It takes a tremendous amount of time and skill to be the first person called about a problem. Below are five tips that helped me become more than just a Sales Engineer.
1. Know Your Stuff - Become a RESOURCE
If you know your products and services inside and out, great! You can go meet with engineers, be an awesome order taker, and repeat the same spiel like a broken record. Now, you know your competitors products TOO! You are starting to become dangerous now because you understand the landscape of available products and can competitively sell. Finally, you understand the applications that your products are used in. YOU just became a resource to engineers as opposed to just another salesperson. This is the factor that separates the amateurs from the pros!
2. Only Sell What They Need
A lot of salespeople only want to talk about the features and benefits of their products--basic value selling using the features to explain how your product can benefit the engineer. This is all well and good assuming that the engineer has a need for that particular product.
Before you start talking about your product, ask the engineer a ton of questions about his application and the problem he is trying to solve. If you have a product that is THE BEST solution to his problem, tell him about this product and why it is the best thing since sliced bread. If you have a potential solution or a product that might work, tell him you have A solution but it might not be the best. If you try to sell something that is either over-engineered or a work around to his problem, the engineer will eventually find out. In this case, the rapport that you worked so hard to build becomes non-existent. Trust is gone.
3. Then Sell Them What They Already Use
If you have long-term rapport with an engineer who sees you as a resource, a good way to grow your business is simply to sell him more stuff. This is almost always cheaper than finding a new customer. Educate yourself on new product lines and then educate the engineer. Explain how these new products and services can be used to solve problems that you think (or sometimes know) he's facing.
4. Uh Oh... You Don't Sell What They Need
Nothing makes an engineer more angry than having to call new suppliers on the phone. She is constantly bombarded with people trying to sell her products that don't meet her immediate problem at hand. So, if an engineer tells you about her project and then you realize that you don't have the product or service she needs, but your colleague does, make an introduction. Then you become a resource in the engineer's mind. She'll ask you about other projects, and you will be able to help with those.
5. Under Promise & Over Deliver
Exceed the engineer's expectations. Make it easy to quickly get cost-competitive quotes and deliver ahead of time. A classic problem that salespeople run into is mis-communication between their company about lead times, availability, and cost. This creates angry engineers and buyers. Always, under-promise and over-deliver. It is all about managing the expectations that you set for your customers.
The more you promise, the harder you work. This leads to the "hurry up and wait..................................................." scenario. It can be tough to say no, but you will be happy in the long run if you say no when an Engineer says that he needs 100 prototypes of Widget XYZ first thing tomorrow. Your customers will come to respect your honesty.
What tips do you have for Industrial Suppliers working with Engineers?