourage you to participate in some form of sales training, because although your technical abilities are tantamount for your career, your skills of persuasion play a critical role in your ability to position yourself and your products or ideas in a manner that gains traction with decision makers.