Before I start to speak about Sales and Marketing, I would like to clear things up right away, this is still a blog about FEA simulation… ;-)
I got a lot of feedback from readers that other more diversified topics including aspects related to Engineer Career was useful, so I decided to share from time to Time insights about some of the topics I have been involved into. After all, If this kind of insights can benefit you to get a wider view, why not sharing and writing about it?
Ok, Let’s start now about the topic of today: “Should you be learning Sales and Marketing as an Engineer?”
As usual, the first level answer is “It depends” ;-)
To answer this question, I think I need to reformulate a bit this question and break it down into 2 parts:
What are the benefits to learn Sales and Marketing (1) and is it the kind of benefit that can add something to an engineer’s job or life (2)…?
Let’s talk about both of those aspects:
What are the Benefits to Learn Sales and Marketing?
Let’s clear up some misconceptions first:
Marketing and Sales tends to be activities seen as sleazy by technical people who tends to think that the purpose of sales and marketing is to “force people” to buy some stuff.
To that I answer: In every professions, you will find good people and bad people and I would even dare to say that the proportion is more like 80% Bad and 20% Good… so we tend to encounter bad people and think that they are the norm… this is just not true.
Thus, Good Marketing is NOT the practice of shoving advertisement everywhere you can and Good Sales is NOT the practice to force people to buy products that they don’t need. This is all bad practice and the reality is not like that.
So… What is Sales and what is Marketing? And what’s the difference by the way?
Here’s a simple definition from Jay Abraham of Marketing that I find very enlightening:
Marketing is all about educating the marketplace that your business can solve problems, fill voids, or achieve opportunities and goals the way no other business can.
These are problems, voids, opportunities and goals that consumers and prospects may not have been able to verbalize before, making it all the more important that you can.Jay Abraham, The sticking point Solution: 9 ways to move your business from stagnation to stunning growth in tough economic times.
Jay Abraham is one of the best thought leader you can follow on the topic of Marketing. I recommend you to watch his video about the strategy of preeminence on Youtube if you have time (It’s well worth it, I watched it at least 10 times)
(Yeah, the video might look a bit old, but Jay has been teaching that for 50+ years and it still applies everywhere)
Now that I presented you what is Marketing…
Let’s talk about Sales!
My understanding of Sales is that it is the action to understand the needs of a certain very special group of people that have a burning problem which can solved by the usage of a solution that you are in charge of delivering and the Salesman has the duty to create the best possible conditions to create a win-win exchange of value between the prospect and the seller.
Or more simply: The solution to a specific problem is exchanged for a certain amount of money!
By this definition, you understand that (1) If the client doesn’t have a problem, it is not a target for selling and (2) If your solution cannot solve the problem efficiently and satisfyingly enough, this prospect cannot become a client.
The problem of bad salesmen is that they often do not understand correctly the prospect’s problem and they do not understand the product they have enough either, which makes them embarrassed and they just try to sell it anyway (Hint: This is WRONG, never do that)
The difference between marketing and selling is subtle, but important… Marketing is more “wide range” than selling and also further away from the prospect. Marketing is looking at groups of people with various needs and wants, while Sales look at a specific group of individual with a concrete need for a solution.
If you compare it to Engineering, the Marketing would be the R&D Guy thinking about how to invent the technology that would be used 10 years later, while the Salesman would be the Design Engineer trying to implement the actual available technology into the product.
The benefits I found in learning about Marketing are the following:
- Good Marketers are practical people skilled in analyzing people’s needs both at the Macro (The market) and Micro (The people) level.
- Marketing teaches about how to performs good surveys and how to understand the underlying pains of a group of people.
- Marketing also teaches about communicating in a good and respectful way to get your voice heard and how to bring people’s attention to a specific subject.
- Marketing teaches how to influence ethically the people around a certain topic and how to raise its importance
The benefits of learning Sales are the following:
- Good Salesmen are always good listeners, because listening to people is essential to understand the problem/pain to be solved by the product
- Good Salesmen are savvy people who know how to understand the real benefits of the product they are selling and how to convey that in the best possible way.
- This also translates into good oratory and presentation skills.
- Good Salesmen know how to dress appropriately and how to treat people respectfully.
- Good Salesmen are also problem solvers. There need is take care of their clients to make sure their problems are correctly addressed and that all the concerns are solved (This is a common point with engineers)
Here’s a great teacher to learn about Sales. In all the people I listened, I found out Brian Tracy was the best to explain how to do Sales:
All that to say that if you start to learn (seriously) Sales or Marketing (or both), you will also gain some of those skills.
Let’s now see the engineer standpoint and how those skills can be useful for engineers:
Will learning Sales/Marketing bring the kind of benefit that can add something to your engineering job or your life as an engineer ?
What do engineers do by the way?
Engineer is also a very large notion that includes a wide range of positions into a lot of different industries.
A R&D engineer in automotive won’t do the same thing as a Design Engineer in Semi-conductor manufacturing.
But very simply said… An engineer is someone who builds products or design systems.
The engineer is the person in the company who will look at the problem that the company is trying to address with its product, system or service and say: “Okay, how do we build that and make it work?”
Of course, I simplify a bit, but this is the main idea.
So, where’s the link between Engineering, Sales and Marketing?
Let’s think about what a company do.
For that, I am pulling off the 5 parts of every business from the personal MBA by Josh Kaufman:
A business is a repeatable process that:
1- Creates and delivers something of value…
2- That other people want or need…
3- At a price they’re willing to pay…
4- In a way that satisfies the customer’s needs and expectations…
5- So that the business brings in enough profit to make it worthwhile for the owners to continue operation.Kaufman, Josh. The Personal MBA: Master the Art of Business (p. 38). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
Engineering is the point (1) and strives to create and deliver something of value!
Marketing and Sales are the points (2), (3), (4) and possibly (5) however this would be more the role of gestion and accounting.
Do you see how all of this is interconnected?
You HAVE TO understand the want and the needs of the prospects to build a good product.
Very often, a cause of failure in companies is caused by the disconnection between engineering with other departments. Products are built because the company wants to build it and engineers who build the product are not knowledgeable enough about the client’s problems to build a product which is useful enough.
Another common source of problems is when a company builds a product as a copycat of another known competitor on the Market without even checking if that competitor has actual clients or market share…
Sometimes even, a great product is developed for a market which is already saturated with good products and their is no real demand for a new product (However good it is)
I would argue that this is one of the major reasons for engineers to learn about Sales and Marketing, or at least to learn to tolerate it.
People who have been the most influential in the last centuries in business are people who understand both engineering, sales and marketing (Think about Steve Jobs… classic example, but there are many others)
Engineers tends to be focus on what THEY think the users need while ignoring the real feedback from users.
Said simply… engineer like to build cool and trendy stuffs which are not necessarily something that users are asking for.
The side-effects of learning Sales and Marketing for an engineer
Up to now, I have been talking mainly about the direct effects of have a Marketing/Sales Experience or Knowledge on an engineering job…
But we need also to consider the (positive) side-effects!
What do I mean by that?
This is in fact true after you learn any kind of skill… you start to apply it in a different context and you see some impact that you never even imagined about.
For example, If you learn Sales as an Application Engineer, you might later on accept more senior roles as a Sales-Engineer.
Save this, because it’s important:
Companies need engineers who are more savvy than the average engineer in Sales to create a bridge between Sales and Engineering and do what the normal Salesman or the normal Engineer cannot do.
The main roles of a Sales Engineer generally includes:
- Preparing and performing pre-sales presentations over highly technical topics to prospects for company’s products or services
- Training pure Salesman to be more technical savvy and present the product for what it really do, making sure that the effort invested into prospects is going to qualified leads
- Preparing Marketing Documents, leaflets, presentations, etc…
- Doing Value rich Webinars which have an impact on lead generation
Sales Engineer Roles are much highly paid than pure engineering roles because they impact the bottom line of the company so much more also also because individuals which have both engineering and Sales skills are rare, coming back to what I said in this other blog article.
Want to read more about Sales and Marketing?
Check those articles:
- Get everything you want by asking the right questions
- Are you making the difference between benefits and features?
- Why you NEED to study Sales to be successful
Ok, I think that’s all I have for today… quite a lot to think about as always. No need to rush, learn slowly and this will all greatly benefit to you in the long run.
Now, if you like what I write, please share it with the persons you think might need it, you might change someones life ;-) (If that happens, let me know in the comments, right?)
Cyprien “becoming more than just an FEA engineer” Rusu
PS: Leave a comment if you read and this was useful, it motivates me too to know that at least someone read and benefited from that experience.