Understanding.

No sooner does Seth write an excellent list of things marketers (and anyone really) should know about salespeople, than productmarketing uses it as an excuse to deliver veiled insults toward salespeople:

Yet… it often seems that sales people respect their own skills and no one else’s.

True, sales people can’t tell you when they’ll close a deal but many (not all) expect developers to report exactly what minute the next release will be available and want sales tools before they’re ready.

Though I’m sure this is not the case and the writer is just trying to make a point, it would seem at first glance that the writer has a bad history with salespeople.

I’ve worked in sales, but I’ve also worked in product management, marketing, and development. I’ve even written code, and had to deliver projects on schedule. And I’ve learned that good salespeople have respect for everyone’s skills, but like anything, that respect must earned. Good salespeople understand the value of good contacts in every department so that they have a good understanding of all facets of a sale, including getting the product built and delivered to the customer, and supporting that ongoing relationship.

Salespeople also have to provide weekly reports to their management about their progress, and they do have to make educated guesses as to when a deal will close, based on rigid rules in many cases (i.e. meeting with economic buyers, etc.). But while the process of software development is entirely under the control of your company in terms of scheduling and resource demand, a sale is generally driven by people on the buyer side, based on the their requirements and their timelines. Smart salespeople mitigate those risks, but it is a lot harder for them to close a sale than it is for you to drop a feature.

And many times, even if you drop a feature, they will still close the deal.

The relationship between sales and other departments will often be difficult, but Seth makes a great first step, because understanding the other person’s problems and motivations always makes it easier to work with them. Besides, companies don’t grow too fast without any sales, so I always make my best effort to help close the sale by understanding the drivers, which often helps to minimize the work required for all of us.

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