How to sales engineer

Hi all,

I was recently at a client’s office and I was making my way around the place and I got to the desk of a young sales engineer. He’d been there for a couple years and he’d finally gotten his break: he was being promoted to sales engineer and given his own accounts. He was talking about how he was going to go out and introduce himself to his new accounts, and the question came up, “What do I do?”

That immediately brought me back to when I got my own accounts and thought the same thing. It dawned on me that aside from a few bits of advice, no one really tells you how to sales engineer. At least the social part of it.

I’ve been around for almost 20 years and worked for and with a number of rep firms and distributors. They are all set up in a similar way: there are inside sales engineers and then outside sales engineers. The inside sales engineers support the outside sales engineers and during this time, they learn the ins and outs of how the sales process works and more importantly, they learn the products and product lines they are selling.

Obviously, this model works great! There’s a reason why it’s copied throughout the industry. But no one really shows you how to call on and service your customers. I mean, there are a few mentors out there that do go over this vital part of sales, but not nearly enough.

So I thought I’d leave a few bits of advice I’ve picked up over the years. This is just from my experience and probably will not apply to every situation.

  • Find out who is the principal of the company. At larger firms, you may have to go down and find the head of engineering or a project manager. Set up a meeting to introduce yourself and leave them your business card and line card.
  • Get to know the person at the front desk. They might be a friendly face, but realize they are the gatekeepers. Get on their good side.
  • Once you get in, identify the key influencers. Head of engineering, project managers, mechanical principals, etc.
  • Get to know them. I struggled with this part the most. Especially as a young engineer. Most key influencers are senior and a bit older. We were at different stages of life. But one thing that always worked was to find something on their desk or in their office that I could relate to. It could be a picture of their family or something that indicates a hobby. Any common ground, aside from work, that you could stand on, is a great starting point.

There are a ton of other things I’ve picked up along the way but here is the one key takeaway I’ve learned from all my years:

People will do business with people they like.

Think about it. At the end of the day, we are all selling HVAC equipment that more or less does the same thing. Sure, there are differences in the type of equipment, efficiencies, features, etc., etc., but we are all selling things that cool and/or heat spaces. But when you really think about it, if given the choice, you’re more likely to work with people that you like.

So for me, that means being available, honest, and efficient. I’ll pick up the phone when it rings. Or call back ASAP or message back that I WILL call when I can.

I’ll be up front and honest. If our equipment is not the best fit, I’ll give my honest opinion, even if I lose the sale. In my experience, your customer will respect that you were honest rather than pushing to get the sale. Or if I messed up placing an order. I’ll own it, rather than make up an excuse and blame something else.

And the last point: efficient. What do I mean? I’ve learned that another aspect that people look at when choosing who they want to work with is how easy it is to get information that they need. So for me, that means being as efficient as possible. I’ve built systems to help me do my job efficiently, quickly, and accurately. I want my customers to know that I am quick to respond. We are all under some sort of deadline, so if I can help my customer get the information that they need, the thought process is that they will come to me for everything.

DALL·E 2024-02-01 13.38.03 - An image capturing a mid-century office scene with a Mad Men aesthetic, focusing on a Filipino sales representative introducing themselves to a Fili.png

If you want to know how to streamline your workflows, please reach out.

Do any readers have good tips to share with fresh outside sales engineers? I’d love to gather them and share them in a future issue.

If you read one thing

AHR was last week and looked like a lot of fun based on the pictures I saw on LinkedIn. Every year, they put together a market trends report for the upcoming year. This is a great way to take a look at what different people think is coming this year. Some common points:
* Decarbonization and electrification
* IoT, automation, and data analytics
* Increased product adoption of technologies such as heat pumps

You can read the whole report here (pdf).


Toshiba Carrier U Series Launch – Toshiba Carrier launched our new generation VRF U Series product. Check out the introduction video here. There is a separate video going over features and benefits here.

A Heat Pump Water Heater Will Save All the Electricity You’ll Need to Power Your Electric Vehicle – No additional notes. It says it all in the title.

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