For most engineers selling is not a task that comes naturally. In fact, I’m willing to venture that for most engineers, selling is the last task on earth they wish to undertake. Whether it’s because of a belief that selling is “slimy” or it’s the work of the business development team, or some other reason, most engineers want nothing to do with selling.
Well, most engineers are already in sales and this likely includes you.
When was the last time you presented a new idea to a peer or boss and it was accepted? Have you ever presented a design concept to a client and won their approval?
Words Have Mass
I know that words have mass because, for the longest time the words “selling”, “influence” and “persuade” conjured up negative feelings with me. They made me think of the proverbial used car salesman in his cheap suit and coffee stained tie, attempting to sell me on a car that I didn’t need or would violate lemon laws in every U.S. state.
I’ve come to realize, however, that throughout my career I’ve been involved in sales, influence and persuasion from the beginning. This also happens to have occurred in a public service career as a military engineer. Yes, I was in the sales business as a military engineer. I just didn’t know it.
I was a servant salesman.
You may already be familiar with the term “servant leader”, which was brought into the mainstream in the 1977 book by Robert Greenleaf titled “Servant Leadership”.
You may not be as familiar with the term “servant selling”, which is a term that I first happened upon in Dan Pink’s book “To Sell is Human”. The revelation, that every time I convince another person to accept my ideas, I am selling. It was a mindset breakthrough moment for me. I realized that, when I’m convincing someone else to accept my idea over other alternatives, my intent is to support them in achieving their goals or mission to the best of my ability. There can’t possibly be a negative feeling associated with this position.
When you realize you can sell to another, from a position of service to that person, you will comprehend what it means to be a servant seller. To get to this position may take time, so for that reason, here are some thoughts to help you move in that direction:
- It’s hard to be nervous when your heart is on service: If you’re still concerned that selling is something best left to your firm’s business development person, who, more than likely isn’t even a P.E., begin thinking about how you provide service to clients your company supports. What do you do to help that client achieve their goals? How do you contribute to their success? How will your mind be an asset to them? Start there.
- Providing advice, assistance, and counsel: Along the same vein, when you focus on the advice, assistance, and counsel you can provide a client (or a co-worker or the barista at Starbucks) you start a mindset shift from being a “salesman” to being a coach, mentor, or just a person genuinely interested in the well being of others.
- Asking questions: Instead of ‘telling’ others what you can do for them, start by ‘asking’ others what can you do for them. Then dive into open-ended questions to help you learn more about how you can contribute to their success.
- Them before you: Selling isn’t about making money, it’s about creating a relationship for mutual benefit and success. When you are able to support another in achieving their goals faster, safer, below budget or with higher quality, you create win-win situations.
The intentions and motives of the salesperson marks the difference between traditional selling and servant selling. A traditional salesperson is operating out of their own self-interest. For most people, this is the vision they see when they think “salesperson”. It’s definitely the vision I carry.
A ‘servant’ salesperson, however, is operating from a place of serving the client’s needs. When you operate from this mindset you are constantly moving towards creating win-win situations.