Sales Training for Engineers – why it’s needed and how it can help firms thrive

Questas works with a number of consulting engineers and environmental consultancies from the very large through to smaller, niche practices. A common theme with these organisations is that they employ very bright individuals who are technically extremely competent. Often they are very busy meeting utilisation targets and are engaged in technically complex work.

But when engineers come face to face with ‘selling’…

Another common theme is that increasingly these employees are being asked to develop new relationships with clients and uncover opportunities for more work.

Whilst engineering professionals are bound to be highly skilled in their area of expertise, they are less likely to have the sales confidence, selling skills, and a honed approach to client management that will set them up for sales success.

Let’s just say the words ‘sales training’ will cause some engineers to shift uncomfortably in their seats!

The Engineering Sector is under pressure

Beside this, some parts of this sector have been severely affected by the economic downturn and reduction in public spending. Client demands for better service and better quality have coincided with demands to reduce margins. As we know, some companies have not survived, and those that have face stiff competition and have to work harder than ever to win work and retain clients.

Therefore, although the need to win more and better priced work is growing in the engineering sector, the people who are being asked to contribute to meet this aim are not necessarily skilled-up in these areas of business development, client retention and growth. That’s an equation that doesn’t add up to success.

Consultancies surviving or thriving?

Whilst economic survival strategies have been effective for some consultancies, they have not necessarily prepared firms to differentiate or to grow profitable revenues. Thus, when projects are completed there is often little on the horizon to replace the work they generated. There follows the all too often cycle of feast and famine as short-term decisions are made, which are not necessarily conducive to sustainable growth.

In order to break this cycle, a longer-term view is needed, with strategic investment to support the skills development of the technical professionals who are central to creating sustainable, mutually beneficial commercial relationships.

Four common business development challenges

So, what does this look like on the ground? Even for global consultancies, winning new clients and developing opportunities with current clients is often the responsibility of a relatively small number of people. It’s these people we have devised training for.

The main challenges we usually need to address are:

Focus your time: magnifying glass view

Finding the time:

There is an enormous amount of pressure on individuals who must meet utilisation targets, as well as manage teams, produce reports etc. As more people are being tasked with playing a part in Business Development the challenge to keep the multiple ‘plates spinning’ becomes more difficult. The Questas approach to Maximising your time is our answer to helping time-poor engineering professionals fit in their BD activities effectively.

 

Shot of an executive giving a presentation to colleagues in a boardroom

Gaining confidence to start selling:

Many of the people we work with are extremely confident when discussing their area of expertise either internally or with a client who shares that knowledge. Asking some of these people to sell can often take them way out of their comfort zones, the impact of which means that they will simply choose not to engage in activity they find uncomfortable. Our training focuses heavily on building Sales confidence so that engineers understand sales can fit into their ways of working, and they don’t have to become a ‘Del-boy’ in the process!

 

escalator to modern city

Acquiring new skills – turning a job done well into more work:

Quite often we come across organisations which are asking people to engage in sales activity who have had little or no development in this area. Many engineering and environmental consultancies believe selling is simply about doing a good job – and you will be asked back again. We don’t disagree that it is vital to do a good job, but it should be viewed as the thing that earns you the right to discuss more and different projects, not the be all and end all of sales. We provide Selling skills training designed for engineers and other technical professionals that will bring a structure and focus to their business development activities.

 

Balance in nature - avenue of oaks creating archway

Assisting the organisational leadership with their sales strategy:

A healthy organisational structure around sales and account management is essential. Otherwise you find that individuals, teams and offices can attack the market in a haphazard way. This potentially leads to clients being approached by different parts of the same company (the right hand doesn’t know what the left is doing), which is not a good way to impress anyone; or a team wins work that is not aligned to the strategic direction of the business, and ends up being a dead end.

In comparison, firms that have a good track record of organic growth have recognised that there a few, simple elements that need to be in place:

  • A clear vision and strategy
  • Market segmentation
  • A team-based approach to new business and account management
  • Strong leadership

Questas is expert in helping the leaders of engineering or environmenal consulting firms to devise their business development strategies. For more insight about designing a sales programme that is company-wide and strategic, we recommended reading about Sales transformation here and then getting in touch.

How Questas can help

Imagine the power of significantly increasing the number of your staff who are able to be effective business developers.

Consider the impact of a consistent approach to account management that led to an increase in fee income of 50% (that’s what happened to one of our clients).

Questas works with national and international companies to help them release the potential of their business developers and their ‘hidden sales force’. The best companies have realised that all client-facing staff provide an untapped resource who are able to influence buying decisions, generate opportunities and develop key relationships, and have put the training in place to support them in that.

Sales training for engineers and environmental consultants

  • We equip your people with selling skills and confidence (see Consultative selling skills training).
  • We enable your team to strengthen relationships with current clients (see Key account management training).
  • We give them processes to identify new opportunities by understanding client’s ‘horizon issues’, and without resorting to ‘old school selling’.
  • We can help you clarify your market strategy and implement a team-based approach to winning new clients in your chosen sectors.
  • Our Networking and Selling skills workshops are designed around the specific requirements of an engineering or environmental consultancy business and deliver a simple, effective approach that gets results.

Questas Quote Marks CircleQuestas help us with our key account management programme and we have implemented their ‘toolkit’. We find the simple and effective approach works very well for us. In terms of the impact of the programme, we are becoming more proactive, finding more opportunities and working together in a more consistent and effective way.”

Paul Tremble, UK Executive Director, WSP