How Important is Technical Knowledge for a Technical Sales Engineer?

Have you heard of the 80/20 rule in technical sales? No, this isn’t the one that says 80% of sales are made by 20% of sales people. In this case, we mean to say that technical sales is 80% selling and 20% technical.

This rule comes with a few assumptions. The first is that you understand your industry and your role as a technical sales engineer. The second is that on a technical level, you also have a fairly clear understanding of the product or service you are selling. By this, we don’t mean you know the answers to every single technical question that might come up, but rather that you’d feel comfortable explaining some of the unique specifications to a potential client.

The 80/20 rule means that selling is more important than knowing the technical aspects of your product. Although there are a few technical sales engineers that are both knowledgeable about the product and are also a great salespeople, they are as rare as unicorns, and you’re not expected to be like them. These exceptional technical sales engineers also understand that sales always comes first and technical knowledge comes second. Read on and find out how to use this rule to your advantage.

When in doubt, leave the technical out.

The most important thing in technical sales is to understand the people you are talking to. This is your primary role as a technical sales engineer. Tailor your questions to the audience you are meeting with. If you’re talking to someone in purchasing, make sure that the conversation is about how you can help them make their purchasing easier or more efficient. If it’s someone from finance, maybe you can focus on how it will save them money in the long run. The best technical sales engineers are those who can get answers from their potential customers about what they are looking for.

Even if you are talking to highly technical people who you anticipate will be asking many technical questions, you shouldn’t focus on the technical aspect of what you’re selling. Continue to focus on the selling part, you can lean on your company’s product engineers or process engineers for backup in this area when highly technical questions arise. Remember that your potential customer doesn’t expect you to answer all their questions immediately. Just make sure that you get back to them with the information they are asking for as soon as possible.

Technical sales is about giving your value proposition in response to the client’s needs.

Many technical sales engineers make the mistake of walking into a room and “throwing up” information. They start presenting all the technical aspects and specs of the product or service they are selling, even before understanding what the potential customer is looking for and actually needs.

Don’t make this mistake. Oftentimes, many technical people fail at sales because they don’t understand that their primary role is to understand what their potential customers need, not to know all the technical aspects of their product or service. If you realize that your passion is more for the technical aspects of technical sales, and not the sales part, you might be happier in an engineering role or doing something relating to product development.

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Don’t bore people with technical information.

Related to the previous point, don’t give a presentation that only talks about how your product or service is technologically more superior than any other product on the market. You may think that this will help you sell, but half of what you’re saying might not even apply to your potential customer. Again, don’t focus on the technical aspects. To be successful in technical sales, you need to focus on the sales part.

Instead of doing most of the talking, ask as many questions as you can. What are their pain points? What are the top three issues with their current supply chain? Where are they experiencing bottlenecks in their operations? These are just some of the questions you can ask to find out what their primary problem is.

After you find out as much information as you can from the potential client, then you can begin to address how your product or service can help them to solve this problem. All prospects and potential customers are looking for something to make their lives easier and more efficient. Because you spent the time to find out what they need, it makes sense to take your time in making sure you frame your offer in a way that best dovetails with those needs.

Technical sales is all about building relationships with your potential customers. Without a relationship, the sale won’t happen. If you focus on the technical part of your job, instead of the sales part, you’re going to lose a lot of customers. Again, remember that 80% of selling is sales and only 20% is technical. To be able to close deals successfully, you need to start focusing on the sales and leave the technical aspects to engineers or product developers. Get to know your customer as much as you can and start offering solutions to their problems. When you succeed at this, expect to close more sales and start enjoying your career as a technical sales engineer.

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