Rather, exactly what makes sales the “kryptonite” of the IT or engineering person?
Let’s talk about the expertise of being conversant in sales.
The Enormous Range of what we mean by “Sales Ability”
Just like “software engineering” can mean any layer of any technology stack – IE, endless variations in difficulty/rigor, usefulness in specific domains or functional areas, etc – Bash scripts to Visual Basic to SAS to MongoDB to SAP….
“Sales expertise” covers an enormous range, from being a counter clerk at a convenience store, to the girl who demos perfumes in a department store, to the “gladiators of sales” who sell hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars of IT equipment or services…. They’re all sales people. They’re all “in sales”.
Not to be confused with sales is marketing. Marketing is the act of communicating what you sell to the groups that are likely to be interested in what you sell. Marketing is (to borrow a term from another field 🙂 ) the “fluffing” of your target market with your offer and your value proposition.
Sales is the closing of specific deals – basically, getting customers to purchase or commit to what you’re selling.
Marketing usually comes before sales. Except where it doesn’t.
Smaller Companies Tend to Blend Sales and Marketing into One Activity
In a small company environment, and also for freelancers and independents selling their services – sales and marketing are intertwined, sometimes out of ignorance – but often out of budget necessity, and also because of expectation of results in very short time frames.
In these situations, the initial sales offers tend to be the same instrument that builds minimal awareness of the solution or the product. Think of a landing page that directly offers a product. Or a piece of junk mail with an ordering form or a number to place your order.
So in small companies with limited resources, marketing does double duty as the method by which sales are made. Whether it’s a written promotion, a web page, or an actual human delivering the marketing combined with sales message and then asking for the order or the purchase.
I’m stressing “smaller companies” because if you ask a rhetorical question such as “why can’t I sell my stuff”? you are probably either just starting out, or you are heading a small operation that doesn’t have the budget for professional marketing or sales.
What Really makes Sales Hard for Geeks: Specialization
THAT is exactly what makes sales very very hard for the geek. The technical expert tends to drive away customers by over-explaining features and concepts in detail. What comes naturally to the techie mind is exactly the wrong way to approach pre-sales conversations.
I’ve known quite a few “sales experts” online. They can be quite lazy and hazy about specific facts and details.
In fact, most individuals I’ve known who have a strong affinity for sales are also the same people that you can’t depend upon to get anything methodical or scientific done.
Which leads to the my point that knowing and grokking things in depth tends to neutralize sales capability. In other words to be good at sales it really helps to be not that bright. Or at least – be willing to super-generalize complex problems in the service of closing your sales.
Most of the sales people I’ve run into select sales as a vocation kind of by default. They want to earn a lot of money and yet they aren’t very good at anything involving creation, invention, or building. So sales is what remains when you exclude all occupations that demand rigor and hard work.
In a way, as an engineer or technologist, your technical expertise creates a potential poverty trap. You’re penalized by life for being in-depth and having work ethic.
While the lazy ones with few capabilities skim the cream and are rewarded richly.