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Why are engineers so bad at sales?
14

Why are engineers so bad at sales?

Why are engineers so bad at sales?

(OP)
I just had a project pop up in my email. It was a client I had done some work for in the past. They needed to reframe some portions of their roof structure to accommodate a large piece of equipment and install a large pit for said piece of equipment. The project wasn't large and they did all of the construction themselves (hiring foundation guys, steel fabricators, roofers etc).

Anyway, they are looking to add on to their existing building (30,000 square feet). A nice addition. Before I could reply to the email the client called to ask me some questions about the delivery process for a building addition. By the time I was done talking to him he went from hiring me to do the job to finding a GC to deliver the project design-build and "putting a good word in for me". While the project is still possible I somehow went from a slam dunk to a 1/3 chance of getting a new project. Ugh.

RE: Why are engineers so bad at sales?

4
Unlike salesmen, we tell the truth.

Mike McCann, PE, SE (WA)


RE: Why are engineers so bad at sales?

M^2 beat me to it.

RE: Why are engineers so bad at sales?

I see that as bread on the water (and I tell someone that there is a less expensive way to do a particular job than hiring me about once a week). You may not get this one, but the next job the guy has may be even better and you've built some goodwill.

David Simpson, PE
MuleShoe Engineering

In questions of science, the authority of a thousand is not worth the humble reasoning of a single individual. Galileo Galilei, Italian Physicist

RE: Why are engineers so bad at sales?

(OP)
The point is that the job is right up my alley. I have done 100's of jobs like it in the past. It's just I somehow convinced the client to deliver the project in a way that I am not guranteed to get the job.

RE: Why are engineers so bad at sales?

I have found that if you have a good reputation and it proceeds you, you do not have to sell the client. They will sell themselves.

Mike McCann, PE, SE (WA)


RE: Why are engineers so bad at sales?

Wow ... The snap response that I thought of on reading the thread title, was exactly post #2.

And, as with zdas04, I frequently tell clients that they do not need my services for a particular thing that they want to do.

They'll be back next month with something else.

RE: Why are engineers so bad at sales?

Honesty works; we bought our last A/C because only one guy was willing to tell us that the rule-of-thumb used to determine tonnage would result in overkill.

TTFN
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Of course I can. I can do anything. I can do absolutely anything. I'm an expert!
There is a homework forum hosted by engineering.com: http://www.engineering.com/AskForum/aff/32.aspx

RE: Why are engineers so bad at sales?

Precedes..precedes...precedes.

Mike McCann, PE, SE (WA)


RE: Why are engineers so bad at sales?

"you have a good reputation and it proceeds you"

Could work; it did for the A/C, who instantly gained credibility and got proceeds from me winky smile

TTFN
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Of course I can. I can do anything. I can do absolutely anything. I'm an expert!
There is a homework forum hosted by engineering.com: http://www.engineering.com/AskForum/aff/32.aspx

RE: Why are engineers so bad at sales?

Hard to trust Engineers, always staring at their shoes while talking to you and all... ;)

RE: Why are engineers so bad at sales?

Mr168 - yes but if you are an extroverted engineer you will stair at their shoes instead of your own. smile

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RE: Why are engineers so bad at sales?

Stair???? That's only if the engineer is trying to get up in the world JAE.

Mike McCann, PE, SE (WA)


RE: Why are engineers so bad at sales?

Engineers want to give the best possible definitive answers, salespeople want to put off a firm answer until the PO is already in.

RE: Why are engineers so bad at sales?

Because if we were good at sales we would have gone into retail not engineering?

Garth Dreger PE - AZ Phoenix area
As EOR's we should take the responsibility to design our structures to support the components we allow in our design per that industry standards.

RE: Why are engineers so bad at sales?

I think the fact is that most engineers make more than most sales people.

The biggest difference is when we retire, we aren't the ones with the job 'Welcome to Walmart'.

RE: Why are engineers so bad at sales?

(OP)
cranky,

That may be true in your world.... but I think your world would be the exception not the rule. Just take a look at the Dilbert Salary Theorem if you don't believe me.

http://physics.okstate.edu/babu/2014/dilbert.pdf

RE: Why are engineers so bad at sales?

Engineers aren't necessarily bad at sales. I work for one who is good at it (or I wouldn't be here).

Good salesmanship is a skill set. There are things one must do and things one must not do.

At the very least, non-sales people in the customer's path need to be trained in what not to do.

RE: Why are engineers so bad at sales?

One is working with inanimate objects, the other is working with people. Engineers tend to have lower EQ so find it harder to relate to/work with people.

As a chem eng/metallurgist the first part of any answer I give starts with "It Depends"

RE: Why are engineers so bad at sales?

Mike - late in the day my eyes get real "stairy". Should be "stare" of course.

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RE: Why are engineers so bad at sales?

3
I'm really tired of the "engineers have low EQ" trope. It's a cop out on both sides. Besides, if sales people have such high EQs, why are they unable to handle the challenge of connecting with engineers?

RE: Why are engineers so bad at sales?

I think it is because we do not take any courses in university concerning actually running an engineering business. Engineering curricula typically ignore this topic, preferring technical courses to the practical aspects of feeding yourself. They think the preferable way, if not the only way to make it is to work for some big company.

Why does a plumbing company owner make more than most (piping) engineers. They don't lose sight of the practical aspect of doing their job within the technical delights of solving the problem.

You can start with not explaining how to do the job, or some obscure mechanics of it that make it interesting, which usually only confuses the client and might even leave him wondering how this guy survives.

Explain the benefits of hiring YOU to do the job.
Explain how well your previous jobs went. Bring along a reference letter or two.
Explain how many headaches and how much time and money you saved your previous clients.
Explain how they can trust you to take on all responsibility for delivery and how that frees them up to concentrate on what they like to do ... their core business.

That's not dishonest. It's practical.


RE: Why are engineers so bad at sales?

Well I'm surprised no one has yet made the obvious comment to the OP..... perhaps he is poor at salesmanship but it is completely erroneous to suggest that all engineers are similarily afflicted. I have dealt with some crackerjack engineers in sales....... they wouldn't have got my business if they weren't.

RE: Why are engineers so bad at sales?

2
I choose not to sell. I like to explain, educate and let people with a brain decide. Most seem to like that.

As for marketing, we do none. As Mike said...your reputation and performance will speak for itself.

RE: Why are engineers so bad at sales?

@TheTick
My point was more that engineers have low EQ (than the average) rather than sales personnel having high EQ.

It's a stereotype- but based on my personal behaivour- and the behaivour I observe in others around me- the shoe fits.

As a chem eng/metallurgist the first part of any answer I give starts with "It Depends"

RE: Why are engineers so bad at sales?

" I observe in others around me- the shoe fits."

Are you sure you're looking at others' shoes, or only your own? winky smile


I know someone who can't look at ANYTHING when they're talking to you; they literally have to close their eyes when they're speaking.

TTFN
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Need help writing a question or understanding a reply? forum1529: Translation Assistance for Engineers


Of course I can. I can do anything. I can do absolutely anything. I'm an expert!
There is a homework forum hosted by engineering.com: http://www.engineering.com/AskForum/aff/32.aspx

RE: Why are engineers so bad at sales?

(OP)
I know there are some engineers who are good at sales, but there are many other who are not. I do a lot of work with contractors I have been in the meeting rooms with contractors and their clients. I can't believe the things they say to the client, things I wouldn't even dream of saying because they are so technically wrong that it isn't funny.......... but the client just lap it right up.

In this instance I just answered the questions from the client honestly. The client didn't even know he needed an architect for the project. The client also wanted to give the work to another one of my clients who is a fabricator. A fabricator who doesn't install foundations, masonry, roofing, sprinkler systems, site work, electrical, HVAC or do anything outside of steel fabrication.

I answered all of his questions honestly and in the end it was "thanks for the help, I will put a good word for you with the db contractor".

I thought it was kind of funny..... but not.

RE: Why are engineers so bad at sales?

Need I say more?

Mike McCann, PE, SE (WA)


RE: Why are engineers so bad at sales?

OK. But now you must stop complaining and do something about it.

I'll be blunt. If you're in business for yourself, you're only doing half your job. Would you go to a doctor that only did half his job? Do you think he would be in business long. Would you buy half a car, half a bridge.



RE: Why are engineers so bad at sales?

Sales are like poker. You don't bet your hand, you bet the other guy's hand.

Translation: You don't bid a project at what it will take you to do it, you bid a project at what he will pay you to do it. Which is sometimes a little less, but it's also often times a lot more.

Hydrology, Drainage Analysis, Flood Studies, and Complex Stormwater Litigation for Atlanta and the South East - http://www.campbellcivil.com

RE: Why are engineers so bad at sales?

" I can't believe the things they say to the client, things I wouldn't even dream of saying because they are so technically wrong that it isn't funny.......... but the client just lap it right up."

The question is really whether it's done with "malice and forethought." One of the best business development guys I've known is actually very technical, and basically skirted the bounds of doability, given that "I'm alive for another two years, and anything might happen; the king might die, and there's always a chance the horse will talk after two years.

TTFN
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Need help writing a question or understanding a reply? forum1529: Translation Assistance for Engineers


Of course I can. I can do anything. I can do absolutely anything. I'm an expert!
There is a homework forum hosted by engineering.com: http://www.engineering.com/AskForum/aff/32.aspx

RE: Why are engineers so bad at sales?

Salesmen know less and less about more and more until they know nothing about everything.
Engineers know more and more about less and less until they know everything about nothing.


RE: Why are engineers so bad at sales?

My view is that if you are not the "sale type of guy", you should try to explain, inform, and (as Ron stated) let people with a brain decide.

Doing this may keep away the quantity of projects/clients but will keep the quality ones, which imho is really what matters
at the end of the day.



RE: Why are engineers so bad at sales?

Didn't know they needed an architect and wanted to hire a contractor to do something well outside of the contractor's realm of expertise? Sounds like the client has no clue what they're doing and you dodged a bullet here.

RE: Why are engineers so bad at sales?

beej67...engineers shouldn't "bid"....don't get me started!

RE: Why are engineers so bad at sales?

Yes yes. Replace "bid" with "provide a fixed fee proposal for services." :P

Hydrology, Drainage Analysis, Flood Studies, and Complex Stormwater Litigation for Atlanta and the South East - http://www.campbellcivil.com

RE: Why are engineers so bad at sales?

Bid...bid...bid...bid.

Actually, with my proposals, I had an 80 to 90% success rate over the years.

I was a good sailor too.

Mike McCann, PE, SE (WA)


RE: Why are engineers so bad at sales?

I think many times it comes back to relinquishing too much information before we have a signed contract. Over the years we have become programmed to find the path of least resistance for any design. Those of us running a small firm with limited resources are even more likely to do so. As a result, we tend to ask a lot of questions during the initial discussions and in the midst of doing so the potential client extracts information that might change their path. Someone in sales is always much more cautious about what they say before getting a signature on a contract. A salesman is more apt to ask simply, "what would you like sir", and follow with, "I will send you a quote for your consideration." If only our clients would take the time to prepare a proper scope of works like we do for our proposals. Then we would not need to ask so many questions and talk ourselves out of a job.

If the owner balked at hiring all the professionals I think you dodged a bullet here. It is so odd how owners never figure out professionals charge design/build contractors very similar fees. They never get that the contractors include the same fees in their bids and then mark it up by 10 - 15%. Oh well, I prefer working with design/build clients anyway. We get to the answer much quicker that way, and it alleviates some of the headache for us. Sitting in meeting where all the owners wants to talk about is colors and furniture is annoying.

Design/build contractors have the same problem. One of our better clients does a lot of drawings and basic design for their bids, and many times their customers take that to the next bidder and ask for a competitive price. I think that is terrible on the part of those customers, but you will be hard pressed to find a client or customer that appreciates the time and effort that goes into the sheets of drawings we create.

RE: Why are engineers so bad at sales?

Why? Because engineers are too willing to tell the truth (with head saying NO) versus the truth (with head nodding yes)! See the Simpsons episode where Marge becomes a real estate agent, and Lionel Hutz is her boss. He shows her pictures of houses and asks her how she'd describe them, and then he tells her his version:

"It's awfully small!" - "I'd call it cozy!"

"That one's dilapidated!" - "It's a handyman's special!"

"That one's on fire!" - "Motivated seller!"

I use this one with the young engineers all the time as a teachable moment...

It helps to believe in what you're selling- so selling what my company provides is dead easy for me.

I hear you about saying too much, talking yourself out of a job or having your proposal's scope of work used to instruct others who sell cheaper hours. That happened to many times to me when I was in consulting, so I'm very glad to have exited that line of work.

RE: Why are engineers so bad at sales?

I think Brad805 is spot on here: A salesman is more apt to ask simply, "what would you like sir", and follow with, "I will send you a quote for your consideration."

Some of the salespeople I know actually talk very little, but are somehow very good at listening and getting the others to talk. The problems show up later, because you need to walk the client through a few options to find out what he actually wants. The clients needs to see a few options to find out what he wants. We had a one face to the customer approach in sales for some time, our sales guys are reluctant to talk about stuff they don't understand very well so the process of walking the client through his options becomes very lengthy and often invlove many iterationsof proposals and meetings. So this 'good' salesmenship has downsides on the sellers part.

(Close to half my co-engineers were women, but all the salesfolk are or were salesmen)

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