Building Confidence when Transitioning from a Technical to a Sales Role

Post by: Arzoo Shah April George
Published: 14 March 2023

Have you ever considered switching roles, such as moving from technical to a sales roles, for example? At first glance, these two roles may appear quite different but the transition is much smoother than you may think. And this is primarily because there are many transferable skills involved.

April George and Arzoo Shah share their experience in transitioning from Engineering to Sales roles. As you can imagine, building confidence as you undertake a transition takes time. It is, however, an incredibly rewarding process that can speed up your career progress.

Transitioning from Engineering to Sales

Arzoo Shah, Account Executive

After completing her Bachelor’s in Engineering, Arzoo decided to pursue a Master’s in Global Business. Software engineering would be the most obvious career path, but her first role was actually as a Business Development Manager in the technology sector. The start was challenging, she admits, but Arzoo learned a lot about sales and managed to get her foot in the door.

Arzoo then moved to Australia in 2020. Despite the challenges of moving countries and the additional struggle of securing roles during COVID-19, she continued to work in sales. Learning to be customer-oriented was the most challenging part of her job. It may sound cliché, but it’s all about understanding the customer, their needs and goals, and focusing on finding solutions for them.

Once you have a good understanding of customer needs, an engineering background can help tremendously. This is because while sales roles may not be as technically-minded as engineering roles, these roles still require good, in-depth product knowledge. Having technical expertise gives you more confidence, and ultimately, allows you to guide your customers in the right direction and find solutions that truly meet their needs.

April George, Senior Solutions Engineer

April defines her career as “falling upwards”. She didn’t complete her Computer Engineering degree, but hard work and determination has enabled her to get to where she is today. After her first role on the help desk of a civil engineering company, April then worked in consulting and contracting for many years before securing a sales engineer role.

For April, Senior Solutions Engineer at Okta, it was the level of technical detail required in sales that she found most surprising. In just her first year at Okta, April learned more technical details than she ever had. This is due to the nature of the role and the ever-changing nature of the sector, as cyber security is continuously evolving. There’s a constant need to stay on top of relevant trends.

Born and raised in New Zealand, April has worked in Australia for most of her career, gathering a wealth of experience across various industries. Fortunately, Australians and New Zealanders are known to share a mutual love of teasing each other, and being able to create banter with co-workers helps humanise them in the eyes of the customer.

Building rapport and credibility 

Arzoo Shah, Account Executive

For Arzoo, the first step in strengthening credibility lies in understanding her customer’s business and keeping up with market trends. This helps her understand her customers’ needs and pain points and tailor her approach. Plus, it gives her the confidence to show that she can help them, which in turn, boosts credibility and trust.

It’s very much a learn-as-you-go situation, and paying close attention to customer feedback helps Arzoo refine her approach and continuously develop her skills. She understands that it will not be a success all the way. There will be mistakes and learning will be critical as is having great mentors who can support and guide her through the ups and downs of her role.

April George, Senior Solutions Engineer

To build rapport and credibility with customers, April always works to establish two things from the get-go: give the customer the confidence that she knows what she is talking about and then, put the customer at ease. April admits, though, that she still carries some degree of imposter syndrome around and she understands that her experience speaks for itself. This helps her put things in context for her customers and guides them into making the right business decisions.

Not everyone is a fan of small talk, but it does wonders for April. Whether it is chatting about the latest rugby game scores or something interesting in the customers’ background during meetings, the small talk brings a human element to what would be a pure sales call. It’s that extra little touch. Ensuring that customers feel at ease not only helps April get to their pain points more quickly, it also contributes to establishing strong, long-lasting customer relationships.