October 12, 2012

Good Work Alone is Not Enough, You Need to Sell Your Ideas

How do engineers and technicians get their ideas across and projects funded? Like it or not, they’ve got to learn how to sell.

Walking around the 2012 Emerson Global Users Exchange, it’s pretty easy to conclude that most engineers are fairly introverted, and many certainly would not want to view the need to get their ideas across in a meeting as “sales.”

But that is exactly what you need to do, according to consultant Thom Singer, who spoke to a packed session in the Anaheim Convention Center.

In fact, said Singer, you need to sell yourself full time in your organization in order to get your ideas across at that one critical meeting where decisions will be made.

Whether introverted or extroverted, and especially in a technical environment, you need to learn how to network with fellow employees to build your reputation and brand, which will lead to you being more influential. “We are all in sales,” said Singer.  “You have to sell yourself to your peers everyday,” not by words but by actions.

Do you stay late to lend a hand, or do you rush off at closing time?  Do you support others when they speak up, or are you consistently negative? Do you smile and say hello when passing in the hall? Extroverted actions, even if you’re not an extroverted person, can build relationships with people.

It’s called networking. But networking is not a verb, according to Singer. It’s a lifestyle. “Go to lunch with your peers. Make an effort to ask questions before you dive in with information all about yourself. [Think about] how can you approach other people to make them feel significant,” Singer said.

All this will lead to you not only being noticed. It will make you more influential.

Also, when it comes time for your idea to be considered, prepare in advance and practice. Practice not just the facts and statistics, but know your purpose (what you want to accomplish), and weave a story that gets your point across.

“Humans brains are wired to remember stories,” said Singer.  You need an emotional connection to your idea, not just data.

Ask yourself, what do I expect from those I’m presenting to?  Your boss, the boss’s boss and your own team members might have to be presented to differently.  You may have a different purpose with every meeting.

The more you present the better you will get.  And don’t forget, every great sales person “asks for the order.” Don’t be afraid to say, “This is what I want to happen as a result of this meeting.”

Good work alone, sadly enough, is not going to cut it in today’s marketplace. Good work is simply your ticket in the door. You need to connect with people and be a team player.