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3 Strategies to Expand Sales through Your Technical Talent

By Susan Hall

In this podcast episode find out how to utilize your technical talent to expand business opportunities using three strategies - Skills, Will and Fit.

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Susan Hall: 00:01  Hi everyone. Welcome to Strategic Insights, sponsored by Strategic Enhancement Group. I'm Susan Hall, Vice President of Performance Improvement and Business Development. Today I am joined by Tim Deuitch, who is one of our Senior Consultants. Hi Tim.

Tim Deuitch: 00:02  Hi.

Susan Hall: 00:21  Good to have you here.

Tim Deuitch: 00:24  Thanks, great to be.

Susan Hall: 00:26  Tim, I'm excited about our topic today, because I think it's a prevalent one and it's a tough one. So many of the organizations we work with are in a highly technical or scientific industry such as pharmaceutical or chemical. They hire engineers, they hire scientists, and yet they are more and more realizing that they are missing an opportunity by not helping their engineers and scientists, for lack of a better term, sell. While that may be considered a dirty word in those industries, these are individuals who are onsite at the customer location, have a ton of credibility, have a lot of product and technical knowledge, and are at a great place to look for opportunities to bring value. A question that I am getting is how do we teach our engineers, our scientists to expand business opportunities? Is that something that you're running into?

Tim Deuitch: 01:36  Yes, in fact, I have two clients in particular that hired us because they wanted and needed to have their technical workforce, their scientists actually, they needed to have them to be more personable because they made two decisions. They decided they're going to be part of the sales cycle or the sales process. Now that they are, they wanted and needed them to come out a little bit, for a while, come out of their lab coat, so to speak, and be in a situation where they can ask open-ended questions of a customer, to be in a problem-solving mode that involves the textures around human communication as opposed to a chemistry project.

Susan Hall: 02:34  Right. It's a tricky one because these individuals most likely were not hired to sell. They were hired with their lab coats, they went to school for whatever their technical degree was. In many cases, if they're being asked to do something completely different there can be a resistance to that. The first thing that I talk with my clients about is, there are three things that have to be in place for this to work. One is, they have to have the skill to identify and look for opportunities, and quite frankly, that's the easier part, but they have to have the will. In any kind of technically oriented organization, it's not just about the edict coming down from on high that "Yes, now you will be in charge of a number." There has to be a quite an effective communication strategy, engagement strategy to make sure that folks are on board and the reality is a certain number of them may not ever be on board.

Tim Deuitch: 02:34  Right, that's true, and I think I stopped you after two.

Here's one thing that I think is important for people to recognize. Sometimes when you enter this moment where you're trying to train people with a technical background, there's this belief that they're not trainable and my experience is completely the opposite. My experience is that people who are charged with the role of being in an interpersonal sales progression is that they're actually hungry to improve those skill sets. Yes, they may even take a scientific look at it, a sort of, "What's the basis and what's the credibility behind this approach you're teaching me?" But, I found them to actually be pretty hungry people.

Susan Hall: 04:47  These are also very smart, capable people as well. You use the word problem solver and I want to come back to that because they are natural problem solvers. So I think if you can harness that, and that's what I mean by those three things coming back to it, because I want you to be able to sleep tonight Tim, knowing what the third issue is. They need to have the skill, they need to have the will, and there needs to be a fit culturally. So if the organization can set it up to engage them, reinforce reward the right behavior, that's what we mean by fit, you can leverage their natural problem-solving ability, they become a consultant and most of these folks are excellent at that anyway.

I think, and this is a whole different podcast, sometimes the challenge with the word "sales" is that, unfortunately, all of us have had an experience with "that salesperson" who leads with their own agenda and to sell something which may not be the best thing for the customer, which is of course, the opposite of everything that we're advocating. If you can show them that selling, that consulting is about understanding what that customer's issues are, how to make their lives, how to make their rules easier, how to bring value. Then you're in a position to really contribute to make a difference.

Tim Deuitch: 06:27  There is one other dynamic that I think we get to and I don't know if you'd call it the fourth or maybe we just are inside that third because you use the word culture. The other value that I've seen in working hard at bringing the technical player into the equation is that it actually helps culturally because here's the dynamic that can often take place. The sales person may tell themselves, "It doesn't matter what I learn, in terms of the needs of the customer. If we don't have the right chemistry, the right solution, we don't get the sale." In other words, they reduce it, the sale is commensurate with do we deliver the type of chemical ingredient or what have you that they need? Period. Right? And sometimes what happens is the salesperson simply stops discovering, they learn, "Ok, you need X solution, I'll go back and see if we can get it." Often, the technical person needs more information in order to be able to answer the question, "Can we deliver this?" So there's sometimes, long-short, sometimes there's this tension between sales and the technical side, because neither may be coming forward with enough information to bring the right solution to the customer. It's been my experience that when you bring greater skills into the technical side, you actually help the whole to get along better to present the right solution to the customer. It's a win-win.

Susan Hall: 08:12  Well definitely and it's not just about the product, right? It's not just about the system. It's what it does for the customer and I think that's where all of those good consulting and discovery skills come in. It's not just how this system or this drug or this process is going to meet your specs, but it's how it's going to advance your business, how it's going to advance you and your role. That I think, is where all of those consultative selling skills come in. Another best practice that I've noted is that with these types of audiences especially, it cannot be theoretical. Any kind of development has to be grounded in their reality. It has to be logical, it has to be relevant, a specific framework of skills so that they can see how this fits into their regular dialogs with their customers.

Tim Deuitch: 09:23  Absolutely. Doesn't that get to the heart of what I think was number one of yours, which was don't get caught up in the jargon that this is a sales process. It's a solution process and I think that sort of embraces the technological components of that. The hard science components of what are the behaviors that are grounded in decades of experience and how do we bring those in towards forming a solution on behalf of the customer. It could help in fact to take the word sales out of the entire equation to help someone with a technical background feel comfortable.

Susan Hall: 10:07  I think it can, especially if they're going to be met with resistance because they weren't hired to sell. Unless there really and truly is a culture of sales equals consulting, sales equals problem-solving, bringing value. That's understood in the organization but that's something that gets back to the fit again and the culture of an organization needs to determine. The last thing that I might add is we talked about skill, we talked a little bit about will, we're talking about fit and culture, but it's important to review your selection of compensation practices as well, so that if the organization is now asking their scientists, their technical professionals to consult, to sell, then review your hiring practices. Are you hiring for that or are you hiring for an individual who would be open to learning how to do that and are you're compensating them appropriately as well, are you rewarding them? So that ultimately, you're hiring, you're developing, you're rewarding, the kind of really well rounded technical professional, but also consultative professional who's going to advance not only their organization's business but also their customers as well.

Tim Deuitch: 11:43  Agreed, right. Like as we use within our basic foundational sales methodology, we use a bicycle. The back wheel is the technical expertise, the products that an organization brings forward and the front wheel of a bicycle is the interpersonal skills. I think in the hiring process to have as much discernment as possible while you hire that technical expertise to be able to discern, does this person want to bring on perhaps some interpersonal skills, some growth potentially, that they hadn't had before. This is a really important piece of the hiring.

Susan Hall: 12:17  I love that analogy. To wrap up our conversation here today Tim, we've talked a little bit about some of the challenges and opportunities with technical organizations who hire really smart, creative, technically proficient engineers, scientists who now want them to expand business opportunities for growth. There are three components that they need to be looking at. One is that individual skill, one is their will to take on these new responsibilities, and then third, is organizational cultural fit and part of that is are we hiring them, are we compensating them appropriately? But ultimately, these are smart, problem-solving, creative individuals and if you can reframe what consulting means and engage them in the process, you've got some dynamite employees in your organization that can really, really help differentiate you in the market.

Tim Deuitch: 12:17  Excellent summary, I will sleep well tonight Susan, thank you.

Susan Hall: 13:35  That's what this is all about Tim. Well thanks, everyone for joining us today and as always if you have any questions, or more importantly, you've got some thoughts that you want to add in or contribute, please don't hesitate to give us a call or contact us at StrategicEnhancement.com.

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Published: June 28, 2017

MEET THE AUTHOR

Susan Hall

Vice President- Business Development & Performance Improvement

Susan brings over 20 years of experience working with global markets and organizations, helping them navigate through tough economic challenges while maintaining their margins. Since joining SEG in 1995, she has had the privilege of working with organizations that truly value the development of their employees and recognize the impact their people have on their bottom line results. Susan graduated from Pennsylvania State University with a double major in business management and speech communication. She has also completed course work toward her master's degree at Johns Hopkins University.

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