Would you believe that sales and engineering are as goodtogether as peanut butter and jelly? Sales and engineering have crossed paths over the years, but today companies are taking acloser look at that relationship and seeing more opportunities for the two fields to converge.In order to sell and consult on technologically and scientifically advanced systems, companiesneed professionals that can walk the talk in front of customers, and design and modify these solutions to meet their business needs and goals. Iowa State University is taking action. In addition to introducing courses this year in salesengineering, it is now offering students a unique and real-world experience.

Together withTrane, the university is launching the nation’s first collegiate Sales EngineeringClub, designed to provide students with real-world experiences in technical sales through fieldtrips, simulations, networking, and internships. The intent is to help produce graduates who canmeet the need for technically savvy sales professionals.

“Products today are becoming much more technically sophisticated, and their value propositionsrequire a solid engineering background to explain” said Dave Sly, engineering sales lecturer in Industrial & Manufacturing Systems Engineering at Iowa State. “Educating students about persuasive speaking and the sales process is fundamental for their success in industry today,and the demand for these students is far outstripping their supply.”

“Sales engineers utilize their technical and engineering skills by applying them to business issues and environments,” said Dan Wendl, vice president for Trane in the northeastern UnitedStates, who is also an Iowa State alumni and a professional engineer. “A sales engineering clubis an outstanding opportunity for students to get a taste of the career as well as an insight onhow a solid engineering foundation can create solutions and applications to business problemstoday.”

The Technical Sales Engineering Class includes six Sales Engineering Club members who recently participated in an extensive hands-on field trip experience with Trane.On Oct. 9 and 10, 10 members of the Sales Engineering Club were immersed in the Tranebusiness. This included visiting a sales office and a HVAC Parts and Supply retail store, and touring Trane’s hub for its building controls business in White Bear Lake, MN.The group proceeded to La Crosse, WI, where they engaged with new Trane employees whoare students in the Graduate Training Program (GTP), which combines five months of intensive technical and business training in La Crosse with six months of on-the-job mentoring for new sales engineering hires.

The Engineering Better Careers, Engineering Better Environments program was created by Trane in response to the impending engineer shortage. By 2015, the HVAC industry will beshort roughly 700,000 engineers, with more than 70 percent of energy services companiesexpecting their future to be affected by shortages of skilled personnel.

Trane teams with top engineering schools, like Iowa State, to engage students in the issuesimportant to their careers like the environment, energy use, and business ethics. It also creates experiences for students that better prepare them for the business world including sponsoring clubs, events, internships and limited scholarships, as well as providing software and labequipment at reduced rates.