Moving from Techie to Sales: Two Tips to Make it Work
So what’s the problem?
This week a technology business owner shared with me that he has a tech who is interested in transitioning to sales. The tech completed a sales assessment that shows he is suited to sales and he has great rapport with his customers. The owner is excited by this new, highly motivated technical sales rep.
So what’s the problem?
The challenge is that there is no sales manager to help transition the techie to sell and the owner doesn’t have a great deal of time to invest in him. This is a challenge we see with many of tech business owners: Whether they are confident sellers themselves, or shy away from it, they don’t have time to invest in their new salespeople.
So what do you do to ensure a smooth and successful transition into sales for a techie? Techies moving into sales need two types of assistance, whether from the business owner or from a sales manager: training to learn to sell and consistent check-ins to avoid fear and failure.
Training to Learn to Sell
Techies already understand your solutions. If you’re moving a techie into sales, he’s already personable and builds strong rapport with customers. What the techie doesn’t have is a sales process. He doesn’t know how to move a prospect from uncovering needs to closing.
Techies want to be able to walk into a customer’s business and say “this is what you need” and have customers just sign the paperwork. They don’t want to have to take time building a relationship, understanding all the business issues, dealing with the politics of staff or boards who may not want a change or may perceive it as too expensive.
Many techies also feel the need to share every possible problem that could occur with a solution, no matter how remote the possibility. They want to be totally up front with a prospect, so they’ll share that “No, the cloud isn’t 100 percent secure. A hacker could find his way in.” Techies scare prospects away without realizing what they’re doing.
Give your techies a sales process they can follow. Teach them the steps they need to complete for each phase of the process and what they need to say in presales situations.
Check In to Avoid Fear and Failure
Even the techies who are most suited for sales will have doubts about their abilities as they are learning to sell. Selling isn’t easy. There’s a lot of rejection along the way, even if you’ve invested numerous meetings getting to know the prospect and proving the company’s capabilities.
Techies aren’t used to the rejection. They’ve always been welcomed as the person who has all the answers. Now, the sales title and role changes how they’re perceived by both customers and prospects. They need your support to address this change in perception and the fact that they won’t win every opportunity they pursue.
In the beginning, meet with your techie at least twice a week to check in on his accomplishments in both training and sales activities. Listen for where the techie is struggling with following the sales process. Answer questions. Reassure him when he’s doing the right things but not yet seeing the results.
Accompany your techie to sales meetings to observe how well he’s transitioning to the new role. Watch to see that he’s asking the right questions and making appropriate recommendations. Monitor your techie to catch his challenges before they frustrate him and before you realize there are no sales coming in.
Techies make great salespeople, but there aren’t any short cuts to helping them make the transition. If you invest the time up front, you may discover that your techie is your No. 1 sales superstar.