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Ask Slashdot: How Best To Teach Programming To Salespeople?

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the know-your-product dept.

Businesses 211

First time accepted submitter greglaw writes "Our company makes development tools, meaning that all our customers are programmers. If you'll forgive the sweeping generalization, on the whole good programmers don't make good salespeople and vice versa. However, it's important that our salespeople understand at some level the customers' problems and how exactly we can help. The goal is not to turn the salespeople into engineers, but just to have them properly understand e.g. what the customer means when he uses the term 'function call.' Most of our customers use C/C++. Does anyone have any recommendations for how best to go about this? Online courses or text books that give an introduction to programming in C/C++ would be great, but also any more general advice on this would be much appreciated."

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211 comments

Hire bad programmers with good social skills (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40253327)

Really, it's not that complicated. You want to hire people who have programming background, but weren't interested or talented enough to pursue that full time. And they need better social skills than the average software engineer.

That's all. You can't turn a PHB into a good salesman for a product he can't understand.

Re:Hire bad programmers with good social skills (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40253439)

Where are you located and does the job pay 6-figures?

If not, I'll just keep my "close enough to $100k" job and hope for that management promotion while I bang out sub-standard code...tyvm.

Re:Hire bad programmers with good social skills (5, Interesting)

Cryacin (657549) | more than 2 years ago | (#40253615)

Actually, the GP is pretty spot on. There are two types of sales people generally, the Hustlers that tend to act like a hairdryer at management, playing buzzword bingo to provide the required level of synergy with the current corporate strategy, or the sales types that tend to understand what they are selling, and explain the benefits of the products.

Contrary to popular belief, most programmers are not socially inept basement dwellers at the mom's house. The sales person does not need to know 100% of the technical aspects, they need to be able to convey what can be done at a coarse level, and then for detail, reference a skilled programmer.

Furthermore, if you are selling into a corporate scenario rather than a small business, your business owner will at best "know of" programming. They will want to know what your product will do for his business, and let his technical guys determine if it really will do that. Really, I have yet to meet a CEO or any other Chief (Insert middle title here) Orifice that has programmed in the last 5 years.

Hence, you'll need a standard winer and diner sales person for the C(X)O's and/or middle line executives/enterprise architects, and a technical sales person for the developers/team leads investigating the technology on a ground level.

Re:Hire bad programmers with good social skills (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40253793)

Yeah, I agree. The idea that programmers are basement dwellers needs to be confronted. If you look at the Jung based MBTI assessments, I know from 20 years of experience in the field that great developers depend on the middle two dichotomies, not the outer two. In other words, an ENTJ can be a good programmer, and so can an INTP. INTP might be your basement dweller, and ENTJ is like P.T. Barnum and Thomas Edison rolled into one. The important part is that they're "rationalists" -- they're good at problem solving, and in most cases like doing it -- that comes from the NT part. (They're "intuitive thinkers" per the MBTI parlance).

If you're looking for a good salesperson that can walk the walk and talk the talk with developers, what you're looking for is the ENTJ. They get a charge out of working with people, and they are quick to make assessments -- a key skill for a salesperson. They're also rationalists, so they can have credibility with your developers (as long as they don't overdue the glad handing -- especially when dealing with *NTP types). An ENTP might do ok, as long as they're not off the scale on the J/P dichotomy (then they become too indecisive and have a tendency to lose a lot of sales because they never "go for the kill").

Of course, if you're dealing with large corporations, what you'll find is that the management layer is not universally filled with *NT* folks as others have mentioned. That's what makes Dilbert comics funny for example -- the pointy haired boss is not, and most likely never could be, a critical thinker. In that case, you're looking for ESFJ types -- the traditional sales guy -- these are people who get a charge out of working with others, tend to notice things like body language, tend to put a lot of emphasis on making people feel good, and tend to be quick at making decisions, which gives the perception of being decisive. They also tend not to like absolutes, which drives rationalists crazy, who structure their whole thought process around solving problems, which requires some absolutes (givens) in order to make progress.

Although MBTI isn't perfect, it does divide the world into 16 categories of people, and that rough categorization can go a long way toward getting the right people in the right seats on the bus. The rationalists (*NT*) make up less than 20% of the population. So if you're interviewing fewer than 5 people to fill a position, then there's a pretty good chance you haven't seen your minimally qualified candidate yet (although, rationalists tend to be attracted to engineering roles, so that's more of a rule of thumb than anything -- we never interview fewer than 5 people, so we can at least say we gave it a fair shot).

MBTI is especially good if you combine it with one of the other assessment tools like HBDI or DISC. (It's certainly a lot better than shooting from the hip -- which is what a lot of shops do unfortunately.) People who don't register highly on the NT dichotomy can actually work ok in a development team for a while, but there's a good chance they won't like it over time, especially if they're the opposite profile (SF), which leads to unnecessary turnover.

Re:Hire bad programmers with good social skills (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40253849)

Oh yeah, one little add on. The reason people are telling the OP that he should hire two roles is because of how hard it is to find solid ENTJ's. They're less than 5% of the population, so you might have to interview 20 people to get to just one.... most shops don't have the patience for that.

Re:MBTI oh no (4, Informative)

HarryatRock (1494393) | more than 2 years ago | (#40254403)

To quote from Wikipedia
Myers-Briggs Type Indicator

The use of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator as a predictor of job success has not been supported in studies,[15][16] and its use for this purpose is expressly discouraged in the Manual.[17]

Another case of HR pretending to have a scientific basis for predicting job fit to a profile, and totally missing the point of the original question. Presumably these guys know how to get the sales people they need, but realize that they need to speak the language of their customers.

I would suggest that the best way to train sales staff for any technical product is to take the best communicator from your technical staff and get him (or her) to run a regular seminar on the product, explaining the kind of problem the product is designed to solve and how the customers are likely to use it. Over a shortish time, the seminars will get better and you might even find that involving more techies actually improves the sales and the product.

Re:Hire bad programmers with good social skills (4, Interesting)

FormOfActionBanana (966779) | more than 2 years ago | (#40253647)

Don't talk about this like it's magic. Sales is a really tough job and you have to be a 1/100K personality type to succeed. My organization sells static analysis software, and our salespeople are a mixed bunch and have a lot of varied tech experience from their past lives:
  - former military pilot
  - former DEC programmer
  - fool
  - MBA
  - former vintner
  - former VAX/MVS/AS400 tech support

Nevertheless, our assumption is they know all about the customer's problem (manage costs, control risks, pass an audit, build a legacy) but know NOTHING about the technology, and we remind them of such. We pair up the salesguys with a "presales engineer" who is much more techie and a product expert but less responsible for the relationship.

Really, this is a very standard way to do technical sales. I thought everybody knew this.

EDA industry is very different (3, Informative)

tanveer1979 (530624) | more than 2 years ago | (#40253837)

Yes, thats how it is in EDA industry.
The "requirement" bit is mostly done by the AE or Product engineer, who knows the product.
Sales guy job is to
1. Arrange for an EVAL, i.e, get a foothold in the customer
2. Post EVAL, negotiate a deal

Unfortunately, many other tech vendors do not follow this route.

Re:Hire bad programmers with good social skills (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40254295)

Sales is only a tough job because you have to have that 1/100K personality to not gouge out your eyeballs with a ballpoint pen. I swear, the few sales trips I've taken have left me more drained than any late night engineering deadline. Having good social skills is one thing, but it's not what makes a good sales person. Maybe it's different with software, but with hardware what makes a good sales person is being able to deal with people who are being dicks because they know your job kind of depends on their decisions and they have all the power. Some of the recent ways I've seen customers be dicks to sales people:
1) Jerking you around with no intent to actually buy anything. Waste of time. That happens A LOT. Don't schedule a meeting if you don't have any interest in buying something.
2) Asking for more features and/or performance when the existing product would do the job fine. Then of course they want that new fancy better performing product with more features for the same price and they want it soon. See point 3.
3) Asking for outrageously short lead times, once again at no additional cost.

Seriously, I appreciate the fact that the sales people insulate us engineers from having to deal with all these dick customers most of the time. Every once in a while we get someone from the customers engineering staff that knows if he wants to get a straight answer to skip the sales people and go straight to requesting to ask an engineer. That sucks for the engineer who has a valid interest in the product and it's a shame companies have to spend so much on sales and purchasing departments. All the sales people I've dealt with are either crazy or going crazy. You can only put up with, and yourself hand out, so much bullshit.

Re:Hire bad programmers with good social skills (1)

FormOfActionBanana (966779) | more than 2 years ago | (#40254455)

This is a feature of lifecycle declining industries, and big hardware is going the way of the dodo, thanks to manufacturing globalization, efficiency gains, VMWare etc. etc. etc.

In rising industries, the opposite is true and you don't need any special skills to do sales. Think of the Toyota Prius salesman, or new pharmaceuticals.

Re:Hire bad programmers with good social skills (5, Funny)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 2 years ago | (#40254339)

"presales engineer" - I've done that job, the sales people won't tell you where they keep the cocaine and hookers.

Re:Hire bad programmers with good social skills (5, Insightful)

meburke (736645) | more than 2 years ago | (#40254395)

Actually, there is a test for that. Back in the 60's, two guys from Harvard (Greenberg and Mayer) concluded a test of what made good salespeople. The personality dynamics were "empathy" and "ego drive". A person had to be able to connect with the customer and have the drive to come out with a solution. Those of us with high empathy and ego drive did real well at things like selling encylopedias. (It amazes people how I could walk into someone's home and walk out 90 minutes later with a $1000+ order.) However, in those days, a computer salesperson needed to have less ego drive (but more than enough to stick to it) and high empathy; computer sales took over a year and sometimes two years to close. A person with really high ego drive wouldn't get rewarded often enough to keep them involved.

Interestingly enough, 1 out of every 5 people tested was suited for some kind of sales. Another interesting thing; 1 out of 4 people tested would have been better off changing to a sales job from the one they already had.

Greenberg and Mayer also addressed the methods of training. They found that the most effective way to train was using role-playing practice.

In my experience, the best sales training was provided by Xerox Learning systems and The Dale Carnegie Courses. Methods and role playing were both used over a multi-week course. (In the 10-week period I took the DCC Sales course, I made more CASH sales in 10 weeks than I had in the previous 10 years!)

Unfortunately, DCC has reduced their course to three days and some online coaching. It is not the same and it is apparently not nearly as effective. I haven't seen anything from Xerox for years. I used to do computers and accounting during the day and sell Britannica at night to make a living. Then, in the late 70's, computers got cheaper and another Britannica Salesman opened a computer store in our town. I'd like to say we got rich, but it didn't happen that way. However, it did provide many years of good, solid, rewarding work.

Many companies still hire sales people, give them a 90-day draw against commissions and then screw them on training and development. Since the sales cycle and opportunity window are sometimes much longer than 90 days, it makes better sense to have a one or two-year program in place with much coaching and feedback. I wouldn't put much faith in any single program, but the "Solutions Selling" (Bosworth, Thank you Sun Micro), "Socratic Selling" and some NLP-based course like "Beyond Selling" would probably be what I would use to train salespeople today. These are communications-based selling processes, useful in different situations.

The lack of programming ability is probably not the big barrier to the sale: It is more likely that the customer can't explain what he wants and why he needs it, and the salesperson can't PROVE that the product delivers what the customer wants. Details are so far down the selling process that the customer should have committed to buying well before that point.

OKI, now if you are dealing in the Microsoft world, you may have a completely different problem: Sharepoint, SQL Server and CRM don't play well with previous versions; "cloud" apps, especially CRM stuff has developed a 20-fold increase in database size; legacy systems that customers have been using for years no longer communicate meaningfully and will no longer print legacy reports; and the method for writing the modifications has changed drastically in just the last 5 years. The Microsoft world may be collapsing under its own weight. In this case, you had better be prepared to teach your salespeople very good requirements analysis processes and maybe some programming. Pick you languages, get a course in-house, and work on the actual solutions you need to solve.

Good luck

Re:Hire bad programmers with good social skills (2)

William Robinson (875390) | more than 2 years ago | (#40253493)

I would say, have a brainstorm among programmers and project managers to understand their problems and create an excellent presentation that would highlight benefits of your solution. This way, your product would address pain points easily. I always think think that the solution, anybody has generated sitting in closet, fails to touch heart of the customers.

Re:Hire bad programmers with good social skills (5, Informative)

dragonquest (1003473) | more than 2 years ago | (#40253531)

"Hire bad programmers with good social skills"

"You want to hire people who have programming background, but weren't interested or talented enough to pursue that full time"

And the good news is that these people are in abundance in the lead architect/team leader/technical manager positions. I can confirm their existence and numbers (did I mention abundance?) from all the organizations I have worked with.

Re:Hire bad programmers with good social skills (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40253659)

easy answer. problem solved, with the right people

simple: ask the inernet oracle (2)

sigxcpu (456479) | more than 2 years ago | (#40253861)

This sounds like a question to the Internet Oracle
http://cgi.cs.indiana.edu/~oracle/index.cgi [indiana.edu]

The Internet Oracle has pondered your question deeply. Your question was:
> O Oracle, great and all the rest
>
> how do you get sales people to learn programming?

And in response, thus spake the Oracle:
} You offer a commission.
}
} you owe the oracle a piece of informaion that is correct but unhelpfull, yesterday's weather for example.

Better: use the existing programmers (1)

Kergan (780543) | more than 2 years ago | (#40254367)

A sale involves many aspects, including cold-calling, setting up meetings, dealing with the paperwork, worrying about invoices, etc. all of which is best taken care of by existing sales reps.

Another aspect is to convince another programmer to buy. This should be done by someone who can explain why and how he uses the tool, complete with demo. Surely there are a couple of coders in the existing staff who can do this. Ideally, it should be someone with a knack for picking up realistic feature requests -- and be commissioned for reporting them..

Both should get commissioned for the sale.

Re:Better: use the existing programmers (3, Interesting)

Yvanhoe (564877) | more than 2 years ago | (#40254471)

When I was an employee I doubted that salespeople were doing a work worth more than what programmers did. They told me I was naive. I became freelance and had to do the sales work. It is really as simple as it look : Meet clients, organise meetings, eat food together, sign contracts and hassle them when they don't pay. Being the programmer of the product gives you an incredible edge in negotiation though : Normal salesmen talk about the advantages of a product without understanding anything about what they say. They sometime sell features trying to guess how hard it is to get them done. Being an engineer really gives you an edge. You know you struck gold when a small feature can be sold for 10 times what it will cost you.

Re:Hire bad programmers with good social skills (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40254485)

having built many tech sales teams a different companies (both successfully and unsuccessfully) i semi agree with this.

you want great engineers who are possibly even more talented than everyone else, but are bored with the engineering grind and understand the consumer aspect. they do exist, they want to have their minds engaged and understand how technology will solve customer problems.

do not get people who weren't talented enough technically. it's a lot longer bet that they understand the other side of the coin when they didn't get the first side. "I don't like programming" isn't a reason to move into sales "i'm bored with programming" however is very different and "i am really interested in marketing/sales and working with clients" being a dream outcome. some will have talent, others won't, but i've seen 1 architect come salesman outsell the entire sales team. if someone knows why and how technology applies to their problem, and why X product is better, it's easy.

HOWEVER, if your product isn't better, leveraging a technical person will never work. your product is shit, fix it first.

Re:Hire bad programmers with good social skills (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40254543)

No, don't do that! Instead hire people with English accents, but only proper English accents that sound like the Queen, as your customers will think they are smart and believe whatever they hear. As a bonus they can also be used to chase delinquent payers since any threats issued in a proper English accent will sound extremely dastardly.

It's doomed. (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40253329)

...objects can be thought of as wrapping their data within a set of functions designed to ensure that the data are used appropriately, and to assist in that use(1)...SQUIRREL!

You need a technical pre-sale consultant for that (5, Insightful)

alecclews (152316) | more than 2 years ago | (#40253335)

I wouldn't even try.

Sales people need to be adept as selling a business story and should be able to talk to project managers and other budget holders about the business benefits of investing in the tool.

The conversation with the programmers is key and important to making the sale -- but's it a different conversation about the job benefits of using the product.

So you need to go in two handed -- a business focused sales professional and a technical pre-sale consultant.

Re:You need a technical pre-sale consultant for th (4, Interesting)

NFN_NLN (633283) | more than 2 years ago | (#40253735)

I wouldn't even try.

Sales people need to be adept as selling a business story and should be able to talk to project managers and other budget holders about the business benefits of investing in the tool.

You can't cure willful ignorance. If a salesperson actually gave two shits they would pick up a book and learn basic programming skills on their own.

Why not try the same strategy that helps today's programmers constantly learn new languages, libraries, version changes, etc: if you don't keep up... you lose your job to someone who can. It seems to light a fire under the ass of IT people.

Sales Engineer (5, Insightful)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 2 years ago | (#40253337)

You either need a sales engineer that goes along on calls with the sales people, or simply just send some of your developers out to do sales...

Are you sure sale people will be talking to programmers directly?

It seems very unlikely you can train a sales guy well enough not to enter a giant "uncanny valley" of terminology for any real programmer they would talk to. You have no idea how much that puts of programmers at companies.

Re:Sales Engineer (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40253451)

"Are you sure sale people will be talking to programmers directly?"

'...all our customers are programmers...'

Which word didn't you understand?

Customers != Gateway (4, Informative)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 2 years ago | (#40253489)

Which word didn't you understand?

I can see you may not be very familiar with corporate sales.

Sure all of the people using and even buying what they are offering may be programmers... but that does NOT mean they are the only people at the company you will talk to about a purchase, in fact there are usually business owners that have to OK expenses too and need justification/reassurances. The sales guy is there to make them feel comfortable that buying your product is good for the company.

In fact the very existence of sales people in the equation straight up says that somebody will non-technical will be talked to at some point, or else they could simply market over the internet. You do not need sales people for something programmers would buy directly, like a book or a really cheap text editor.

Thus, both a sales engineer and a sales person are required if sales people are needed but they are selling to programmers.

Re:Customers != Gateway (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40254277)

Not necessarily.

You seem to be thinking about how you'd sell an expensive product our service, and I'll acknowledge that that's the field I'm currently in, too - my company sells development services with an average price tag of about £5000 - but we have worked at the lower end of the market, too, selling off-the-shelf ecommerce systems with minimal customisation for about £500. And at that end of the market things are different. Your ability to profit depends on turning clients over with a minimum of man-hours spent. If you send a salesman and an engineer to met the client, you'll lose money on the deal. If your salesman has to leave the office you're probably domed. But you do still need sales staff, and they do still need to understand the product they're selling. At one point we hired an external telesales company to generate leads for us, and they didn't bother familiarising themselves with our product, and so they sold stuff that couldn't be delivered to about 20 clients. That's probably the worst case scenario if your sales staff don't know the product.

Re:Sales Engineer (2)

multicoregeneral (2618207) | more than 2 years ago | (#40253453)

It's been my experience that the best way to solve this particular problem is to find a programmer with people skills, that can accompany your sales guys around. Sales people are not programmers, but programmers are often fantastic sales people. Think about it. As a programmer who has been doing this for any length of time, your resume is a thick obsessively intricate and well put together piece of marketing material.

You've been able to land multiple jobs at multiple Fortune 500 companies, and you've successfully managed to game Monster, Dice and Hot Jobs, so that your resume always shows up on top. You're so confident in a phone interview that you give yourself one in three odds before you've even touched the receiver. And you're going to successfully convince whoever is on the other side of that call that you are educated, brilliant, and prepared to answer tough questions. Come on people! If that's not sales, I don't know what is. We all have experience in it. Because we wouldn't be employed if we weren't great bullshitters.

The only difference between us and them is the dress code, our ability to solve complex problems. Unless you've got a programmer that has some kind of severe debilitating autism, there's absolutely no reason not to take him on your sales calls, if you know technical questions are going to be asked. Besides, they lock us in windowless rooms most of the time. I haven't met a programmer yet, who wouldn't be grateful for the sunlight.

Re:Sales Engineer (0)

EdIII (1114411) | more than 2 years ago | (#40253527)

The only difference between us and them is the dress code, our ability to solve complex problems.

Ability to solve complex problems is a little condescending. Accurate, but condescending.

Dress code? By that I assume you mean they can't wear those witty t-shirts like, "Select Top 25 from Employees WHERE (Sex = 'F') Order by Hotness"?

Unless you've got a programmer that has some kind of severe debilitating autism, there's absolutely no reason not to take him on your sales calls

That's not the only reason and you know it. You forgot about AssBurgers, and a host of other anti-social disorders that preclude us from putting up with unwashed masses that don't know what a compiler does.

Besides, they lock us in windowless rooms most of the time.

The lack of windows is to increase company morale, and any programming geek worth his salt can bypass the lock.

I haven't met a programmer yet, who wouldn't be grateful for the sunlight

You mean that super bright and hot orb of death outside?! No, no thank you. It burns us, it does.

Re:Sales Engineer (2)

Nutria (679911) | more than 2 years ago | (#40253589)

That's not the only reason and you know it.

Don't forget, "enthusiastic young geek proud of his work and just talks and talks and talks, letting slip how he made design flaws and wasn't able to implement many of the promised features".

Re:Sales Engineer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40253617)

I think you mean "SELECT * from Employees WHERE (Sex = 'F') ORDER BY Hotness LIMIT 25"

Re:Sales Engineer (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40253673)

Well, actually, it should look more like this:

"SELECT `hotness`,`bra_size`,`butt_measurement`,`age` from
`Employees` WHERE (`sex` = 'F') AND (`age` < 35) AND (`dog` = 'false') ORDER BY `age` ASC, `hotness` DESC, LIMIT 0,25"

You insensitive clod.

Re:Sales Engineer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40254221)

I am a dog, you insensitive clod. Woof.

It should be obvious... (1)

XDirtypunkX (1290358) | more than 2 years ago | (#40253343)

Have your programmers with the best communications skills tutor your sales staff. After all, your programmers not only know how to program, they know the context in which the sales people will be using the knowledge.

Re:It should be obvious... (3, Insightful)

DerPflanz (525793) | more than 2 years ago | (#40253955)

I am sorry, but communication skills aren't key here. Key is understanding what the *client* wants, instead of what the *developer* wants. I have seen many clashes between sales and software development and they all boil down to this:

Sales: "we need function XYZ in our software"
Developer: "no, we don't, it's useless, besides he can use tool ABC to flurb the snugger and be done with it"
Sales: "but the client asks for it"
Developer: "the client is a dumbass"
Sales: "he pays your salary"
[developer walks away and implements XYZ, but only against his will]

Both development and sales are serious skills and succesfull business manage to do them both right and in the correct balance.

Give them a problem to solve... (2)

man_of_mr_e (217855) | more than 2 years ago | (#40253347)

Ideally, you want to give them a problem to solve that they understand. For instance, have them develop a simple contact management application or sales lead database..

From this point, you can provide them with help and training as needed. Perhaps have them work in pairs.

If they refuse to learn, then perhaps they should work somewhere else.

What a Dumb Idea (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40253349)

Your company either does NOT understand sales people or what it takes to be an engineer. Sales are they to create a relationship with the customer. They usually have ZERO cred on tech issues. Have an engineer partner with the sales guy and team sell.

Re:What a Dumb Idea (1)

jaweekes (938376) | more than 2 years ago | (#40253465)

Totally agree!

Re:What a Dumb Idea (1)

gruntkowski (1743014) | more than 2 years ago | (#40254181)

"So which button do I push? And can I have it with another background?"

Re:What a Dumb Idea (1)

greglaw (2597055) | more than 2 years ago | (#40254681)

I should have been clearer about the objcetive here in my original posting: we're absolutely not trying to turn sales people into engineers, and nor are we trying to find an alternative to good presales support from engineering - the nature of what we sell means engineers are always going to be heavily involved in the process. All I want to do here is to remove a little bit of the mystery from the salespeople's minds of what it is they're trying to sell. (Actually my original draft of the posting said just that but I cut it in the interest of brevity - guess I cut too far.)

Put it this way: a sales person doesn't need to understand what it is they're trying to sell, but it sure as hell helps if they do. Note that I'm talking about how it works, but what it does. i.e. this only matters as we sell a fairly "hard-core" development tool (it's effectively a fancy debugger for compiled languages on Linux). If we were selling almost any other kind of software then I wouldn't dream of teaching the sales team to code. (Actually, that's not quite true: I think everyone should be taught at least some programming (e.g at school), but that's really a whole other topic!)

No way (2)

Sigvatr (1207234) | more than 2 years ago | (#40253351)

Give up now, it is impossible.

Learning to program takes a long time (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40253361)

Do you have any testers? Since they test the product, they should be able to program. Any of them good with people? Train them to be salespeople instead.

Get Some Really Good Sales Engineers (3, Insightful)

Squeebee (719115) | more than 2 years ago | (#40253363)

Your best bet is to go find the best Sales Engineers you can, the ones that don't just know the product catalog and can do a demo but who can install, customize and code integrations while providing solutions, solving problems and essentially doing the salesman's job for him.

Those Sales Engineers are rare, but they are the ones who can turn into what's sometimes referred to as a Technical Sales Specialist: a Salesman who can be their own Sales Engineer. Find someone like that and they will be able to sell to programmers.

Re:Get Some Really Good Sales Engineers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40253593)

This is essentially what I do, but not so much with programming tools, and more for technical tools for video production/post/broadcast folks.

You're right -- we are extremely rare. It's why we get paid pretty well. The personality can be described as "could have gone down the tech road, but maybe aren't quite focused enough to happily stare at a screen for 6 to 10 hours at a time, and like to interact with people, and aren't afraid of taking people's money."

The "not afraid of taking people's money" is a huge part of it. Great technicians rarely are comfortable taking peoples money, in my experience. Excellent salespeople are really entrepreneurial businesspeople at their core. Finding entrepreneurs who really "get" technology in general is rare.

The other aspect is, salespeople who are successful at selling tech really do need to radiate enthusiasm for the products they are representing. Which means they need to understand why their product is good, relative to the competition, and what pains it solves.

Re:Get Some Really Good Sales Engineers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40253725)

I think most great technicians are very happy to take people's money.

The real issue is those great technicians prefer to be busy building/fixing the product, rather than visiting customers on sales calls that may or may not be productive.

Same goes for great artists - they'd rather be painting.

Right people (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40253369)

The world is full of bad programmers. Some of them must average sales people. Hire them. Call them technical sales people and send one with each "real" sales people to meetings where technical details are discussed?

Slashshot? (2)

ActionDesignStudios (877390) | more than 2 years ago | (#40253381)

First came SlashBI, now comes Slashshot!

Re:Slashshot? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40253485)

Calm down, it's obviously a simple typo -- s/o/i/ and done!

Don't look for one person to fill two roles (4, Informative)

hendersj (720767) | more than 2 years ago | (#40253383)

Pair someone with strong programming skills with someone with strong sales skills. Lots of tech companies supplement their sales staff with "sales engineers" who know the technology. It's not unusual, and many IT organizations are impressed to have someone with expertise sent along with the sales people.

Ask them to step through a sampe program (1)

asliarun (636603) | more than 2 years ago | (#40253395)

Write a simple well-documented modular program, teach them to step through it, and let them have fun.
Even better if the program does something interesting (from a sales person's perspective, not yours), and if they can interact with the program by tweaking some constants or by tweaking a formula. Finally, you could even record a video that teaches them to step through code instead of you having to conduct a class time and again.

I can't think of a good example though - something a sales person would find interesting and/or hard to do normally. Any ideas?

Total BS. (0)

scottbomb (1290580) | more than 2 years ago | (#40253397)

I learned BASIC when I was 10 years old in the 1980s. I'm no master, but working on Java and C# now. I've also been a salesman for 15 years.

I've hated every minute of it, but I was good at it. That's because a good salesman "feels out" his customers for what their wants and needs are. He then presents his product in such a way that the customer would feel like a fool not to buy it.

That is sales, in a nutshell. ANYBODY with a personality can do it. It just takes experience.

The same can be said for software development. It takes experience to make a good code monkey. Anyone who applies himself to learn the ways of the binary machine can can learn learn to write code. Some are better than others, but we all depend upon each other.

In other words, I don't give a shit if you've pushed an accountant's pencil or washed cars for the past 10 years. Can you make a computer do what I want? Can you UNDERSTAND what I really want? [a good salesman can...] Then you're the man for the job and I don't care where you spent the past 10 years of your life [as long as it wasn't in prison for ID theft, etc....]

Re:Total BS. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40253417)

> The same can be said for software development. It takes experience to make a good code monkey.

It takes experience to make a sales monkey.

We hate scumbags like you just as much as you like to denigrate us, and if you weren't making commissions you'd be flipping burgers.
 

Re:Total BS. (2)

scottbomb (1290580) | more than 2 years ago | (#40253425)

In other words, to answer the question: you teach sales people the same way you teach anyone else. Some can do it, some can't. You'll find out soon enough. But salespeople, who understand the sales process, will be the ones you want if you're developing software that salespeople use in the field.

It's true for any industry. Designing software for airline pilots? Hang out with them and see what they want and need. Go back and code it. Done.

Like lions at the circus (2)

Anne_Nonymous (313852) | more than 2 years ago | (#40253407)

A chair and a whip.

Re:Like lions at the circus (2)

NoNonAlphaCharsHere (2201864) | more than 2 years ago | (#40253473)

That's inhumane. A rolled-up newspaper can be just as effective.

Start with new grads (1)

bughunter (10093) | more than 2 years ago | (#40253433)

Interview university seniors graduating with BSCS or Business programs that have an emphasis on computer programming. Be honest that you're filling sales positions. Make offers to the extroverted candidates that demonstrate the necessary social skills. Mentor them with experienced sales people. Have them sit in on engineering meetings and let them contribute ideas, and throw them an occasional development task so that they remain familiar with your products.

If you want a sales staff with technical proficiency, you're very likely going to have to groom them yourself. Perhaps you can hire them away from other companies that do the same thing, but I doubt you can depend on that.

Salespeople don't convince programmers (1)

Dave Emami (237460) | more than 2 years ago | (#40253437)

Really, if you're a programmer, are you going to use a development tool because of something a salesperson told you?

Re:Salespeople don't convince programmers (1)

bmacs27 (1314285) | more than 2 years ago | (#40253817)

Only if the salesperson is also a programmer. I wonder if anybody fuses QE and sales. That seems like it would make sense.

Seperation of duties (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40253447)

Isn't it best to have people work together that compliment each other. Have some pre-sales people (cycle your devs/sysadmins) go along with your sales people to do the deal. Then you can hand the customer off to your support/dev teams and if they wish to increase spend with you you can cycle them back to a pre-sales/sales team.

The team should be made up of at least 2 people with expansion depending on how complex of a problem your trying to solve. I've worked in a team of 20 before just to carry out a proper specification of the problem. Having a combination of people enables you to spot problems early in the deal and expand upon costing or to give you leaner markups and thus be more competitive.

If your really stuck on the idea of teaching your sales team get them to sit with your coders once a week/fortnight/month. And they can be instructed to ask as many questions as possible if they hear something they don't understand. Thinking that you can give a day training to a sales guy and believe it's going to stick is just crazy.

Also running an agile environment where you do regular showcases and stand ups that sales people attend to at least watch can help sales understand the effort that goes into the product they are trying to sell.

Can't teach an old dog new tricks (1)

buzzsawddog (1980902) | more than 2 years ago | (#40253467)

I find it hard to teach a sales person anything because they already know everything. Or wont shut up long enough to get a word in. I agree with the above comment of hiring simi okay programmers with good social skills...

Socializing programmers? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40253503)

Robert Heinlein said it best: Never try to teach a pig to sing; it wastes your time and it annoys the pig.

Think back to college (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40253533)

Were group projects part of your coursework? Remember the guy who sorta got the material, didn't really contribute very much, but was likeable enough so you wouldn't call attention to it? Maybe he was out drinking the night the rest of the group did the bulk of the work. Turns out there's a use for that guy after all. Hire him.

2 words (1)

slimordium (613217) | more than 2 years ago | (#40253549)

Those two words should never be in the same sentence ....

BASIC suggestions (3, Interesting)

Sarten-X (1102295) | more than 2 years ago | (#40253559)

As mentioned elsewhere, there's not much better than having Real Engineers go on sales calls, too, to answer the technical questions. You can teach salesmen all you want, but they won't be able to fake the insight gained through experience.

All salesmen should have some familiarity with the industry they're marketing to, though. They should have an understanding of how a programmer's mind works, and how your product makes the customers' lives better. For that, I recommend BASIC more than anything else. Not VB, mind you, but good ol' BASIC [freebasic.net] :

  • It's (usually) plain English. There are few abbreviations, and most structures read as a straightforward sentence. That helps to keep focus on general structures and concepts rather than syntax details.
  • No overhead. There is no boilerplate necessary to just make something that runs. That means that your first lessons can cover things like "the program runs one step at a time, in order," which is a lesson often missed in many introductory courses, and not obvious to many non-programmer folks.
  • Most structures (depending on version), in simple form. No, you likely won't find multithreading, but you can show a function call, loops, conditionals, variables, objects, and most other programming elements just fine, and without needing much other syntax to make a demonstration program. Pick a flavor of BASIC that includes features supported by your product, for illustration.
  • No practical application. This is a bit of a lie that really should be told to all students. Make it clear from the start that they should never attempt to write a "real" program in BASIC, not because it's impossible, but because there are far better languages out there. Toward the end of the lessons, start introducing them (especially C/C++, since it's what your customers use). Use that as a leaping-off point to show that all languages are functionally similar.

Once the run-through with BASIC is complete, you can expect the salesmen to understand how to read a simple (and commented!) program, and work out what it does. Show them equivalent programs written in C, C++, and BASIC. Be sure to point out how your product makes life easier, and show how a competitor (or Notepad) doesn't, tying in the lesson with the ultimate goal of making better salesmen.

You definitely won't be producing any great programmers, but you'll give them a glimpse of the mental juggling we do. They'll be able to recognize common use among customers, and possibly even impress a few with their knowledge. That's enough to significantly improve their relationship with the potential customer.

Which BASIC? (1)

dbIII (701233) | more than 2 years ago | (#40254167)

Which BASIC? The one that's like the various BASICs of the 1970s/80s, the one that's like PASCAL (one of the "visual basics"), one that's like Java (a later "visual basic") or one of the others.
I'd say ignore the lot of them - LOGO has a lot of structures similar to other languages and usually provides very clear feedback as to whether the program is working as intended or not. It gets forgotten because it's only really good for teaching, but if you don't intend to do more than give the salesfolk the insight they should have got in high school then go for it.
I don't know if it's going to help with the problem though. Anything simple enough to quickly teach to a beginner can lead to some people mistakenly deciding an entire profession is trivial. They are unlikely to understand without some sort of extra input that although programming is actually very easy to do it is not always easy to do it well within the limits imposed by reality (eg. big stuff on small cheap phones), or other things that add complexity.

I wouldn't touch that with a 10ft pole.... (2)

erp_consultant (2614861) | more than 2 years ago | (#40253563)

On a prior engagement I was part of a team of people charged with training Sales people on a CRM application. I was probably jaded going in, seeing as I have a general distain for sales people of all types, but my experience there was that most of them had the attention span of a fruit fly. Gregarious, type A, call them what you like but those bozos couldn't pay attention for more than 5 minutes. Fucking Blackberrys going off all the time, stepping out to take phone calls in the middle of class, you name it. They were like a bunch of Kindergarden kids with too much sugar in their systems. Needless to say it wasn't the most successful gig I've even been on. I hope you have better luck that I did. Never again.

Re:I wouldn't touch that with a 10ft pole.... (1)

FormOfActionBanana (966779) | more than 2 years ago | (#40253667)

They were busy maintaining relationships to pay your salary.

Whoever put them in your class was a fool. You should be teaching people who need to know how to operate the CRM.

Re:I wouldn't touch that with a 10ft pole.... (2)

erp_consultant (2614861) | more than 2 years ago | (#40253711)

The Sales people were the ones that were supposed to be using the CRM system. We had the right audience. CRM, by the way, stands for Customer Relationship Management. Sales people use it to manage sales leads and communications with customers. We led them to water but couldn't make them drink. Some of them got it and actually understood that if they used the system properly it would help to increase their sales and by extension their sales commissions.

Re:I wouldn't touch that with a 10ft pole.... (1)

FormOfActionBanana (966779) | more than 2 years ago | (#40254049)

Oh! I thought they were your salespeople and you were training them on the product (the submitter's story).

I have a similar situation myself, from the beginning of my career. I implemented some horrible ERP software and for some reason, can't recall, we deployed it using Citrix Metaframe the multiuser terminal server. I needed to configure all customer computers with the Citrix client and show them how to administer their launcher icons. The chief salesguy was exactly as you describe, and I came to him several times with increasing urgency throughout the day; each time he sent me away, too busy too busy too busy. I made it quite clear when I was leaving.

He actually had the balls to chase me down in the parking lot and catch my car, waving his arms and then pleading with me to return and how critical it was to get him installed with the new system. He was right, it was important. The only way to motivate the guy was to make the physical act of leaving.

At that time their job was to take the class ... (1)

dbIII (701233) | more than 2 years ago | (#40254211)

At that time their job was to take the class and they were not doing their jobs effectively. Don't try to put it back on the above poster due to some problem you appear to personally have with trainers.
If somebody mismanaged things and put people in a class that should not have been there it's not the trainers fault. They have no excuse of being "busy maintaining relationships to pay your salary" when their management has told them to put that on hold to do another task, so sorry kid, no excuse there, especially since neither you or I know what the above poster does when not running classes or who the salesfolk were actually talking to. Personally I have trouble with some that have a very high frequency of personal calls even when I'm in the process of attempting to buy something from them, but that can apply to undisciplined people in any profession.

Re:At that time their job was to take the class .. (1)

FormOfActionBanana (966779) | more than 2 years ago | (#40254237)

I'm a trainer myself and I'm sure GP is a fine trainer. I never said anything was his fault; simply that those salesguys didn't belong in his class.

Actually, based on GP's followup, I don't think those salesguys belonged in their jobs, at all.

System level developer, now instructor says.... (4, Informative)

LostMyBeaver (1226054) | more than 2 years ago | (#40253591)

I gave up system level programming as a career since I was tired of my hobby and career being the same thing... it meant that for the last 30 years of my life (I'm not that old.... just started young), I have spent a minimum of 8 hours a day 7 days a week... often on vacations too in front of a screen and with no social life. I moved into teaching Cisco networking which I'm finding to be really fun and fulfilling.... I have had insanely good results... I am teaching my fourth course this week and so far I'm already setting new records for evaluations at the end of each week since I have a real passion for it. And oddly, I am making more money (2-3 times as much) as I was making when I actually made Cisco products Doh!

That said... I spend a huge amount of time trying to figure out how to teach topics that are "advanced computing" related to people who need it fed to them in small words and made as simple as possible. I create analogies for things like understanding binary by making an imaginary currency called Binaries (sounds like dinaries) which come in coins starting at one and doubling for each denomination and ask them to make change and put the coins in the proper drawers (which happen to start empty) of a cash register without using the same coin twice. When you remove the math aspect from it and make it a simple task which they have done each time they visit a new country with a new currency they stop being afraid of it and move on.

Programming is often easiest to teach to non-programmers by asking people to "write a program" telling someone how to get from the airport to their house. Things like "If Shell gas station on opposite corner from me and hours of opening are from 6am to 11pm, then turn left". To describe functions, I would ask them to place each actual part of the directions on separate page of a document... mix them up and then on a single page, create a master document which refers to each page as a function to produce the program flow. Do the same with making dough for bread... "Kneed bread violently for 10 minutes"... "If the dough has dried out... add a sprinkle of water." "If the dough is too moist or is sticking to the cooking surface, add a little flour", "Repeat previous two tasks". "Loop back to the kneeding process if the dough has too many bubbles". etc...

I think two hours of this kind of instruction at lunch is enough to teach structured programming. Object oriented programming would require a much longer post :)

Ask Slashdot (1)

oldhack (1037484) | more than 2 years ago | (#40253607)

Slashot is apprently under stain to produce revenue to sustain herself.

What would be a good avenue to help slashdot to get back to its root?

You don't (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40253619)

You teach sales to a programmer.

bestjobstore (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40253679)

Latest Technological Updates, Tips and Tricks ,Tutorials , How Tos , Online Business and many more. http://www.bestjobstore.com

futile effort (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40253683)

Promote your engineers with good social skills to sales people.. or hire engineers who wants to move to sales. You cannot expect a sales guy to learn a "function call". It is not his job anyway.

Sales engineers. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40253693)

Sales engineers.

Better the other way round.... (1)

mseeger (40923) | more than 2 years ago | (#40253705)

I would try it the other way round: first techie, than sales rep.

I've known a lot of techies that have become real good sales reps. I don't know a single case, where it worked the other way round.

First... (-1)

Greyfox (87712) | more than 2 years ago | (#40253733)

First they would need a brain. Hmm. Well I can't give them a brain, so I'll give them a degree! Ha ha... That's a little Wizard of Oz th... Ok anyway so now they're as qualified as most of my co-workers in the 90's! Next you need to sit them in front of a computer. Com...pu...ter... Com...pu...ter... Ok, so now the novelty has worn off and you're sitting alone in a room because they all decided to go for sushi and told you they'd bring some back! When they get back you can explain how the computer they're sitting at is not actually a Windows computer but is actually running something called Linux! Yes! That's what you'll do! And then you'll talk 'em through opening Emacs, writing a make file, compiling and running hello world! Yes! And then tomorrow if you can explain the difference between pass by reference versus pass by copy versus pass by pointer, they'll be well on their way to their new career... IN SCIENCE!

Can't let the developers talk to the customer. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40253743)

Because engineers are not good at dealing with customers. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nV7u1VBhWCE

Why don't you just hire "sales engineers" (1)

martypantsROK (1413651) | more than 2 years ago | (#40253745)

Those are the smart lads and ladies who CAN program but who also have social skills enabling them to help sell. They understand what the customer needs and wants, or better yet, can explain what it is that already exists that will do the job just fine.

C/C++ (1)

kthreadd (1558445) | more than 2 years ago | (#40253767)

I've heard of both C and C++, but never C/C++. What is this supposed language?

programming teaching (2)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 2 years ago | (#40253779)

In my company we used a Python book, "Learn Python the Hard Way." Gave out assignments of 1-2 chapters a week, and had them return the typed in program. It's simple enough that anyone can figure it out, and have a basic understanding of functions, programming logic, etc.

A good book for learning C is The Absolute Beginner's Guide to C [amazon.com] . It explains things simply enough that anyone can understand C. You can do it the same way, maybe have a contest and give out prizes to the first people who are able to reach certain goals.

Have them watch CS50 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40253781)

CS50 is a programming introduction course taught at Harvard, the course is available online for free. It's really good. I watched the 2011 edition and thought that it was great. I regret not having access to such material when I started (self-learning) C in the 90s.

https://www.cs50.net/lectures/

The first 7 weeks are better, the next deal with HTML, PHP, etc. Not as interesting.

Oh brother (3, Insightful)

SmallFurryCreature (593017) | more than 2 years ago | (#40253847)

The poster is obviously not a good programmer because a good programmer can program in any language and talks in pseudo code to avoid getting trapped in language semantics and workarounds when discussing a concept rather then actual code.

Teaching sales staff C/C++ is way to deep. Teach them coding concepts but not an actual language. Hell, you might change language and then all your sales staff would need retraining.

As for training failed programmers as sales people. Congrats you just made sure every project you get will have been masterminded by someone who thinks he could do it better.

Re:Oh brother (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40253913)

You can't teach programming concepts to most people without first teaching them some programming language to ground the abstractions in. Some people can just grasp it on a high level, but it would be quite rare to find that level of aptitude for logical abstraction in a salesman. (Not a dig against salesmen, just that people are a mix of numerous stats, and an honestly-rolled character is likely good at one or two things, not a bunch. Since they're salesmen, they're already selected for stats orthogonal to programming. Same as your programmers are unlikely to have a particular aptitude for sales work.)

Load it in their head (ala The Matrix) (1)

leftie (667677) | more than 2 years ago | (#40253859)

The only way you'd teach the sales people I've known programming skills is to figure out a way to put it on a Game Boy cart and physically shove it their head.

Remember "WKRP in Cincinnati"? How would you have taught programming to Herb Tarlek.

Let your salespeople know their limits (3, Interesting)

wienerschnizzel (1409447) | more than 2 years ago | (#40253875)

Unlike others here I don't think you should fire your sales staff and let the tech people handle all the talking. It's not realistic and it's not efficient.

Instead, let the sales people know their limits and when they reach them while talking to the customer, let them propose to organize a meeting between the potential customer and a developer. Have them say "Look, I'm not a coder myself so there's only so much I can tell you about the details of our product but if you are really interested, you could talk to one of our developers."

I love to hear that as a customer - I can tell when a salesperson is out of his/her depth and it's great to see they realize it and are open about it.

Have your developers do consulting duties where they do these kind of talks - you'll have to coach them a bit about what to avoid when talking to a customer - but unlike teaching your salespeople how to code, this is doable.

You can also push the limits of what the salespeople understand up to a point - you'll have to discover what that point is for yourself - after that it's a waste of time and money. You can probably make them do some simple hands-on on coding just so they see what the difference is between code and a binary and how you get one from the other and such things.

Lectures Video from MIT Opencourseware (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40253879)

Introduction to Computer Science and Programming (6.00SC) & Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs (6.001). Those two things will give them a basic understanding of CS, what code actually does, and how its organized in different paradigms. There is no need for them to learn the actual syntax of a language to understand how and why things are organized.

Totally Backwards (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 2 years ago | (#40254017)

The best way to turn salespeople into credible programmers is to turn programmers into salespeople.

The other way around is next to impossible.

Let's plug (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40254051)

You recall those stanford online courses? They have CS101 too. Udacity's is in python, but it's a reasonable start. For one it does a pretty good job of trying to get you all abuzz about this programming thing, with a goodly dose of 'web flavouring. Especially for shops that write in fictional languages anyway.

You can always follow up with an introduction to the differences between interpreted and compiled and just what that means for what you and your clients do with code.

"C/C++" to me means "we write code that's really just the worst kind of C spaghetti but requires the added complexity of a C++ compiler anyway, for no good reason." Which seems to synergise well with the windows environment paradigm. Or however you'd linguistically express that. Recall that alleged windows code leak full of fantastically bad code horrors? That's what I think of when I hear "C/C++".

Never try to teach a pig to sing (1)

pivot_enabled (188987) | more than 2 years ago | (#40254081)

it wastes your time and it annoys the pig

Seriously you need two people (1)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 2 years ago | (#40254131)

A company I worked for had sales people teamed up with "presales technical support" people. Sales happen at two levels, the people who are actually going to use the product and their managers. Developers will actually be put off by someone who spouts verbage about how it will improve productivity and reliability but obviously doesn't understand how or what. You need someone who can sit with them and demonstrate the product features.

Management on the other hand just want the bullshit spouted, together with some nice figures and an "excellent deal" so they can feel that they have done a good job negotiating. Given this, if they check with their lead developers and they say "yes this can help us", you have almost certainly got a sale. On the other hand if the developer turns round and says "The sales guy couldn't get it to work properly", or "we weren't shown anything that will help us" then you shouldn't get a sale (though I did work briefly for a company where the management forced unsuitable tools on development staff because they were cheap, so it is possible).

Follow Other Technical Industries (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#40254169)

My dad works in electric motor repair, and the way they work is to have sales teams being used to get their foot in the door, and gain the customer's trust.

When they get to a point where good technical understanding is needed, they'll ask one of the engineers to look at the job and determine what is needed, costings etc.

This person works in the business 90% of the time, and only gets called when that understanding is required.

Have them bring one of your coders along (1)

Kergan (780543) | more than 2 years ago | (#40254311)

Even if your sales staff have rudimentary understanding of what programming is, they'll still have no idea of what your customers do all day long, aka shovel through mountains of git branches and core dumps all day long. They'd need to have written their fair share of code to fully appreciate and communicate the usefulness of the tools you're selling.

Have the existing sales bring one of your own coders along when they meet customers. The coder should be in charge of presenting and demo'ing the product: he, more than anyone else, will be able to communicate how and why he uses your product. (Hold: your coders *do* use the tools they make because they find them very useful, right? Because if not, fix that first.)

take a techie and a salesperson to the customer (1)

Errtu76 (776778) | more than 2 years ago | (#40254435)

Whenever we are dealing with a customer that isn't exactly sure what he/she wants, one of the salespeople would take a technician with him when first visiting the customer. That way all the really technical related questions get answered by the tech person, and if the salesperson is smart (cross your fingers) he'll pay attention so next time he'll be able to answer the question himself. Might take a few times before he manages this skill, and of course the tech person will have to invest some time, but in the end it really pays off. The salesperson will (hopefully) sell the product and the technical people can start right away without having to ask a lot of questions afterwards, or swearing at sales for selling something that they can't deliver.

You don't. (1)

jmerlin (1010641) | more than 2 years ago | (#40254477)

And not because it's technically too challenging. The reason you don't teach them ANYTHING at all about programming is because of a fact that transcends computer science and indeed is present in all facets of life. It is a simple and well known truth that the more you know about a subject, the more you know of your own limitations within that subject. This comes with a caveat, though. When first introduced to a subject, a person is more ignorant of that subject than they were when they didn't even know it existed, because they know something about it and think that knowledge extends far beyond where it actually does. Essentially, they gain a new perspective, but they don't know how to use that perspective correctly.

So to show someone that they can do the same thing those really smart engineers can do and give them the know-how to turn basic ideas into actual working code, they immediately internalize that process and look at problems in a new way. They begin looking at problems as engineers, not as salespeople. But they ARE NOT ENGINEERS. To give them that perspective without the full understanding it requires to be used properly is a really, really bad idea, in my opinion. You know how those really novice engineers will say "sure, I can do that" to any problem, without knowing about and therefore not considering the > 9000 edge cases they need to deal with because the basic idea is so simple you can explain it to a third grader? Now replace "really novice engineer" with "salesperson who is also a really novice engineer." I can't imagine a more horrific situation.

Don't. (1)

loufoque (1400831) | more than 2 years ago | (#40254611)

Just don't teach programming to salespeople. Your company has better things to do than to teach a whole sales force.
Hire sales people that have a technical background, or do business with technical consultants.

First a laugh and then python (1)

EmperorOfCanada (1332175) | more than 2 years ago | (#40254617)

First I can tell you that getting sales people to use Goldmine would be an accomplishment for most companies. The best salesmen would get toilets installed for desk seats as they are the laziest people in the world. But if you have bizarrely motivates sales people ...
Python. Don't bother with C++ (which I love and use every day) as that will be an exercise in futility. Go with python. It will make them hip and give them the lingo. I wouldn't go much past hello world but if you can get them to write some code from scratch and then run it then you will have the best trained sales force on the planet.
Then and only after you have won that battle get them to fire up an IDE and compile the same sort of hello world that they made in Python in C++ and then they will have a vague idea of what is happening.
My reasoning is that you type very little in python that makes no sense. C++ has too much that is initially explained as "That is just how we do it. It will make sense later."
How many of us learned to program with:
10 print "My name on the screen!"
20 goto 10

and showed this off to friends?

this article is a worst troll then me... (1)

zugedneb (601299) | more than 2 years ago | (#40254639)

if the costumer is so elite, let them talk with the engeneers... or employ a senior (oldtimer) guy who has been working with programming in old days...

why the hell should an "arbitrary" salesguy know programming? and C/C++ of all things?

this is just the evidence that there are too many autist and aspergers morons working with programming... all men have to sink to low level programming to understand them...

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