Your job is to get people on the phone. As a salesperson for a small to mid-size manufacturer, you enter the office every day, intent on creating new connections, nurturing fledgling accounts, and generating need from target accounts.
Of the people at a target company with whom you want to connect, few are more influential than the engineers. Engineering can dictate the form, fit and function of the parts purchased for a new product or process, and if you’re in the right place at the right time, your company can be the one providing those parts.
But engineering prospects are notoriously difficult to get on the phone. How do you engage with individuals whose job description doesn’t include speaking to salespeople? How do you create a relationship when the other side is unlikely to answer cold phone calls, let alone engage in a conversation long enough to create an opportunity?
One of the keys to successfully building new relationships with engineering prospects is to understand why they don’t answer the phone in the first place, and what steps you can and should be taking to address this.
Why Engineers Don’t Answer the Phone for Salespeople
There are two primary sales prospects for any new account. The most important is procurement – the person who holds the purse strings and ultimately makes the buying decision. These men and women are on the phone all day, every day and are perfectly willing to engage in casual conversation or exploratory calls about your products and services.
The other, however, is more difficult. Engineers are not salespeople. They are fixated on the design and functionality of pieces within a hole. They spend their days designing and testing processes and parts. But they ultimately have a significant amount of influence on the buying decision. Their recommendations, within the constraints of budget and certification, often guide procurement in selecting a new vendor, so many sales teams will invest heavily in nurturing new relationships with these people.
But an engineer is not at their desk making these calls every day. They are elbow deep in the design and development of the part or process for which they need your support. They prefer static, direct communications – the kind that can be had via email. Sales conversations aren’t desirable and in some cases, can hurt your case more than help.
How Engineers Engage Companies in Design Conversations
So if these men and women are so important in the speccing process and their opinions drive procurements decisions so often, how do they choose to engage companies in the conversation, and what can you do to be involved?
To start, there are several situations in which an engineer might reach out to or engage with another company to discuss their solutions.
- A New Product for Which There Is No Vendor – Procurement already has a vendor list, so if engineering is working on a project for which parts have already been sourced, they likely have less say in the selection process. Unless there’s been a failure to deliver in the past, procurement will choose from the existing vendor list. A new product or part, however, that current vendors cannot facilitate means the engineer will do research to learn what can and cannot be done within the constraints of the product.
- Inability of Current Vendors to Meet Tolerances – In some cases, tighter tolerances or more stringent specifications may rule out the current vendors. This could be a redesign for an existing product, a cost-cutting measure in the manufacturing process, or a new product with similar parts. In any of these cases, engineering will do the research to find vendors who can meet their careful designs.
- Support for DFM – While an engineer knows exactly what they want to have built, they may not be familiar with all the processes used to produce the product. As such, they may reach out for verification that their designs can be manufactured. This may require consultation or DFM assistance from your team’s engineers.
In each of these cases, the engineer is interested in the same thing: data. They need to know several things:
- Value-Add Services
- Material Selection
- Fluid and Material Compatibility
These are things that your website can and should be able to answer for them. This may seem like a problem at first, but in reality, you can heavily automate the sales process for engagement with engineering prospects by providing a wealth of data, facts and figures related to your processes on your website.
By capturing engineer information when they download this data, you can start the sales conversation via low-stress emails, and stay top of mind as they specify their project and start making vendor recommendations.
The Two-Prong Sales Strategy
There will be a time when phone conversations with engineering prospects is a must. They will have questions your website cannot answer, or need to review DFM or process availability for their project. But as part of an initial conversation, the most efficient way to build a relationship is to provide ample information on your website and through marketing channels to capture their information.
Combined with a more proactive process of engaging with procurement, you can quickly build new relationships with target accounts and ensure better efficiency in how you spend your time.