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Sales people at software companies

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  • User profile image
    Sathyaish Chakravarthy

    I am looking for some good discussion here on this subject. Should people in sales departments of software consulting companies have a technical background?

    Question Repeat: In a company that develops bespoke software on customer demand - a software services company and not a software product company - should the people who call prospective clients have a technical background?

    My take on it is a big YES. And I've been crying that to the management ever since I was born. There's always been a debate.

    Your take with supporting arguments.

  • User profile image
    scobleizer

    Who is a more persuasive salesperson? Someone who can use the product? Or someone who can read a brochure?

    I always like salespeople who know the product inside and out. I'm not sure if that means a technical background or not, but if it's a product that lets you write code, you better be able to fire it up and write some code. Otherwise, why are you there? Just to take the order? Well, heck, we can do that over the Web now.

  • User profile image
    Sathyaish Chakravarthy

    You hit the nail on the head. That is exactly my point. Somehow, it is easy convincing management of the same but slow and difficult bringing about a change in the process. I've been trying to talk to the management about some changes one of which includes getting people who understand software to sell it.


    Picture this:

    SCENE 1
    Sales Lead: We have a legacy system build on Java. We need to be able to integrate that with Outlook so the users do not have to leave Outlook and login into that system.

    Non-technical sales guy:
    (whatever the hell does all that mean?) My technical team is not available just now. Can I call you back tomorrow at 9 AM your time? What would be a good time to call you?

    Sales Lead: Sounds ok.


    Next Day 9 PM.

    Non-technical Sales Guy: Tring tring! Can I speak to Mr.Sales Lead? I have an telecon appointment scheduled.

    Ms.Front Office: I am sorry but Mr.Lead has left for Chicago and will only return on Wednesday.

    Result: Sales lost. That guy will never come back. He's taken the leaf and he's gonna shoo you like you were Pizza Hut calling desperately trying to sell a buy-one-get-one-free offer on a dry business day.





    SCENE 2
    Sales Lead: Have you worked on Adapters? I have an Oracle Apps system and need an adapter built around it to connect to Foo app. Can you guys help me here?

    Non-technical sales guy: Sure! we can do that. (To himself: Let me memorize the word 'Adapter'). My technical team is not here just now....

    ...repeat....



    SCENE 3
    Sales Lead: I need a solution for Group-wise on top of Novell Netware. Have you any experience with that?

    Non-technical guy:
    Hi! What a pleasure to be talking to you again. How's your cat?


    ...repeat...

  • User profile image
    Michael Griffiths

    That's either a problem of (1) hiring incompetant salesmen or (2) [and more likely] salesmen not being trained/instructed in the product they're selling.

    Either way, it's sloppy management.

  • User profile image
    harumscarum

    How often is a salesperson going to do a "sell" to a technical audience? I think it would be rare for grunts Smiley to be involved with a sale.

    Can you do this, this, and integrate with that? Yes I can so the next step would be presales and proof of concepts.

    I would expect a sales person to know a product but not be technically proficient.

  • User profile image
    Sathyaish Chakravarthy

    I would like to emphasise again, the question pertains to a a software services company and not a product based software company. And yes, at the end of it all, the management hasn't done its dues.

    My argument is that the philosophy prevalant says, "Define the function: making calls to get sales. So, go get people who can make calls."

    This is questionable since it under-estimates the sales function. At a software development and consulting concern, the unit of sales is not software, but technical expertise. You don't sell a product. You sell your technical worth and reliability in doing what your customers want.

    If you have people at the gate who cannot even appreciate what the customers want, then it isn't going to work.

    There are candidates who have programmed for at least one year, and know what a compiler is, what an editor is, what a runtime does, and what role XML has in data access. Those are better candidates for sales in IT than hiring plain end-user types.

  • User profile image
    Karim

    Sathyaish Chakravarthy wrote:
    should the people who call prospective clients have a technical background?


    Well if you only let people who have a technical background sell technical products and services, then what would all the glib, good-looking, and stupid people in the world do?

    Booth babes gotta eat too, you know.

  • User profile image
    harumscarum

    haha. mmmmm booth babes.

     I read your "repeat". How much of a technical background are we talking about?

    Sales persons are a different breed. Once released from captivity they are known to eat small children and kittens.

  • User profile image
    JChung2006

    As long as the sales person knows how, when, and who to sell, if you want someone who also knows the services you provide, ok.

    It's more important that they know their customers and how to sell to them and when to sell -- eg., sell services before they decide budget for next year, not after -- than it is for them to know the details of what they're selling.

    You won't even get your foot in the door 9 times out of 10 if all your salesperson has is detailed knowledge of the product.

  • User profile image
    yashks

    Sales person should know atleast:

    • He should be well trained in Products or whatever which he is going to sell.
    • He should be good in communicating things to other end
    • He should be aware of competitors in the same areas or product. So, incase if any questions he gets from other end he should be capable in convincing what does his product or his company has edge over competitors
    • If needs he needs to trained in ascent or else other end person may not get what he is talking.

    May be its like this:

    Sales(from technical background) <-> Sales(from technical background)
    Sales(Has some knowledge about product) <-> Sales(Has some knowledge about product)

    If a sales with technical guy tries to sale something to other company and if that company has just a sales person who is like end user, sales(with tech) may not succeed and vice versa.

  • User profile image
    TommyCarlier

    This thread reminds me of a Dilbert comic, where salesmen are given laptops to be more productive. In the last frame, you see a salesman who shows the laptop to the customer and says something like this: 'If you order now, you get this shiny box as a present.'

  • User profile image
    HBEaker

    I'm more of a systems guy that software, but it's still technical and I think the same things apply.  My wife is in sales.  My experience is that the skills to be good at sales, and the skills to be good in a technical career are completely different.  Sales is all about people skills.  No offense to any techies on this board, but we're not good at it.  A good sales person knows when to bring a technical resource on a call.  And, a good sales person also knows their product.

    Sales people need to learn the technical details of their products, but they should not necessarily be technical themselves.

    A consulting company I worked for in the past wanted everyone to understand sales, so they sent all of us techies to sales training.  A short time later, I was on a very important sales call as a technical resource, with a Jr. engineer and the account manager.  At one point, the Jr. engineer starts trying to 'close' the account using a technique we had learned about in the training.  I think the entire room heard the swift kick under the table, as the account manager took him out.  My point is - techies need to stick to being technical, and let sales people be salesy.  We must respect each other and work together, but recognize we're different.

    Final thought: Have you ever cold-called?  You think debugging code is mind-numbing, try making 200 phone calls a day to people who don't want to talk to you.  No thanks, I'll leave that up to the sales folks.

  • User profile image
    W3bbo

    Steve411 wrote:


    Public Structure Buyer
       Public LikesProduct As Boolean
       Public Idiot As Boolean
    End Struct

    Public Structure SalesPerson
       Public Name As String
       Public SoldProducts As Int32
    End Struct

    Public Function (ByVal Seller As SalesPerson, ByVal IdiotBuyer As Buyer)
    Seller = New SalesPerson
    Buyer =  New Idiot

    If IdiotBuyer.LikesProduct == True && IdiotBuyer.Idiot == True
     Return String.Format("Hey, the Buyer is an idiot he likes the product. {0} just got a 1,000.00% raise!",Seller.Name)

    For Seller.SoldProducts = 0 To 1
       Seller.SoldProducts++
    End For

    Else
      Return "You're still an idiot...Idiot"
    End if
    End Function

     


    That's that.
    - Steve


    Number of mistakes there:

    a) "End Structure" not "End Struct"
    b) "ByVal" can be omitted since it is implicit for value types
    c) "AndAlso" instead of "&&"
    d) "==" isn't a valid equality operator in VB, use "=" instead
    e) "++" isn't a valid increment operator in VB, use "+= 1" instead

    I love being pedantic Smiley

  • User profile image
    Sven Groot

    W3bbo wrote:
    b) "ByVal" can be omitted since it is implicit for value types

    Just because you can omit it doesn't make it a mistake. Smiley And the editor will insert it automatically anyway. Also, it's implicit for all arguments, not just value types. This is contrary to VB6, where ByRef was the default.

  • User profile image
    AndyC

    Surely the Function should have a name and return type, also I don't think the line: Buyer = new Idiot  is right somehow...

  • User profile image
    Sven Groot

    AndyC wrote:
    Surely the Function should have a name and return type, also I don't think the line: Buyer = new Idiot  is right somehow...

    You're right... he's assigning to a type, unless there's also a variable named Buyer (which is possible in VB) that we don't see. We don't see the definition of the type Idiot either. Also, the argument IdiotBuyer is not used at all, and the value of the argument Seller isn't used either, since Seller is overwritten in the first line of the function.

    As far as not defining a return value, if Option Explicit is off that's allowed, it would default to Object, but he's not returning anything so the return value would always be Nothing. Not very useful, better to use a Sub instead.

  • User profile image
    manickernel

    There were some TV commercials awhile back with a chick in a bubble bath reading user/install manuals for software products that were trying to make this point. Who was it? Veritas? CA?

    I can't remember, just remember the chick in the tub...Tongue Out

     

  • User profile image
    Steve411


    Public Structure Buyer
    Public LikesProduct As Boolean
    Public Idiot As Boolean
    End Structure

    Public Structure SalesPerson
    Public Name As String
    Public SoldProducts As Int32
    End Structure

    Public Function (ByVal Seller As SalesPerson, ByVal IdiotBuyer As Buyer) As String
    Seller = New SalesPerson
    IdiotBuyer = New Buyer

    If IdiotBuyer.LikesProduct == True AndAlso IdiotBuyer.Idiot == True
    Return String.Format("Hey, the Buyer is an idiot he likes the product. {0} just got a 1,000.00% raise!",Seller.Name)

    For Seller.SoldProducts = 0 To 1
    Seller.SoldProducts+=1
    End For

    Else
    Return "You're still an idiot...Idiot"
    End if
    End Function


    That's that.
    - Steve

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