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GUERRILLA SELLING TO ENGINEERS - How to Sell to Engineers So They Will Buy From You
By Mark S. A. Smith   Printer Friendly Version

Engineers, whether electrical, mechanical, civil, chemical, or other engineering discipline, seem to be difficult to sell to. This isn't true. It's just that most sales people overlook certain needs that engineers have, and sometimes do things, inadvertently, that kills the sale, and the relationship forever.

This discussion is based on personal direct observations (as a trained engineer and 12 years of experience selling to engineers) and related to two accepted psychographic sales models, the Mind Map discussed in Guerrilla Selling and the VALS study by Stanford Research Institute. Both of these models provide insight into how people communicate, are persuaded, and how they make decisions.

While people can operate out of more than one style and behavior mode, and not all engineers operate in these modes, this tends to identify the key buying mode for design engineers.

How Engineers Buy

The majority of active design engineers fall into a single set of psychographic categories. In the Mind Map model, engineers are primarily in the Authority mode.

Authorities tend to operate by the rules, and become duty-bound to do things the right way. I speculate that this is both because of their personality traits as well as from engineering training. Their cognitive priority is to control the situation, although they will relinquish control to those they respect. They tend to be more comfortable with data, numbers, and observable facts than they are with people. Sometimes they'll argue just for the fun of it!

They tend to dislike and distrust sales people, and are judgmental of them. Sometimes, they suffer from paralysis by analysis, requiring incredible amounts for data. Their voiced and unspoken question is, "What are the facts?"

They actually prefer to have detailed literature that they can use to support their position rather than having a sales person call, over whom they have little perceived control.

Although they may not be using standards, such as ASTM or IEEE standards, they prefer to have standards available, and will have very good and highly detailed reasons why, if they aren't using them.

In the VALS study, engineers tend to fall into the category of Societally Conscious (SC). SC's want to do the right thing, and will go to great lengths - in some cases do things that to others seems ridiculous - to do the right thing. Their greatest fear is being manipulated, and will reject forever anyone who they perceive as manipulating them. Once they perceive a sales person as manipulative, the relationship is over.

They don't particularly care what other people think about them as long as they have their rules and standards to back them up.

How to Sell to Engineers

Engineers prefer to have an authority set the rules, and then they can do the right thing. They prefer to use standards whenever possible. So, show prospects how the facts and industry experts identify your product as being the logical choice. Give them statistics to back it up.

Understand the engineer's centers of influence. Purchase decisions often comes from consulting with others, for example, experienced designers suggesting solutions. In some cases, the suggestions come from magazine articles outlining success of others. In other cases, it comes from a sales person showing that their device is the logical solution.

Establish and prove that what you sell is an industry standard. Do this with proof statements from satisfied customers; identify industry leaders who have standardized on the product, and key influencers who embrace your concept.

Write and publish articles that illustrate the product being used in target market segments. Establish the standard in their minds by regular mailings that show what you sell as an emerging or established standard. Keep in mind that standards are in the mind of the buyer, not necessarily in the industry.

Let them calculate the pay back for making the decision.

Show engineers how what you're offering fits into what they're doing now. Unless they are calling with an emergency, they are comfortable with their current procedures. Show them how they will be comfortable with the new procedure being offered.

If anything at all smacks of manipulation, eliminate it from the discussion. They prefer to draw their own conclusions, thank you.

Give engineers all the data they need to make a decision. Create detailed data sheets, operating notes, and application sheets. Offer a buyer's guide, identifying the steps that one should take to make a decision. Offer a decision tree structure. For maximum market impact, the data sheets must reflect the communications style of the reader, not of the marketing department. (For more information on this, see the book, Guerrilla Selling.)

Of course, given a choice, everyone wants to save money and time, and reduce headaches. So keep these factors in mind, too.


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