An Engineers Tale: How to Outperform the Salesperson


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There has always been a definitive line between salesmanship and engineering. They use different parts of their brains to think and they typically are very different personalities. The salesperson is personable and approachable while the engineers dive deep to solve the problems confronting the world. The divergence between sales and engineering is a chasm not often crossed until now.

So how did the Engineer out sale the salesperson? Easy – the engineer fully understood the power of the Social Media platform and knew the methodology and strategies to achieve the results needed to close the sale. She, (yes the engineer is a she) had been brought up to date on the changes that had taken place in how customers think and behave by having many nights discussion with a Social Media Academy Alumni.

The differences in their approaches to Social Media determined the outcome. Here’s the comparison:

Salesperson: Was told by his manager Social Media is for the Marketing department pure & simple; that’s it – just another push process. Stay off of Twitter regarding their brand.

Engineering: Engaged online in groups discussing their industry and demonstrated a supportive stance to the community. She participated in the discussions by asking all the right questions to fully understanding what problems the customers were experiencing and the dynamics unique to each situation. She also participated by answering questions posted on the group discussion boards. A number of subsequent conversations ensued and the suggestions proved viable.

Salesperson: Was online boasting about their latest achievement and appeared arrogant to the new prospect that was vetting him.

Engineer: Was online coaching the prospect with answers that worked for others and simply introduced the “one with the problem” to the “one with the success”.

Salesperson: Turned to their sales manager and asked where all the leads were for this month.

Engineer: Had established herself as an expert in her field and her network began to make references back to her. Yep – you guessed it — That sales manager found their next best lead from this engineer!

Salesperson: Kept his personal profile and a business profile completely separate. The sales person figured his personal friends would join his professional network based on need or interest only.

Engineer: Had one profile with little delineation as she is just one person after all with one life to represent online. Her friends knew what business she is in and many of her business acquaintances are her friends. Her friends enjoy passing on pertinent information to their extended network because; (1) it was compelling and worth forwarding (2), they simply wanted to help their friend out in some small manner when asked as the source was credible.

Salesperson: Was busy jumping through hoops soliciting for any end of the month business he could strangle out of the sales funnel to meet quota.

Engineer: What is a sales funnel? She helped the customer solve their problem and the customer decided to place his order when the customer made up his mind. What Salesperson? They don’t decide for the customer! Did they ever? It’s the engineers that tip the scales – Right?

This real life example obviously reflects the current state of the marketplace – as the majority of business owners and managers are attempting to understand how best to approach life online and how to define their organization as a social creature. Significant are the changes one must make to one’s own behavior to adjust your business acumen to the new social world. Many changes have already taken place and new dynamics will continue to unfold as the platform matures.

If a business owner can find more leverage through a social savvy engineer than their own sales people – simply because the engineer had a propensity to discuss business with her well educated friend regarding applied social media – then imagine what a seasoned sales person could do given the proper mindset and education! … and if we take this one step further, imagine the effectiveness of your entire staff if all were fully capitalizing on the dynamics at hand. Carpe Diem!

P.S. If you’d like to learn more about social development for Sales, classes start in early September @

Laureen Earnest
As the founder of Notes 'N Time, Laureen brings 30 years experience as a business growth strategist in sales, marketing, and channel management. Laureen's authentic customer first approach has helped her build strong relationships and impact organizational development. She is a Founding Member, Alumni, & Graduate at the Social Media Academy.


  1. What a nice post – and so true. A former employee of mine contacted me a few weeks ago (he is/was an engineer for all his life) what I think of his abilities to become a sales man. He explained to me that he did a lot of sales support in the past years but finally want to move. And YES he is a very communicative person. I asked him why – and why now?
    He said: “Most of the hard core sales guys just don’t get a foot in the door, they still believe their ‘methodology’ from the 80’s work. I’m a socializer and get a lot done that way”.
    So we’ll see how he will do in the next few years. His biggest concern: “Getting so much quota pressure, that I lose my edge and end up like all the other guys with an ever growing quota and less and less sales”.


  2. How right you are! An engineer focuses on solutions not dollars. You have to be able to speak the language of to the folks who influence the decisions. They are the key folks to closing every deal. It is not just about making a sell. It is about creating a long term relationship by building trust and providing the solution the customer is looking for so they can build today to handle tomorrows needs.

  3. Everyone has to change they way they look at customers, problems, solutons, and the entire sales process as a result of Web 2.0 tools and technologies. Social Media creates many new ways to communicate with customers and solve their problems. The best sales people will adapt and move forward. The loser salespeople will continue with their old ways until customers block their Tweets and unfriend them on Facebook.

  4. Hi Laureen, hi Axel,

    was at a networking event yesterday night and someone thought I was a salesman.. I wish !

    nice post

    Antoine 🙂

  5. Antoine:

    Thanks for your response … from your comment I assume you are not in sales — although you must have some key salesman qualities to be called such. Please know that in my sales career, my ability to create a superior customer experience had a great deal to do with the engineers I brought to the table & their ability to dive deeper into a subject than I could. It was the tag team approach that made the biggest difference & I always considered my engineers an indispensible asset. In an ideal work environment we’ll all finally learn to appreciate each persons unique qualities and their part in customer satisfaction. Keep up your networking & let me know if I can help you in anyway.


  6. Thanks Ann for your on target comment … as the sales persons focus should also be on building trust and answering the customer need. It’s been said “Sales people have never sold a thing” … for it is the customer who makes up their own mind. The great thing about the Web 2.0 social areana is the ability for sales people, or any employee regardless of their department, to LISTEN to the customers conversations that are happening online & thus to jump in and tackle the issues directly via 1:1 conversations. Keep up your stance & I wish you all the best!


  7. Lauren,

    Loved this! As a mechanical engineer who has always been on the sales/marketing side, I had to convince my professors that engineers, like me, would be perfect in this role. Socializing with engineers and helping to solve problems is exactly where my career has taken me. Now, social media is a perfect medium to build on that and help customers.

    As a Certified Social Media Consultant with Social Media Academy, I gained a solid methodology to follow for social media strategy and action plans. The process and framework is not some “info marketers” fancy ad copy. Its repeatable and structured, analylizes real data and is measureable. This is info that an engineering brain can really feel comfortable with as well.

    I will be sure I let my clients know about this post!


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