Throwback Thursday: The Hybrid Sales Engineer

Almost 10 years ago mold shops were still searching for solid sales engineers, and this article shares some insight into finding the right person for the job.


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Scott Peters, an MMT editorial advisory board member at the time and working as a tooling engineer for Hunter Douglas, shared his take on the many types of sales engineers and how the right one for your shop is most likely a blend of four common types.

The Order Taker. These people take orders. They rarely perform any real “sales” and will pursue business as long as it comes knocking at the door. You’ve seen this type at the fast food outlets. They don’t have to know much about their product and the closest they come to true selling is when inquiring “Do you want fries with that?” They are full of potential, but lack sufficient training to really excel.

If you or your company employs this type of sales engineer, you have a long tough row to hoe. It is the responsibility of the owner/operations manager to motivate this person to at least attempt the next level of salesmanship if there is any hope of gaining additional business for your company. It is a decision of survival.

The Me Too. This sales person has the moxie to do the task, but may lack confidence in his/her technical ability or lacks specific knowledge about how to differentiate your company from the competition. They will go out and call on prospective and current accounts and give them the same line, “Oh, we do that too!”

These sales people have nothing new or innovative to sell. What they do have is a keen eye to see where the sale is going and a good line to close the deal. Again they generally are in an order-taking mode, but will peruse the sale and create a sense of need. They are the time wasters of the day that show up with a funny joke and “Oh, sure we can do that.” But because they are weak technically they offer little new technology and rarely are capable of solving your pressing problem of the moment. Here again we have a great deal of potential—this time coupled to a strong desire to succeed. With the proper coaching/training we may have a workable solution. However, it will take time to round out the talents of this individual and a great deal of patience, not to mention money.

The Techno-Geek. These individuals can tell you how many terra-bytes of information the system will hold, what the clock speed is, and all of statistics related to the equipment and the technology at hand. What they lack is the ability to translate all of those bits and bytes into meaningful dialogue.

Imagine the frustration a potential customer of your company will undergo having such an individual in his/her office. This person has all of the right answers, but they are lacking the ability to take the information from the techno to the practical. Being able to relate the technology to the audience is a gift and a skill that must be honed and sharpened.

The Relational Engineer. This individual builds relationships that are long lasting. This type is interested in making the first deal as in the one-hundred first. However, what is equally important to this person is the relationship that comes with those deals. This person intuitively or un-intuitively understands that by knowing the customer, you will not only be rich in orders, but also rich in relationships. Not only will these relationships be a benefit at the current customer’s facility, but in the event that the contact changes jobs, a new customer may be born.

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