Adeveloper, a salesman and a politician walk into a bar ...
They have been friends for a very long time and this is the main reason they still hang out. If they had met just now, it would have been too late for their friendship. They would have most likely not managed to get along. They may have even got to hate each other.
The politician would have hated the developer because developers are hard to buy (they already have flour and oil), they like to keep informed, which will determine developers not to vote for THIS politician. The developer would hate the salesman because salesmen are believed to be liars who want to make you buy things you don't really need.
However, our friends have (at least) one thing in common (except for the four high-school years and a life-time friendship): they all sell (even if some of them don't want to admit it).
When I told this joke to a friend of mine who is a developer, my friend was extremely surprised and started preparing his arguments to go against my point of view.
I knew we would have an interesting conversation ahead.
He goes: "I don't do sales! Never! Let me explain why I would NEVER do something like this! NEVER!"
First, I am good at what I do now and I wouldn't change a thing.
Salesmen are liars who would say anything to sell. I am a technical person who deals with exact matters.
Salesmen make you buy the things you do not need, while I build applications that make the world a better place.
Salesmen are bastards who talk too much, while I am a person who doesn't talk, but does what they are supposed to do.
I could feel his passion because he is rarely stirred by topics other than the technical ones, Games of Thrones and, lately, sky diving. I told him that I also agree with him in two respects: (1) he really is good at what he does and (2) it is embarrassing to sell.
He agreed to listen why I believe that he is in fact selling, why he would need to improve his sales skills, and why this will eventually help his career. He then goes: "Developers who work for outsourcing companies actually sell. Hmmm…. I am intrigued."
1. Sales are not only about the exchange of goods and services for money.
I can talk to a Product Owner and sell them the functionality for an application we work on. I can convince my wife to visit Greece, instead of Turkey (even if this means allotting more money from the family budget, but it is a little safer). I would need some tools and techniques to reach my goals.
2. If you care, you sell!
This is a chicken and egg story: You cannot sell unless you care hard enough to sell that thing every single time.
Good work ethics draws us to be interested in other aspects as well (other than the technical ones). A long list of opportunities can arise if you are interested in business, enhanced added value, or care for your customers' needs. Transforming your interest in a written code almost certainly triggers a sell!
3. Sales require a "listening mode".
If you've ever considered improving your listening abilities, you must apply for a job in sales!
Many times, we do not have or know a basic conversation rule: We must listen to what the other person has to say! Instead of listening in a conversation, we are busy devising an answer! This would never work in sales! The way to success has to do with: active listening, identifying needs and coming up with a solution that answers those needs.
4. Sales teach you how to ask questions.
I often see technical people who offer a solution too quickly, instead of "wasting time" with questions which might help identify certain needs. Then, developers feel offended because their wonderful solution is not embraced by decision-makers for the mere reason that they simply do not understand it - or so they claim.
If they rush to come up with a solution, someone (even if they are developers) should spend time to identify the needs of those involved in the decisional process. There may be one or more who have different interests.
A Program Manager might think that this interferes with their wonderful plan, by adding new uncertainties.
Product Manager: why would I perform an impact analysis for this feature which was not on my list of priorities before?
Other developers Why should I stop from what I am doing right now to start something new?
Customer services: Why should I be the one who explains that developers spend time doing something else (other things than writing code)?
The way to success and acceptance from stakeholders is asking the right questions to find the cause and to use the answers to uplift your proposal.
5. Sales are about trust and building relationships.
In very rare occasions, selling happens once in a lifetime. People will return and will buy some more if the relationship is based on trust, especially if the products answer a certain need. It is crucial to invest in building trust and relationships for ongoing sales!
6. Sales encourage creative thinking (and help you move on despite your mistakes).
You made a proposition and you got rejected! But what else did you get in addition to the rejection? You got important information you can work with for your next proposal.
YES! You will have to think positively and creatively, even get out of your comfort zone. You will be successful in the end.
7. You learn that things do not get down to "winning" or "losing".
The biggest disappointment comes not only from high stakes, but from a win/lose mentality. If you become part of the game, "whether you win or lose", you will quickly learn that it all comes down to the next iteration which brings us closer to opportunity.
I was lucky that my developer friend was patient enough to listen to my arguments, to accept them and I hope he is open-minded enough to explore and develop his sales skills and techniques.
I am not going to lie: he didn't run off to buy books and register for seminars about "the 10 steps to the perfect sales pitch", but I am confident that something got stirred inside him.