Hire Sales Engineers – with Pizzazz

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Each year, 61 Thai public and private universities deliver more than 18,000 engineering graduates to the employment market*.

The majority will end up choosing a career in the private sector – in jobs ranging from production to service or sales.

For the purpose of this essay, let’s focus on the commercial career track. On any given day there are between 1000 -1500 technical sales positions advertised on the local internet platforms. Based on experience, it takes approx. 2 months to fill a technical sales position. At 6 churns per year, six to nine thousand commercial engineering positions are researched in this already heavily challenged job sector.

Another 18000 newcomers arriving next April will not alleviate the pressure companies are under to fill these “money-making” slots.

* Number quoted by Thailand’s Board of Investment

How to successfully deal with this mini-war on technical talent?

  1. Don’t overstretch the importance of industry relevant knowledge
  2. Widen your recruitment fishing pond
  3. Look for engineers with a GROWTH Mindset

For the sake of making a clear argument, firms have broadly speaking the choice between two strategies to fill their technical sales positions:

Search for people with related product or industry experience. The attractiveness of this approach obviously stems for technology familiarity and therefore immediate deployability   without having to spend time and money on training. Besides technical know-how the sector candidate brings an existing commercial network with her/him i.e. access to an existing clientele from -most likely- a competitor. All immediate Wins.

Start-ups and newcomers to the Thai market tend to favor this approach and are willing to pay premium salaries to buy an existing customer book through hiring – and for understandable reasons. Concerns about personality, character are pushed to the side and ignored for the short-term result.

More established companies – that is: with more confidence in their in-house capabilities – might opt to search for someone with an engineering or technical background who also displays the «right» attitude and commercial savvy.  

The choices are argumentatively never this black-and-white, and mixed strategy briefs are daily occurrence for recruitment agencies.

The issue though is about priorities: is product/sector familiarity a “MUST HAVE” requirement, then the choices are limited and it might take a lot longer than the average two months before somebody is willing to “cross the line” to a competitor. 

The 100$ question:are these candidates a guarantee for success???

In case the bar for technical familiarity with the recruiting company’s product is lowered, the search for candidates with the right sales “personality” opens access to a much broader array of candidates for consideration.

What are then the personality traits for a technical sales position?

Let us peel the “personality onion”  from the outside inwards: on the outside is what you can see during an interview. This is essentially an observation and interpretation of a candidate’s communication skills: how s/he talks, how s/he moves, how s/he dresses, how s/he reacts and responds to external stimuli (questions, environment..).

And an evaluation of what s/he says. This includes questions and answers about functional engineering skills, sometimes supported by a written test or essay.

Well-prepared candidates know this and trot along smoothly in this parade.  But at the end of the day: the company makes a decision based on the candidate’s communication skills, including command of English. Nothing more.

Therefore, we should not be surprised that the high expectations laid on a new hire ever so often shrivel during the first weeks.

Continuing with the onion meme for Personality, on a second layer we find the typical preferences of how engineering + sales/ or sales + engineering people look at the world, analyze data, think through inputs and come to a decision.  Companies (mostly from North American origin) have developed structured questionnaires to get a better view on these behaviors so answers can be compared with best-in-class ones. These questionnaires can be company/job specific or general. They provide very relevant information for companies to make better hiring decisions and they can cover a wide array of behavioral competencies.  

Typically for technical sales people we will expect good candidates being able to make contact with other people easily and smoothly, they will be focused on technical details, measurements, plans and will avoid  making decisions on the go. Thinking through all the options, comparing them and come to a rational decision. Once a conclusion is reached, planned execution follows naturally.

 On a third level – more hidden for the observer, hiring companies could look at people’s mindset. 

Mindsets are about the beliefs people hold about themselves. These beliefs are so strong that they permeate all aspects of a person’s personality.

 There you have the people with a Fixed Mindset: they believe “I am who I am”, for them their qualities are carved in stone and will not change. If for example their first IQ score in primary school was on the mediocre side, they see themselves as mediocre for the rest of their life, and in most everything they do.

On the other hand, you have people with a Growth Mindset: these people believe that abilities can be developed and nurtured.

From establish scientific research: People with a fixed mindset are less likely to flourish and to be successful than people with a growth mindset.

In a selection setting companies should be looking for people with a GROWTH MINDSET. They are driven by learning from everything and everyone, they don’t mind self-stretching and they don’t give up at the first setback. In conclusion they are committed to set themselves objectives and they are even more committed to deliver the goods as promised. T

These are the players that you want on your team! Combine this with the communication skills already observed in the face-to-face interview, and you can surely fetch the “right” technical sales people  – Sales Engineers with Pizzazz.

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