Technical sales, a promising field

Interview with Thierry Vigneux, technical sales representative for AREVA T&D

Thierry Vigneux is a technical sales representative for AREVA T&D Canada, specializing in products, systems and services for power transmission and distribution. Selling primarily to electricity companies and industry market players, the company only does B2B. Thierry likes the contact with people, which is why he was attracted to this field. He enthusiastically describes his job.

How did you end up in your current job?

After graduating with a bachelor’s in mechanical engineering in 2001, I worked for General Electric as a project manager in quality and job site management. In 2005, I joined Dell Star, which is when I started to submit proposals to calls for tender. This part of the job really appealed to me! I’ve always liked the people side of things, even in a technical job.

I came to combine my technical training with my business skills by becoming a technical sales representative, first of all for Matco Limited, then, in March 2006, for the disconnect switches department of Areva T&D. My current job is right up my alley—it draws on both my business and technical abilities in the electricity sector, within a large company.

What does your work involve?

It starts after the salespeople, who do the prospecting. My team receives calls for tenders for the salespeople. I am in charge of analyzing these requests, studying the feasibility of meeting them and, as applicable, responding with a “bid” document of 3 to 300 pages. The requests are many and varied, because we cover all of Canada and the U.S.

I regularly meet customers as part of following up proposals, or to answer technical questions on isolating switches, my speciality. My work is done as soon as the proposal is accepted and the order is validated. The engineers and manufacturers take over from there.

Within my department, the disconnect switch department, I work with another technical sales rep, a product manager and the manager of the department. The sales network is outsourced; some fifteen salespeople are scattered across the territory and take care of selling all Areva T&D products.

The benefit of this job is its diversity. The projects are all different and we have ongoing contact with various players: engineers, technicians, salespeople and customers.

What skills do you need to be a good technical sales representative?

You first of all have to be a very rigorous person, particularly in the drafting of contracts.

Technical knowledge is absolutely essential, since we work on state-of-the-art products. Technical skills, unlike business skills, are not easily acquired in the field, so you have to have an excellent scientific education.

You also have to be a good communicator, be able to explain your choices, not be scared of discussing money and seeking out information left and right.

You have to be able to be able to plan ahead, know the market and be able to prioritize, skills which are usually acquired with experience.

What is the job market like?

I wouldn’t be worried; the outlook for technical sales representatives is very promising and many companies are hiring. The combination of technical and business skills is quite rare on the market, so our profiles are in demand. network