Many technical service businesses rely on a seller-doer model for sales. It makes sense because, for these types of professional services, salesmanship is about being a technical expert, and customer service is about offering the best possible design solution, at a reasonable cost. But not every engineer wants to sell, nor is every technical genius any good at selling.


Though technical people are often good at maintaining relationships with clients once these are established, they can tend to avoid chasing new relationships or ‘pushing’ their product. Traditional sales activities – cold calling, qualifying leads, doing presentations or demos to strangers, and then constantly following up to close the deal – are avoided at all costs. Fortunately, for the technical people themselves at least, the ‘doer’ part of this approach is a great way to avoid sales activities – ‘We’re too busy delivering the project!’


Clients want a seller-doer

At the same time, their clients are not laypeople. They often have good technical knowledge as well. As Mark Buckshon puts it in this article: “Essentially, you can’t solve your business growth/development model by hiring some marketers and salespeople and then expect to succeed, because the clients who make the decisions often are really well-versed technically and don’t want to hear/speak to someone with ‘marketing speak’. They want someone who understands/knows the challenge and can truly solve the problems, in other words, someone with professional qualifications as an architect or engineer, or (for a contractor), someone who really knows how things go together — and cost — on the job site.”


So the challenge boils down to something fairly simple – making activities technical people don’t like attractive enough to warrant their time. Some traditional sales tools can work to achieve this if they’re implemented in a balanced way.


5 Tips to enable seller-doers

  1. Start by defining sales goals for the seller-doer. Set clear revenue, growth and profit targets that are achievable, always considering how much time you need your technical people to spend on the projects themselves. This may seem obvious, but here’s the catch: explain how you got to them without getting the accountants in. Technical people often don’t feel as passionately about profit margins as they do about the technical challenge or the project’s legacy. Make the monetary targets appealing in terms of what they can enable, not in terms of how much return the shareholders demand.
  2. Involve the right ‘doers’. Making it everyone’s job to fetch business once they get to a certain level of seniority may seem logical at first, but not everyone can sell. Sales is a highly-skilled artform in itself. It will serve the business better to identify rainmakers or potential sellers and rebalance their time towards sales. Then remember to incentivise them, just as you would any other salesperson. New KPIs are great, but the motivation to achieve them will require some kind of reward programme.
  3. Make excellent client service everyone’s job. Repeat business comes from happy clients that get not only the technical excellence they are looking for but outstanding service as well. While going out and selling isn’t everyone’s bag, exceptional client service should be. Leverage internal communications and other drivers to create a company culture that embraces first-rate client service across all touchpoints in the business. It’ll make your seller-doer’s job that much easier.
  4. Equip technical people with the skills they need to sell. From emotional intelligence and leadership development (which we all need) to hard sales skills and writing proposals vs technical papers, develop more than technical skills. Making people skills development opportunities available early in technical careers will also help people, and the company, gauge whether technical growth paths are more suited to the individual, and vice versa. Aligning client engagement efforts to your overall career development discussion will help your technical people diversify and set goals for growth before they reach that critical ‘technical vs commercial’ crossroads in their career.
  5. Provide sales support. If you’re not measuring sales activities – close ratios, lead times to close, discounting habits, client profitability, client satisfaction, proposal quality etc – you can’t run a successful sales organisation. And if you’re expecting your engineers, software developers, architects and so on to track these things on a spreadsheet, you’re going to be disappointed.  As with any other business, putting the reporting tools, CRM modules, bid design and writing services, and after-sales care in place will make it much easier for your seller-doers to focus on closing the deal.


Implementing these solutions will have to be supported by a solid change management plan to succeed, but they do work. Contact us if you’d like to discuss how to make the change in your business.

Posted by:Elaine Porter

I am a strategic business consultant who is passionate about helping companies match their insides to their outsides. In other words, I believe that an authentic business is a successful one. This means aligning internal and external marketing and communications activity with the company’s culture, or vice versa.