shot of humility

July 25, 2008 at 2:37 pm | Posted in Professional Development | 4 Comments
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I love it when people who have never been in sales hear about how much some reps make and decide, “That’s crazy! They make all that money when someone else does all the work! They don’t build the product, they don’t do support, they don’t even demo the product… they just buy lunches, get blind drunk at parties, and collect fat commission checks.”

A word to those who feel that way. Try it for a while.

I’ve been a bit under the weather, but dragged myself out earlier this week to do a sales call with a rep. We get there a few minutes early and wait. and wait. and wait. Finally, through a long series of efforts, the rep contacts one of the underling DBA’s who was supposed to be in the meeting. The guy says, “You want what I’m supposed to tell you, or the truth?”

My rep says, “Oh, how about both.” The DBA responds, “well, he either had a family emergency or he took his team to go see the new Batman movie. I’ll let you pick.” Nice. Reps go through this kind of crap all the time. They usually clear this kind of debris for most of us “business folks” to attend meetings. But on that day, I guess the customer’s didn’t care what “big wig” was coming, what with the Joker on the loose and all. Holy take-you-down-a-few-notches, Batman! It was a good reminder that some things are just wrong to do to people. Period. At least pick up the phone and call. Or shoot up the bat signal. Or something!

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4 Comments »

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  1. Another great, thought provoking, post! I’m really enjoying subscribing to your RSS, you’ve some great stories to illustrate your points.

    While this is a great story but I think you are missing the central point. Is coping with unpleasant behavior like this worse than copying with a tough support call at 3am or a bug caused by a fundamental design flaw in the platform you are coding against? Personally I don’t think it is, all meaningful jobs have tough challenges.

    The point is that most of us are rewarded for talent whereas sales people are rewarded for their character. (I know that this is a simplification but bear with me.) It is galling to have an outstanding education and an intellectually demanding job only to discover that the jock-sat-at-the-back who flunked classes is now salesperson driving a Range Rover and wearing a Rolex Explorer because he can “sell”.

    While some of the character traits often seen in a great salesperson are broadly positive:
    humility, enthusiasm, persistence, empathy and warmth
    other attributes often associated with sales people are seen in a negative light:
    thickskinned, fakeness, primary interest in money, sexualised use of language around selling, etc.

    I have had three responses to the whinges I hear about the “unfairness” of sales. The first is the same as yours “You are welcome to try this for a month and see how easy you find it”. Second is “Why do you think that your great academic ability entitles you to more money than someone else – shouldn’t it be the value of your contribution?” Third is “Remember that you get your pay even if you don’t succeed, if sales takes a nose dive they’ll receive a huge pay cut and you won’t”.

    Reflecting on your humility point and my points about the difference between talent and character it is time I came up with a better set of arguments to allow people to understand the situation.

  2. Ah, the classic rivalry between sales and delivery. What I have explained to several delivery people in the past, is yes the sales guys seem to have a more perk filled existence, but that is balanced out by a much higher level of expectation and risk. I have never heard of a developer being told that their lines of code output is 20% below target and they have a quarter to meet their quota or they are down the road. That happens in sales all the time.

  3. *simon* — glad to hear you’re enjoying some of the posts. Next thing you know, I’ll have you loving American football!!! I’m actually in merry old England at the moment, but only here for 2 days and back out tomorrow morning, so didn’t have time to try and hook up. Looking forward to hooking up at PASS.

  4. Simon,

    I appreciate your comments and have seen both sides of the sales vs. product development / delivery struggle. (As a top performing account manager and sales rep at top tier software, hardware & routing vendors and running my own software company working on the product side.)

    I think both camps could well be well served to job swap or spend a few days in each others shoes.

    I do have an issue with your statement (below).

    “The point is that most of us are rewarded for talent whereas sales people are rewarded for their character. It is galling to have an outstanding education and an intellectually demanding job only to discover that the jock-sat-at-the-back who flunked classes is now salesperson driving a Range Rover and wearing a Rolex Explorer because he can “sell”.

    While some of your statement has some merit like many stereotypes, in my experience many top sales people are anything but what you describe. Don’t for one moment think sales doesn’t require serious “talent”. Top tier sales people are often highly educated, organized, motivated people, that have earned sales experience in the trenches that cannot be taught in a university… many coming from an engineering background. It’s hard to describe in this brief blog response but sales is a complicated art… that has no true blueprint. Sales is about relationship building (within your own organization) and at the customer (across a very different spectrum of people Executive, Program, Front Line & Procurement), helping solve problems or transforming vision into action that solves problems.

    I caution you to watch the stereotyping bc in any truly successful organization you’ll have the stereotypes of both sales and development on the fringes. However the majority of folks driving a company’s success are all educated, talented and motivated people just doing different job functions.

    [Boz… good for you on getting out with those reps… and schedule more visits!]

    CR
    PeakeUSA.com


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