For the last two decades, PLM was developed in the well-established business strategy, product, and technology discipline. A lot can be said about PLM’s value proposition, business value, innovation, and vision. I can speak hours about how to manage a full product lifecycle and how an organization should get through the change process. However, here is an ugly truth that I found everywhere… for many PLM sales situations when “the rubber meets the road”, you will need to sell PLM software to engineers. They might be actually in the engineering positions now, former engineers that are now engineering IT managers, they might be executives and CEOs of manufacturing companies. But deep in their hearts, they are engineers, which will define their core behavior.
In my blog today, I want to share some of my ideas about how to sell PLM software (actually, probably any software) to engineers. You might be also interested to check some of my earlier blogs related to PLM sales.
Three principles of how to sell to engineers.
1- No sales behavior.
Don’t ever think you’re selling. Engineers hate when somebody is trying to sell them. Engineers are core buyers. They decide what to buy when to buy and why to buy much more than everyone else. So, when you sell to engineers, think about the value you can bring them, which leads me to the second two principles.
2- Know your business ins and outs
Don’t even think that you can learn about the product, technology, or service you sell to engineers from the marketing presentation and then go and sell it. If that is what you are trying to do, quite before and don’t even meet engineers. They will discover your limits and prefer not to talk to you.
3- Show the value and how it applies to engineers’ work
This is the most important part. Engineers are only interested in the value of products and technologies in the way it applies to their work or to the organizational work. You need to be very clear in the way you show the value (no buzzwords and blah-blah). Once you show the value, engineers will talk to you and you have a chance to sell.
Principles are good things, but the process is something that helps you to implement these principles. Engineers are like wild animals in the forest and you need to approach them with special care. Don’t scare them with the sales pitches. Here are 4 steps you take.
1- Introduction and Discovery
Share your background and what you did. This is the first step. Your story must be compelling. Don’t hide your intent to sell. It would be considered as not honest. Then start by asking questions. Ask about how they work, what they do, what hurts, where they spend time, what annoys them in particular using current processes or tools.
2- Connect to existing “engineering toys”
Every engineer in their heart has some “toys”. As part of the discovery process, try to connect to these toys, find what connects you, if you have similar behaviors or experiences, things you like. It can be a work activity (nothing better than playing with the fav toys as part of a job) or things that engineers do on weekends.
3- Appreciate what engineers do today
Whatever engineers do today must be appreciated. The current process and tools even though they are not as good as the technology or products you sell were created by engineers and if so, you must demonstrate that you understand why it happened and you better honestly demonstrate how to like what engineers do. Don’t take me wrong – you should not lie, but just appreciate how any technologies can be maximized to bring value or solve a problem (even if it is the craziest workaround you can think about).
4- Show how to save time
Start demonstrating your stuff (product or technology) from how you can improve the current process to save time. Time waste is the most annoying thing to every engineer. Especially when it requires doing an activity that is considered as a “non-value”. Demonstrate how engineers will cut their 3 hours of “Excel massaging and data copy/paste” into 5 min of making a setup and clicking on a button or setting a trigger. Show how to save time would be the biggest win for you and lead to genuine interest.
5- Demonstrate how it can bring money
While time is a foundation, money is important. Show engineers the money behind what you do as a result of saving time or doing something that else way cannot be accomplished. If your tech can help to create a product that else way cannot be created or save the budget for an entire organization – it all counts. After all, most organizations you sell to are businesses for profit and money is the fundamental thing.
What is my conclusion?
To sell PLM is always hard. It is a complex process of going between stakeholders, showing the value, convincing people to agree, arguing why the change will be very beneficial for the organization. You have a chance to make your life easier by winning engineering hearts by showing how a product or technology you sell saves time and brings money. As a result, you win engineering hearts, which is a great foundation for your future success. Just my thoughts…
Disclaimer: I’m co-founder and CEO of OpenBOM developing a digital network-based platform that manages product data and connects manufacturers, construction companies, and their supply chain networks. My opinion can be unintentionally biased.