I typically get the question, “What’s the most important subject in an engineering education?” I love that question because it shows they are thinking ahead and want to make sure they have all their bases covered prior to graduation.
My response is always the same “Sales 101.” That causes quite a stir, after all, they are just finishing up all the engineering classes and here someone is saying they need sales training. The puzzled student then asks why.
The response typically goes like this:
Me: “Do you want to get a job and be paid for what you do after graduation?”Now the sad thing is I have never seen any college or university offer a sales 101 class, or any other class dealing with selling. I certainly haven’t seen it offered to anyone going for their engineering degree. The only reason I can think of is:
Student: “Well that’s a silly question, yes of course! How else will I pay off those incredible student loans?” (aka. year abroad backpacking through Europe)
Me: “Then you need to be able to sell yourself during the interview so you get the job in this tight job market. Once you have a job you’ll probably want to get a pay increase as your experience grows.”
Student: “Well yes, how else will I afford my first Ferrari 612?”
Me: “Then after awhile you’ll become a group leader and you’ll want to get you group the best project, so you’ll need to sell your team’s ideas to your manager.”
Student: “Hopefully. I definitely want to work on projects that I can be proud of and that I find interesting.”
Me: “Since everything about engineering has to do with money you need to sell yourself, your group, your ideas, your company’s products or services to your customers. That’s why Sales 101 is so important.”
Student: “Wait, what? Sales 101? But I thought I was going to be an Engineer...”
A. Too difficult a subject is to understandFrom my experience I would say no to all of the above. It is a skill that can be boiled down into a few easy steps that will take a lifetime to master.
B. Too easy to warrant the effort for a lofty professor to create a class
C. Common knowledge that is understood by everyone
After nearly 30 years in this business, here is the list I have found to be most effective.
- Know your customer
- Shut up and listen to your customer
- Understand what your customer really needs and wants
- Don’t oversell, have the discipline to sell only what the customer needs or wants, and shut up about all the cool features that they don’t see a value in
Now it’s time to hear from you. Please feel free to share your experiences, or opinions on this blog entry or any other subject that is of interest. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.