October 19, 2023 | Sam Morris
No matter what role you play in a company, understanding the needs and nuances of sales is extremely important. It is even more important for engineers that work for a company that sells engineering services or products, such as penetration testing.
Why is this important?
The starting point for almost all companies relies on sales. If there are no sales, engineers cannot engineer, product is not sold, and revenue is not made. As an engineer, being able to be involved in and understand the sales process makes you a vital asset to any company. In this blog, I will discuss some of the main things I learned to have a successful sales meeting and client relationship, as an engineer dipping my toes in the pool that is sales.
Who are you talking to?
In a typical sales meeting for an engineering product (in my case penetration testing/cyber security services), there is at least one salesperson that leads the meeting with the client and one engineer that can discuss the product in more technical detail and answer questions. This allows for full coverage of questions a potential client may need answered. However, it is critically important to understand who you are talking to at a sales meeting. There could be a variety of people ranging from executives to project managers to fellow engineers at a meeting that will have vastly different backgrounds and technical experience. Knowing how to communicate with each individual to not upset or put off anyone is crucial. For example, someone like an executive or a project manager may not have the same technical knowledge as an engineer but may be the most important person on the call. As an engineer, you may know more than them about the technical details of the service, but you should never talk down or act like you are smarter than them. Instead, try explaining technical terminology in a way they can understand without being demeaning. I often like to create an analogy for something very relatable in their life (I.e. comparing a network to rooms in their house). It is also quite possible that they come from a technical background and moved to a managerial role; asking questions and having thorough introductions can help you determine what level of comprehension a person has and how much detail you can go into. Typically, potential clients will also bring a technical person along that you can then go into technical details with.
Understanding the people you are talking to can go a long way in making a sale and ensuring the client keeps coming back to you for work simply because they enjoy talking to you.
Understanding business needs
As a potential vendor, the client wants to know what they need you for, and how your company is going to align with theirs. In the case of penetration testing services, there are several reasons they could be contacting you; auditing, client request, reaction to a previous breach, regulatory compliance, or to simply fit into the application development lifecycle and help their developers secure their applications. In the example of a business needing a penetration test for audit and compliance reasons, this can lead to many questions. What controls need to be in place to pass the audit? Does the client need a letter of attestation saying a vulnerability assessment was conducted? Does your company need to be certified to conduct the audit and put a stamp of approval on it? Understanding why the business wants you and where you fit in helps sell your company and make your life as an engineer easier once you get to work.
The biggest win: Building relationships
Building a relationship with a client by meeting face to face does incredible things down the road for your business. It not only puts a face to the name in the virtual working world we live in today, it also builds trust and rapport which will make the client want to use your services more.
Additionally, a client that trusts you brings business to you. If you proved yourself by being personable and doing good work for them, they will recommend you to other companies as well as bring you with their new company in the event of a career change. Or put another way, one successful relationship built off one in-person sales meeting could lead to many more.
The final word
As an engineer, it is vital to your career to know how to build and sustain relationships, as then, the client will trust the work you do, and know that you can provide a reliable service while not being difficult to work with.