How do you become a Commercial Engineer?

How do you become a commercial engineer?
7 min read

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When I just started as a technical assistant with an engineering firm, I enjoyed my new work a lot. I loved it to make better calculations, choose parameters and to write reports. Often, the reports included beautiful annexes in color showing the areas of influence areas of the (geohydrological) calculations.

As Assistant project manager and project manager, I got more tasks. I went with my boss to meetings with clients, I prepared quotations and invoices. These are the first commercial aspects that gradually came with the work of a young engineer. Even though I enjoyed to be with customers and to help them, I was sometimes more comfortable behind my computer or to browse in the map cabinet to find more data for my work. Maybe it was a tendency to take away all uncertainties and to help the client as good as possible. Sometimes, the client (or my manager) did not always expect the many alternatives I presented. Especially, when the available hours (budget) were exceeded.

Do you recognize this? In this article I will give you 7 ways to become a better commercial engineer. This will help you to have more happy customers and a pleased boss. This will make you more self-assured, stronger, happier and in balance are (read this and this article to create more balance in your engineering career).

Make a decision

An important step is that you make a decision today to work commercially as an engineer. Think of it as a change in mindset. There must be an intention to do this today. Write your decisions down like this:

  • Today may I call Mr. X from company Y to inform him about the progress of project Z;
  • I allow myself to draw up invoices for project A that I have just completed;
  • I give myself permission to finish this project.

Notice that you give yourself permission in the form of “I allow”. I have recently read the book “Braving the Wilderness” by Dr. Brené Brown. In the book she writes about intentions and how bad she feels she has not met her intentions. One day, her daughter called to remind Brené to write a permission slip so she could leave school earlier (or something very similar). Then she realized that she must give herself permission to reach her goals but also to make mistakes.

Setting Intentions is actually a mental exercise. It doesn’t come from your whole being (or your heart). This is the case if you allow yourself something. Try it for yourself by first saying:

“I will give an excellent presentation”

and then by saying:

“Today I allow for me to find the right words during my presentation”.

How does that feel to you? “. I experience it as very liberating and powerful as I give myself permission. Also, I no longer suffer from fear, stress or anxiety. Of course there is still a healthy tension before or during a presentation but it does not hinder me.

Assemble a team

It is not just about you and the customer/prospect alone. Chances are that the customer also wants to know something about something outside your field of expertise. Maybe he/she need for support in the area of project management, accounting or did he/she needs legal advice. Make sure to have a team of experts around you both within and outside your company. Your network can also help you with mentoring. How do you build a network? Read this article for successful networking.

Ask the right questions

As an engineer you would like show your expertise in your field. It is more sensible to ask the following questions in a sales meeting:

  • What frustrates you most in your work/with this project?
  • What would you like to achieve this year?
  • What do you think that you need to achieve this?
  • Would you be interested if I (or anyone in my network) solve this problem for you?

Most people (even engineers!) prefer to get rid of their problems. As an expert you are the best for this job. These questions above will help you to be more commercial (your customers will want to gladly pay you for you to solve their problems).


In your commercial meetings as an engineer it is important to listen. In this article I am giving you 7 ways to listen better. An additional technique is the following:

ANA: This stands for Ask, Never Assume. Take Ana always with you to all your meetings. Make sure you have understood, summarize it if necessary and ask if it is correct. If you assume something then you’re making an ass out of you and me. You’re taking yourself and above all, your client not seriously. And you will avoid surprising your client with many alternatives in your calculations.

Manage expectations

It is important to manage the expectations of your customers well. If a project is taking longer, the budget is exceeding or if there is another challenge with the project, please inform all those who are involved as soon as possible and make new agreements. It is better to avoid this. If not, you could make an embarrassing mistake. In this article I am telling you how to deal with these embarrassing mistakes.

Have fun

If you go reluctantly to that meeting, it will no likely be successful. Do you like to buy a service or product from someone who is not excited or involved about it? I don’t think so. Maybe it is useful to first clearly set your mind or intention for that day. If necessary, move the meeting to another day if you really feel miserable. It is important to show your expertise, fun and enthusiasm. This also more enjoyable for yourself.

Take action and learn

And there are so many ways to become a good commercial engineer. You can read about it or be inspired by others. Start with step 1 and learn. Professional engineers are constantly learning by reading professional literature and following courses. Even better is to discuss insights, to practice and to get feedback. Soon, I am organizing a (online) training for the commercial engineers. In addition to communicative skills or the cases I describe in this article, there are also parts on leadership and sales aspects for you.

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What is a commercial engineer for you? Which of the above mentioned techniques do you like and which ones are missing? Let me know in the comment box below. I look forward to read from you!

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Steve Jones
10 June 2020 19:58

I liked how you mentioned that you need a team of experts around you to be a successful engineer. My brother is wanting to start a new career soon and he was wondering how he can be a successful software engineer. I’ll be sure to tell him that he should have a team of experts around him if he works as an engineer.