It is not very often that my sister and I talk about our jobs. Our conversations typically revolve around our kids, our parents, our siblings, and what bottle of wine we will open next. However, on this particular day, as Patty was contemplating her future she said, "I could never be in sales. I'm not sure how you do it. It just seems so --- slimy." To that I said, "Wow! What do you think I do?" Of course, she is not the first person to have a negative opinion about sales and will likely not be the last. It did however lead me to explain to her what I do and why I find it so rewarding.
The majority of my career was spent in the IT industry as a software developer and eventually turned into leading and managing teams and development projects. I cannot remember a time that I didn't feel like a part of the sales process. Software development is all about solving problems. The problem and solution are almost always different depending to whom you are talking.
Some examples of this:
Each stakeholder provides value to the conversation and ultimately the solution. Each stakeholder is selling their piece of the puzzle. If you think about it, deciding what the family will do for dinner is a sales pitch from every member of the clan.
My first job out of college was a training consultant for Dale Carnegie and Associates. There I learned many valuable principles that have served me well in my career.
Among those principles:
The key to following those three principles is being able to ask the right question to get a person to share and then being sincere about listening. The most rewarding part of my job is when my client says, "Yes! You understand." The tough part is that just because I understand them does not make us a perfect pair. Just as we negotiate family meals, the consensus may dictate seafood for dinner only to find that a food allergy kills the deal, there are times I refer a prospect to one of our partners in order to provide a solution.
As a self-taught developer I always felt more confident when I bounced ideas off of a community of developers. I was fortunate to work for a computer training company that employed a dozen Microsoft Certified Engineers who to this day, remain in my technology community. This approach served me well as my projects got bigger and involved more and more experts to help solve the problem. Always working collaboratively and iteratively with my client and the team of developers gives everyone a stake in the success of our projects.
Today in my role as the Director of Solution Sales, I find myself in the same situation only I don't have to sit down to write the code. My philosophy is that if I surround myself with brilliant engineers, the chance of solving the problem becomes greater and my goal to help my clients solve a problem is easier. It is always about finding the right ingredients to make the perfect recipe for the final solution.
It isn't hard to come to an agreement when you have a good understanding of the problem; you have the right ingredients to develop a solution and your client values the expertise that you bring to the table. In a perfect situation, the client is a part of the solution from the initial conversation and is committed to process along the way.
In my experience, this is a very natural human relations process; listen to a problem, collaborate on a solution, and agree to work together. Some people might call this a sales process. There are logistics involved in the sales process like contracts, estimates, timelines and resource assignments. However, if the other pieces are in place, then getting the client to sign on the bottom line becomes the easy part. The logistics are as simple as sending out the invites for a dinner party and receiving an RSVP.
For me, working in a sales position is a natural part of the development lifecycle and I find it rewarding because I know Bit-Wizards has the ingredients our clients need. It isn't slimy to solve problems that need to be solved. I asked Patty "Wouldn't you want to help someone if you knew you could?" Her response, "I guess I never thought of it that way."
I’d love to hear more about your experience with the sales process. What do you value in a relationship with a sales person?
Director of Solution Consulting
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