How to give engineers marketing, networking, sales skills

Engineers tend to think if they create the best product in the world, it will sell without marketing. However, in reality, better marketing frequently outsells the best product. This may be as frustrating as it is illogical, but its often true anyway.As a result, technically astute engineers that want to become entrepreneurs find they must learn to promote their products.

10/01/1998


Engineers tend to think if they create the best product in the world, it will sell without marketing. However, in reality, better marketing frequently outsells the best product. This may be as frustrating as it is illogical, but its often true anyway.

As a result, technically astute engineers that want to become entrepreneurs find they must learn to promote their products. This can be difficult because many view marketing and sales suspiciously as mysterious realms that don't follow the concrete progression of their technical fields. To help engineers understand and practice good marketing, the TransSynergy Group (Dallas, Tex.) translates basic sales and marketing methods into step-by-step, technologist-friendly techniques (see sidebar).

"Sales and marketing people don't traditionally want to deal with steps, and just want to know the bottom line. Unfortunately, they can't put on engineering hats as easily," says Donna Hegdahl, TransSynergy's president. "On the other hand, we've found that engineers can be excellent at sales and marketing once they learn the steps and how to talk to customers about overall product benefits."

Training and refining

Since the typical one-shot seminars usually aren't enough to foster real change, entrepreneurial engineers must also apply their new marketing abilities for several months before they can expect to see any results. They must test their sales and marketing skills, make mistakes, work on adjustments, and try again. "People try to use the advice given in one-time sessions, but it often doesn't work the first time, and so they give up," says Ms. Hegdahl. If one method isn't working, it must be refined and reapplied so it can have a better chance to succeed, she suggests.

Though engineers usually don't like to do it, Ms. Hegdahl says talking and networking is very important because about 50% of U.S. business occurs as a result of word-of-mouth contacts. For example, one TransSynergy client, Paragon Innovations (Richardson, Tex.), didn't find many prospects at its first chamber of commerce meeting. However, Paragon's technologists went back and met an insurer that has become a constant source of third-party referrals for its embedded systems out-sourcing services.

Besides the ability to follow step-by-step procedures, engineers' methodical determination, discipline, and logic are other traits that help when learning sales and marketing. "Successful sales and marketing is like a training for a marathon. The marketing program that wins is consistent and gets your name in front of people, but it can often take half a year to achieve results," says Ms. Hegdahl. Thus, prior to selling, entrepreneurial engineers may want to take six months to develop, refine, and distribute their product's and company's messages.

"Engineers need to make quick introductions and tell their story with a focus on how their product can help from their customers' perspective," she says. "Engineers should view their product as something that can help people, rather than as something just to be sold. Helping people solve manufacturing problems makes them heroes, instead of slick salespeople."

For more information about TransSynergy, visit www.controleng.com/info .


Author Information

Jim Montague, news editor, jmontague@cahners.com


Step-by-step marketing and sales

Much like the control engineer's eternal sense-decide-act mantra, marketing and sales experts also have a step-by-step procedure for accomplishing goals. TransSynergy advises:

Position (or re-position)—Determine where your product and company fit in the market. Highlight three most important competitive strengths so prospects don't have to search to find them. Positioning will begin to win over your target market, and pave the way for the entire marketing effort.

Tell—Think about the benefits sought by your target market, and then tell your story without hype and fluff in whatever medium (publications, etc.) is best at reaching that market. Spotlight positioning statements in your story, and use networking and PR as economical ways to spark sales.

Offer—Don't sit and wait. Get the word out on your product via mailings, trade shows, Internet venues, networking opportunities, and even quarterly newsletters sent to your marketing database.

Sell—Practice and use a few basic sales tools, which can turn entrepreneurs into successful salespeople. Also, understand that you're selling yourself and your product.

Retain—Though seeking new customers is crucial, keeping existing customers is even more important. Nurture current relationships.

Finally, once all these steps are completed, repeat the cycle until desired marketing and sales goals are achieved.

Source: The TransSynergy Group, Dallas, Tex., 1998.



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