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Standard of Excellence: Selling Technology—A PCB Engineer Transitions to Sales

December 21, 2016 | John Tusant

Selling technology today takes a great deal of time, patience and most of all knowledge of the product. There was a time when a salesperson was just that, a salesperson. Now, with the onset of all the new technologies, from RF and metal backed boards to flex and rigid-flex boards, to HDI and microvia boards and heavy copper boards, a salesperson must know what he’s talking about.

To be successful today, a PCB salesperson should be educated in these technologies and have at least a working knowledge of how they work. He or she must know how these boards are fabricated as well as what they are used in.

I work for a company that produces a wide range of PCB technologies including all of those I mentioned above and more. When I joined American Standard a few years ago, I quickly came to realize that I was going to have to assume the role of applications engineer as well as salesperson. I had to go into the shop and learn as much as I could about what we did, what it was for and who would want it.

I also had to learn when to answer a customer’s technology question myself and when to defer to one of our experts. One lesson that was difficult to learn was that being a salesperson trying to talk technology made my customer wary if not downright suspicious. They often thought that the advice I was giving them was suspect because I was driven to make the sale rather than consult with them impartially and giving them the best solution regardless of winning the order or not.

Even though I have worked in PCB houses as an engineer, customers now looked at me differently—even the ones who had known me as an engineer in my previous life. Now, although they did listen to me, they often wanted a second opinion from one of our company experts. That took some getting used to at first, but now it is something I’ve gotten used to.

This is what I would advise salespeople who are in my position, selling for a PCB fabricator that sells a wide range of technologies as my company does:

  1. Always be helpful and courteous, even when you know more than the customer.
  2. Do not be offended if customers who once turned to you for technical advice now defer to one of your company’s experts because you have the word “sales” on your card. Handle it.
  3. But don’t be afraid to show your experience and knowledge when the customer asks for your advice. Be ready to step up and help them out. Always remember that a technical sale is a consultative sale. Your job is to make it as easy as possible for customers to buy from you.
  4. Make sure you help your company experts. Let them know what your customers are up to. Inform your management of any upcoming changes in your customer’s technology. You are literally the scout for your company. You are out there on the front lines seeing, hearing and talking to your customers about what they are doing today and where they will be going in the future. It is your responsibility to help your company be prepared to handle your customers’ future technology needs. 5. And finally, just because you are now in sales is no reason to stop being an engineer. The more you know about technology the better salesperson you will be. The more you can learn and relay your customers’ technology needs, the more value you will bring to your customers and your company.

I believe that the future is bright for people with my background. Because of the rise in technology levels, more companies are looking to bring PCB engineers onto their sales team. And with our customers needing our technical help this will be a good thing.