You weren’t hired as a salesperson and yet here you are with a target for goodness sake. They didn’t tell you about this when you were taking your engineering degree. Sales ability wasn’t tested in the laboratory when you were analyzing spores through a microscope. The ‘sales mindset’ was probably furthest from your mind when you were sitting your accountancy exams.
And yet today everyone like you, remotely client-facing, is expected to have the ability to scope out new sales opportunities and contribute to revenue generation – it’s hardly fair. However, there is help at hand, and once you get to know what selling really is, you might become rather good at it and – take a deep breath – get to enjoy it.
The sales transformation of Yves the engineer
A very pleasant, softly spoken Frenchman, Yves, approached me recently at the end of a technical sales workshop I was giving in Paris. He smiled, shook my hand, and asked if I remembered him.
He had attended a 2 day consultative selling skills course I had given the previous year. I told him I did recall the special effort he had made and asked how the selling was coming along.
He told me that he was now selling better and more consistently than anyone else in the firm. He was rated No.1 in the office. This was a fabulous gift for me as trainer, as well as for him. Was this the same Yves, that typically modest engineer thrust into selling against his wishes? Back then things were not going too well for him, and his manager had sent him on my course to gain the skills, knowledge and mindset to succeed.
How did he become a good salesperson?
It had evidently worked, but how I asked – had he really changed? No, he said, as truthfully as ever. He still didn’t have the ‘gift of the gab’, but instead he was employing far more precious and natural qualities possessed by many technical, scientific and professional people.
He was diligently honing and practising his ability to listen and ask good questions.
These would draw out the client’s needs and encourage them to discuss how his firm might help them. That was it in a nutshell. No hard selling, no metamorphosis. Through effort and daily practise Yves had made the subtle transformation from engineer into someone that sells engineering services. And he was enjoying it!
What made him stand out on the sales training course?
Let’s wind back to that 2 day workshop. Yves stood out, amongst the 12 delegates on the course, not because he was gifted at selling, but rather he had a mindset for continuous improvement.
At the end of the first day I remarked on how hard he had tried in the sales exercises – asking good questions, showing genuine curiosity, listening to the customer, resisting the temptation to talk about his services until he had ‘earned the right’.
Yves sprung to his own defence, of course, highly analytical and critical of his weaknesses and lack of confidence. However, at the end of those 2 days he made a pledge to practise what he had learned, however uncomfortable it felt. For him it would probably feel like wearing his watch on the other wrist.
Sales for non sales people
Wind forward again and here he stood, shaking my hand, smiling, steady eye contact, standing tall with an easy confidence.
He thanked me for setting him on the road to successful selling. For him it had all begun on that 2 day course, when he saw the role of selling in a new way that made sense to him.
About the author of this article
This article was written by Ian, one of Skillstudio’s consultant trainers.
Ian is based in Kent and has designed and runs our in-company workshops:- Sales for Non-Sales People and Building High Performing Teams. He also runs our presentation and communication skills courses.
Ian has worked mainly in the financial markets for over 15 years in senior sales and marketing management positions for Thomson Reuters and Bloomberg, prior to a move into sales training and consultancy in 2003. “I am chiefly interested in helping people increase their skills, confidence and motivation around sales and personal impact. My skill is in getting others to understand where they are currently and where they need to focus to produce better, more consistent performance.”
Ian has a MA in Strategic Marketing Management and a BA in English and communication. He is a member of CIM and a qualified Insights practitioner for self and team development. He works as a trainer for companies internationally and in the UK, developing and delivering courses up to CEO level.
You can read more about Ian here.
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