No, they won’t come just because you’ve built it

Posted on Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Author: Ottawa Business Journal

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uOttawa can equip your engineers with the skills they need to understand and influence your customers

Engineers design and build – that’s their passion and their expertise. But in the business world, there must be alignment between what an engineer does and what a customer truly needs.

The “soft skills” of listening, dialogue and influence can be just as important to an engineer, and an entire R&D team, as any amount of technical knowhow. Conveying complex concepts in layman’s terms, asking the right questions to understand someone’s motivations and being able to truly listen are all crucial for:

  • Effective internal communications, to ensure an organization’s R&D, sales and marketing teams are on the same page and working well together.
  • Effective external communications, to truly understand what needs are motivating prospective customers and to avoid wasting time and money on building the wrong thing or adding the wrong features.

"So what?"

“Engineers often get caught up by the cool factor of a technology,” said Trevor Græme Wilkins, principal at the University of Ottawa’s Engineering Sales School (uOESS). “But I always ask, ‘So what?’ Have you actually analyzed what your cool technology or brilliant idea will deliver in business terms? Only then can you talk to sales prospects and ask them the right questions to understand what it is you can deliver – and what they’re willing to pay for.”

Since 2009, the University of Ottawa’s Faculty of Engineering has included in its undergrad and grad programs opportunities meant to help engineering students learn what it takes to get the right product or service to the right customer. Students today can pursue a unique uOttawa Certified Sales Engineer (uOCSE) certification.

Have you actually analyzed what your cool technology or brilliant idea will deliver in business terms?

Built on a proven methodology

The uOESS has applied this experience to create a four- part business communication and influence (BCI) program for the corporate sector, as well as three advanced courses. These are delivered through the uOttawa Professional Development Institute.

Trevor has spent 30-plus years in the technology industry as a mechanical and IT engineer, startup leader, sales executive and engineering sales trainer. The BCI program incorporates his “Turning Selling into Buying” methodology – a simple, universal process that

“absolutely anyone” can use to influence others to buy (or buy into) their ideas, services or products. (Turning Selling into Buying is available as a three-part book.)

Get started today

The BCI program is available to teams, companies and individuals (even if they are working full-time) through a blended synchronous/asynchronous curriculum. The program can be delivered either on campus (including the uOttawa Kanata North Campus), on an employer’s premises or virtually. Full remote learning online will be available in January.

Learn more and register today at

The hard ROI of mastering those soft skills

Engineer, entrepreneur and seasoned executive Simon Morris has long been an avid fan and beneficiary of the “Turning Selling into Buying” methodology that underpins the uOESS’s BCI program. The former CEO of Mtekvision Canada, Cognivue and IRYStec Software emphasizes the value of this investment to the whole organization.

“The engineering world is slowly getting the message that engineers really need to understand, at the minimum, how the sales management process works and how that impacts what they build,” Simon said.

“These skills apply to selling a concept internally within the company as much as they do to selling externally to prospects. They help to reduce miscommunication between the R&D, sales, marketing and customer support teams, for faster product development, the right product development and shorter time to revenue.”

Deeper understanding for a shorter sales cycle

Systems engineer and product manager Oleg Mysyk has worked in the local telecom sector for more than 20 years and was first introduced to the new BCI program’s methodology while working at Nokia. The BCI concepts resonated with Mysyk so much that he joined the program delivery team for BCI.

“Being able to develop and control a technical conversation is a good start. Having the skills to draw out and explore a customer’s business goals was even more critical. This not only helped our development team shorten the sales cycle but also made sure our downstream teams knew what to build and why,” Mysyk said. “Through BCI, your engineers and similar specialists learn to have these kinds of planned, conscious conversations that end with both parties agreeing to what is wanted, needed and can be afforded.”

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