“If I were given one hour to save the planet, I would spend 59 minutes defining the problem and one minute resolving it,” – Albert Einstein

 structural-engineer-720A perspective….

Engineer: I don’t think of myself as a salesperson, probably because my title says Engineer.  I don’t meet with a prospective account with the mindset that I’m supposed to sell something; I meet because I’m there to solve a problem and I’m interested in that.

Salesperson: I think of myself as a salesperson, after all, my business card says sales representative! I am also constantly reminded by my employer to ‘get out there and sell’ so I am clear what my responsibilities are – go get a deal!

Engineer: I listen to solve, as a matter of fact I like to listen, I enjoy it immensely.  Because I like to listen, I’m entirely focused on what the customer is saying and as a result, I find myself completely engaged with uncovering what the problem may be that this particular client is being challenged by.  My satisfaction comes from providing the appropriate solution and I can’t do that without considerable comprehension of what the client is struggling with. I want to solve.

Salesperson: I like to listen also, because it’s important for me to pay attention to what is being said so I can discover how I can make a sale.  I don’t have to be hit over the head with a long investigative conversation, I simply need to listen for what the problem is and then insert our company products as a solution and move to the close.  I want to sell.

The dialogue comparison above is not to say the scenario applies to all salespeople, there are many exceptional salespeople who are amazing trusted advisors that have earned the respect of their clients because they are great listeners.  So we’re talking more to those salespeople who haven’t made the step toward ‘engineer selling’ so to speak.

A true story:  Years ago, I was asked by a prospect to meet at his office because he was interested in the possibility of bringing the Soar program into his organization.  I wanted to close the opportunity so I did what most salespeople do, I prepared heavily by getting all our companies materials together so as to impress the prospect.  I had everything packaged in excellence and like a student who knew all the answers and I was excited to present our opportunities.  Upon arriving at the clients company, I was directed to a small office to await the prospect.  As I said, I was anxious to present what I had prepared because I knew that once the prospect understood how amazing Soar was he would immediately want a program for his sales team.  When he arrived, he shook my hand and said; “ok, how do I sign up for Soar?”  I said, well, I can provide you with details about how Soar works, etc.  He said; “not necessary, I reviewed your website and have talked to your referrals so I am ready to go.”  He then said; “do you have something for me to sign… and I assume you will want a deposit check.”  I gave him the agreement to sign and he ordered a check to be brought to me that very moment.  He signed the check, shook my hand, introduced me to his key contact and said he was excited to bring Soar into his organization.  He then left and handed me off to his assistant.  THAT WAS IT!  I wasn’t with this guy for more than 10 minutes!  Although I walked out with the fastest sale I ever made, I left somewhat disappointed!  Once I made my way back to my car I called my partner and explained what happened and she said; “that’s great!”, I said; “I know its great, but he didn’t look at any of the material I had put together.”

You get the point don’t you?  I was just like the salesperson in the scenario above, I was simply thinking of MY presentation and how I wanted to reveal all my well prepared materials!  I certainly wasn’t operating like an engineer, but instead like a rookie sales guy concerned only about what I wanted to say! 

I learned a great deal about myself that day and because of that experience I now think more like an engineer when I engage with a prospect!  I really do want to do my best for our clients and provide answers only after I discover what’s important to them.  I have now become more investigative in my selling career and its paying off in more sales and long term relationships. Achieving this new ‘engineer selling’ approach to client interaction has required a complete shift in my thinking.  Here are 7 thoughts that may support your selling outcomes and lead you to engage more like the engineer.

1.     Place your client’s best interests in front of your own. I know you must have heard this before, but maybe it’s time to reconnect to the suggestion.  Realize that when your prospect win’s you win.  That’s really the way to make a sale for life. Prospect first, firm second and you third!

2.     Increase your detail listening.  By paying meticulous attention to every word your prospects say you change the game dramatically.  Seek to discover what your prospect wants and is challenged by and even though you may hear openings for an insert of your product, stay focused and bundle your Intel.  Once you feel you have a clear understanding of what the prospect wants to solve, repeat what you’ve heard so as to be certain you “get” the client.

3.     Understand that your prospects can tell the difference.  They have excellent radar and that radar detects a salesperson that is all about getting a deal vs. those with the best interests of the prospect.  It shows in your speed of delivery, your questions, your quick solutions, your body language and more – you become very transparent.

4.     Increase your product knowledge.  You can’t offer solutions if you have limited product knowledge.  Gaining a high level of product knowledge will be primarily up to you not just your organizations training department.  Your firm will provide product knowledge at the start, but to acquire the deeper knowledge necessary to be considered a trusted advisor will require you to become maniacal about learning

5.     Ground yourself.  Before you make that Soar telephone call or that personal f/f contact, remind yourself to listen and be patient like the engineer.  The more you uncover during your interaction with the prospect the better prepared you will be to offer an acceptable solution. 6.     Shift your questioning techniques.  Now that you understand the importance of ‘engineer listening’ you need to become aware of how to ask questions.  No one wants to be questioned like their on trial.  You’ll create a negative connection between you and your prospect if you ask repeated questions one after the other without a few segue-way words.  Here are a few phrases you can use to keep the conversation flowing positively:

a.     “Would you mind sharing….”
b.     “Can you tell me more about….”
c.     “May I ask how that has impacted you’re…..”
d.     “if you don’t mind, can you explain more about…..”

You don’t have to use these segue statements each time you ask a question, but you can intersperse them between standard questions.

7.     Reward your prospects when they ask you a question.  I have worked with two particular clients of Dialexis that have used the same technique or natural style when I have asked questions.  This is what they do and I really found it powerful.  Each time I would ask them a question they would say something like….”That’s a great question” or “Good question” or “Excellent point.”   I found this fascinating and I don’t think it was planned or used as a technique.  Both of these individuals are generous listeners and 100% focused on the client.  They simply reward a person when they ask a question!  I found that experience encouraging because it generated more interest on my part to ask questions.  I subliminally knew that when I asked a question, no matter how rudiment, I was going to be rewarded!

Action Step: Think like an engineer on your next call and when you experience a shift in your prospects connection with you please let me know.