Matt Tidmas (Sales)

Sales in engineering: What’s it really like?

Sales within STEM sectors are often seen as technical or difficult, but this isn’t the case. Matt Tidmas, Client Account Manager at British Gypsum, takes a look at the top five myths about a sales career in the engineering and manufacturing industry, and explains why we really shouldn’t believe everything we read.

1. It’s all about making a quick sale

I certainly wouldn’t say that’s true. While the end goal of the role is ultimately to generate sales, a good salesperson places a focus on the long-term – investing time cultivating partnerships and building trust with customers.

The best salespeople understand that successful long-term relationships with customers are built upon effective communication, close collaboration, co-operation and openness. Not trying to make as many quick sales as possible. My role at British Gypsum – a plaster, plasterboard and ceiling solution manufacturer – involves investing time and travelling to meet potential new customers and catch up with existing ones. This investment in time is much less about making individual sales and more about better understanding customers’ needs and priorities, to ensure I can provide tailored solutions that add real value.

2. It is an unstable career

False, especially in the industrial sector. As investment in research and development continues to grow, and increasing numbers of technologically sophisticated products enter the market, salespeople within specialist industries will be in even higher demand. In fact, a survey by the Society for Human Resource Management found that 88% of employers in the engineering sector are not able to find enough qualified applicants to hire, across all business areas.

If the STEM industry is to overcome this, employers must invest in the skills of the future and be much more open to developing employee talent.

False. It’s an old-fashioned misconception that careers in this sector, or any STEM subject, are boring or difficult – that’s far from the truth!

3. The engineering sector is dull.

The level of innovation within the engineering, manufacturing and construction industries is fascinating, to say the least, and is constantly contributing to improving the spaces in which we live, work and play.

Salespeople within these sectors are able to provide the market with bespoke solutions which use the most up-to-date technologies. In my current role, I have had the opportunity to sell industry firsts, such as ceilings that actually improve internal air quality, something that was previously unheard of.

Equally, sales roles within the industry aren’t restricted to simply selling products; it’s also about getting involved in the development process and recommending how products can be used in different markets.

Being in a sector that continuously pushes technology forward, and working within a business that continues to change, adapt and innovate the way it does things, is anything but dull.

4. Sales isn’t for people who have a degree

It’s often the case that those with degrees will overlook sales opportunities as they fear their academic achievements will be wasted. However, while some entry level sales positions do not require a degree, the majority of senior or strategic sales roles do.

There are some great sales graduate schemes available in the UK, which focus on taking advantage of the skills and experience only acquired at degree level. At British Gypsum, for example, we support graduates in a way that makes the most of the skills they developed at university, taking individual aspirations into account.

5. A sales career in the engineering sector cannot open doors to other opportunities

This is definitely false. In fact, according to a 2011 Forbes study, sales is the most common early experience of today’s leaders, making up around 20 per cent of the global CEO population.

I have witnessed first-hand how a career in sales can open doors to a multitude of opportunities. It’s a career without boundaries, so long as you have the aptitude to develop it.

By Matt Tidmas, Client Account Manager, British Gypsum, part of the Saint-Gobain group, is the UK’s leading manufacturer of interior lining systems.

Matt Tidmas (Sales)

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