The best use of technical staff is to be billable, right? One needs more technical and managerial experience to be effective at sales, right? Yet, there are 3-4 times more junior staff then senior staff. If you could get that many more people driving sales just how fast can you go?
Lucky for me I had a senior manager who tested me on sales not long after I joined the engineering/architecture industry. Allow me to share with you my story of gratitude to the executive who trusted me. Because of him I had one experience that accelerated my career.
Selling was the Furthest Thing From My Mind
A principal in the A/E firm where I worked decided to break into the drinking water business. I was a 26 years old budding civil engineer and he knew I had “vast” experience in drinking water from my prior firm (3 years and a few projects). And, there was no one else with experience in that area so he didn’t have any choice.
He started off by taking me to meet with a couple of clients. Next, an RFP landed on my desk. With a lot of coaching, I drafted my first proposal. With a lot of editing, the proposal was submitted.
Keep in mind, my goal was to be a technical engineer with a reputation for being the best designer. I had no interest in project management or sales. But, I did what I was told.
We got invited to an interview and I was nervous. I had taken a public speaking class in college. But, my most advanced talk was how to make a tie-dyed t-shirt.
Since the scope of the project included modeling a water system, I took a stack of printouts to the selection committee interview. I demonstrated how I could enter numbers, and get answers on how to improve their water system (I know I am dating myself. This was a new concept back then).
I can’t imagine the competition did anything different. However, one of the old timers on the board sat examining my resume in the proposal. He had one question for me.
“Did you really graduate from University of Vermont school of engineering?” Why, he did too!
So, we became buddies. And, we won the job. So much for extensive qualifications and experience.
This story repeated several times. We won a water treatment design, we won a water system master plan, and more. All of a sudden I found myself as one of the people in the firm driving sales. It gave me satisfaction, respect and control over the kind of projects I had.
Everyone Can Race the NASCAR
The reality is that not all people want to drive sales. A broad approach to encourage and provide support, such as training, to every employee who interacts with clients, is a highly effective maneuver. Every work environment where I experienced this attitude was an environment of enthusiasm and revenue growth. Every work environment where junior staff were constantly hit over the head about being fully billable, was a stagnant environment.
To identify the people to drive sales, first ask. Then, provide training and support. Monitor and make utilization adjustments, even of senior staff. Maintain the firm’s overall utilization balance while unleashing everyone who wants to “drive” revenue growth.
What are your experiences with motivating people to drive sales? Share them with me by commenting on this blog or shooting me an email so we can collectively learn.