Often, when we work with organisations that sell technical products (especially in a make-to-order environment), we find that salespeople are technical experts.
When you add the requirement for technical expertise into the normal (massively-multitasked) sales environment you inevitably find that salespeople are hard to find and difficult to train. Furthermore, the consequences of salespeople defecting to a competitor are severe.
Our approach to the deployment of technical salespeople is typically to pull them back from the front-line and have them provide technical support to front-line salespeople (we’ll either call them ‘technical experts’ or ‘project managers’).
We like front-line salespeople (the ones performing 5 appointments a day, five days a week) to be generalists, not technical specialists. In other words their knowledge should be broad (across a range of products or service lines), not deep.
Once these salespeople have proposed a high-level solution, they can then introduce the technical experts to take a brief and design a solution. (See my recent post explaining why salespeople should not take briefs: http://finance.groups.yahoo.com/group/ballistix/message/79).
This approach tends to suit both technical salespeople and their employers.
Technical salespeople would, in most cases, rather focus on solution design and project leadership.
And their employers benefit because this role produces a greater yield on technical salespeople’s skills, allows the payment of a higher salary and minimises the risk of defection.