Drop your ‘technical’ ego to thrive as seller

A salesman demonstrates how to use a chapati-maker at an expo at the Aga Khan Club Hall in Kisumu last month. PHOTO | ONDARI OGEGA | NMG 

So what! So what if the buyer tells you, “I want to speak to an engineer, not a salesperson.” And yet you are an engineer. But because you are on the shop floor, he doesn’t see you as one despite your insistence to the contrary. Why do you make it skin off your nose, yet it’s not? If the buyer wants to see an engineer and there’s one on site, by all means connect them.

Today, I want to address technical salespeople. These could be engineers, biologists and architects who are in a sales function. Humility is the engine that powers successful selling. Unchecked, your ‘technical’ ego can impede your capacity to sell. It doesn’t make you less of an engineer because the client asked to see an engineer; it makes you more of a salesperson when you oblige. But I’m an engineer, not a salesperson, you indignantly respond. Yes. But you are selling. In this function, the challenge you have is to skilfully juggle your scientific (engineering) cap and artist (selling) cap as the need demands.

Getting offended over a perceived attack on your (technical) ego may preserve the ego but lose you the sale.

Technical salespeople can tend to see themselves with a false sense of superiority. Some even tell me that referring to them as salespeople is insulting.

“We are not like ‘insurance agents’”, they say. And yet there is no mention of sales in insurance agent, is there? Yet, the agent is clear on which side his bread is buttered. That’s not the point though. The point is that scientists in a sales function must continually have a heightened sense of self-awareness that their professional knowledge could easily get in the way of a sale.


Besides the perceived ego attack, the other way they trip themselves is in the overkill in information such scientists tend to share believing that the more information they give, the more they are selling. Thinking intellectually, they rationalise thus: “Once I tell him all about our product superiority he’ll buy.” So, they demonstrate their heightened knowledge in pump functionality showing how the 3 horsepower motor, powers the impeller radial dials, through the power input to the shaft coupled with the volute of the centrifugal pump, found in the cross section of the liquid path. (For any engineers reading this, I’ve just made that up for demonstration purposes, so don’t get your knickers in a twist over it).

Anyway, as you are busy impressing the client with your scientific knowledge, the salesperson is busy expressing to the client that the pump will easily last him a decade, is powerful enough to pump water three floors high and typically fills up a 1,500 litre tank in under an hour. The seller says just enough to close the sale and appeals to emotion by making it easy for the buyer to understand. Who do you think gets the sale?