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